‘Asian street drinks’ coming to Donovan House’s rooftop bar

Just two weeks before the Donovan House planned to open its popular rooftop lounge, there's been a major shakeup behind the bar. Josh Berner, who crafted frozen drinks and draft cocktails at the hotel last summer, has transferred to the Hotel Monaco, where he'll oversee Poste's large courtyard bar. Taking over Donovan House on a part-time basis is Jon Harris, the bartending mastermind behind the cocktail program at Firefly. (Making this shuffle easier: Donovan House, Hotel Monaco and Hotel Madera, where Firefly is located, are all part of the Kimpton hotels chain.)

A Pimm's Cup (served on draft) at the Donovan House's rooftop bar in May 2013. (Photo by Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)
A Pimm's Cup (served on draft) at the Donovan House's rooftop bar in May 2013. (Photo by Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)

Harris says that he plans to keep frozen drinks and draft cocktails on a new menu, "but they'll be different styles, because Josh and I have different styles."

The theme of the menu will be "Asian street drinks," a riff on the Asian street food trend popular at many restaurants and food trucks. "They're based the things you'd buy on the street and drink while you walk around," Harris explains. "In Vietnam, you'd buy salted lemonade, so there will be salty lemonade in the Pimm's Cup. The gin and tonic will be made with a house-made sugarcane tonic, because if you're in Thailand, you'd get a sugarcane soda. "

Other drinks may include a bubble tea cocktail and "a boozy version" of a Thai basil-seed drink, which Harris describes as "really cool."

Donovan House's official opening for the season is April 11; until then, the rooftop will be open whenever the weather is nice enough. Because this change happened so close to opening, Harris says the introduction of the new menu will be an ongoing process. "We're getting started this week. We'll probably start with frozen drinks, the gin and tonic or the Pimm's on tap, and rotating punches, with other things rolling out over the course of the summer."

One teaser he offers: He's interested in hosting kung-fu movie nights, with films projected onto the building.

Harris's responsibilities at Donovan House don't stop at the roof: He's also overseeing drinks at the downstairs Asian restaurant Zentan, which will have a Japanese-inspired cocktail program. "It's a completely different presentation style," he says. "They use a lot of very different kinds of ice, they wield crazy knives -- the style is very precise and intricate compared to American bartenders."

Look for changes to begin at both bars next month.

Fritz Hahn has written about bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003, but he also writes about everything from Civil War battlefields to sailing classes. A product of Prince George's County public schools, Fritz majored in journalism at the University of Maryland and lives in the District.
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