If you can’t have fun in a tiki bar, you can’t have fun.
Just try to suppress a smile when you see a giant ceramic bowl headed for your table, decorated with flowers and extra-long straws and topped with a flickering flame of burning high-proof rum.
That has always been one of the charms of Hogo, the rum-focused bar next to the Passenger that opened in late 2012. It doesn’t look the part of the stereotypical tiki bar — no rattan chairs or palm fronds, no Don Ho tunes — but one drink here has always managed to brighten a stressful day.
It’s almost time, however, to talk about Washington’s top tiki bar in the past tense: Hogo will be closing in the wee hours of Aug. 3. It’s an early departure on a block that’s slated for massive redevelopment in the near future, though owner Tom Brown said in June that Hogo was closing because the concept had “run its course.”
Hogo has never been a traditionally kitschy tiki bar, and that’s one of the things I liked about it. The vibe is dark and divey, with big leather booths, chalkboard drink menus and Motörhead and go-go on the stereo. All of the focus has been where it belongs: on the cocktails created by Brown and his staff as well as the traditional Singapore Sling and such lesser-known old-school drinks as the Jungle Bird.
Hogo will be throwing an “Official Castaway Party” on Aug. 2, with DJs, drink specials and an invitation to help drink the bar dry. But before the big night, there will be a series of themed events. On Saturday, it will be “Hogo’s Hidden Treasures,” a pop-up vintage boutique featuring bespoke tailors from 5 to 8 p.m., plus a special cocktail menu. On Tuesday, the bar will host its last Tiki Tuesday party, with DJs and drink specials (starting at $6) all night.
Wednesday and Thursday will be devoted to tequila and rum, with cocktails and shot deals on the rare bottles in Brown’s extensive collection (he estimates that he has at least 50 rums behind the bar). Then, on Friday, the farewell weekend will begin with a stream of DJs, tiki cocktails and rotating drink specials, some of which probably will be created on the spot.
Brown says that he has had offers to take Hogo elsewhere in the city, and even outside the District, but that he wants to take time to figure out his next move. For now, Brown will be packing up his tiki mugs and heading back to the Passenger, where he’ll resurrect that bar’s weekly Tiki Tuesday.
Looking for a new place to enjoy a classic tiki drink? These bars serve such throwbacks as Mai Tais and Zombies right.
2007 18th St. NW. 202-588-7388. www.jackrosediningsaloon.com.
The cozy — some might say “tiny” — rear bar on Jack Rose’s rooftop has undergone its annual summer makeover: It’s now a full-on, thatched-walled tiki bar. Stop by between 5 and 10 p.m on Thursday for Tiki Thursday happy hour, when food and drinks are half-price. You’ll pay $6 for a cocktail, including the Rye Tai, which adds rye whiskey to a well-made Mai Tai, or the Break Fluid, a kitchen-sink elixir with multiple rums, passion fruit and grapefruit juices and blue curacao. For snacking, there are shrimp tacos ($4 at happy hour) and festive skewers of pork belly and smoky pineapple.
1825 18th St. NW. 202-627-2183. www.barcharley.com.
Mai Tais and Suffering Bastards are always on tap at Bar Charley, served in ceramic hula-girl glasses for $8.95. But the best time to go is on Sunday, when bartender Nick Nazdin hosts Trader Nick’s Tiki Sundays, making five exotic drinks like the rum-heavy Shrunken Skull and Molokai Mule. Each cocktail is $9; pay $15 and keep the glass. (Note: Trader Nick’s went on hiatus after Nazdin broke his arm, but co-owner Gordon Banks says the event should be back soon, once Nazdin gets the all-clear from his doctor.)
3000 K St. NW. 202-298-8783. www.farmersfishersbakers.com.
The Tiki Redux menu at this Georgetown waterfront bar turns the clock way back to such old-school cocktails as Zombies, Mai Tais and Scorpions as they were made in the 1930s and ’40s, before they got too boozy and too sweet. There’s also a section of frozen tiki drinks for hot days.
911 King St., Alexandria. 703-837-9117. www.majesticcafe.com.
The new summer cocktail menu from Todd Thrasher and Co. is a mix of tweaked classics and new creations. “Old Fames, Great Dames” blends a house-smoked falernum with gin and apricot brandy. Cinnamon, citrus and rum come together in the Monosyllabic Parrot. Most drinks are $10 to $12, and for $24, there’s a rum-heavy bowl to share with a group.
4929 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda. 301-654-7788.
This quiet-looking restaurant on the quieter side of Bethesda Avenue is known for its Peking duck and Szechuan chicken. But owner Kwok Cheung, a veteran of the old downtown Trader Vic’s, also offers such rarities as the Navy Grog, Fog Cutter and Doctor Funk. There’s also a two-person Scorpion Bowl.
1017 Seventh St. NW. 202-393-1313. www.hogodc.com.
Open Tuesday through Sunday at 5 p.m.