The cocktail menu, featured on a chalkboard behind the bar, is full of quirky twists on the classics. The 54th, based on an Old Fashioned, uses the new James E. Pepper 1776 Rye, a house-made cherry syrup and Angostura and orange bitters, but adds dark Atlantico Reserva rum to make it smoother and sweeter. There’s spiced hot cider and eggnog, too.
But what really caught my eye was the eponymous A&D cocktail ($12), which is made with Belvedere vodka, the distilled-in-D.C. Green Hat gin and something called “Housemade Dirty Juice Blend.” It sounds like the bastard child of a Vesper and a dirty martini. And it is a beauty: wonderfully savory, with a beguiling mix of tang, tart and a little sweetness. You can taste a bit of coriander here, juniper and garlic there.
The Dirty Juice Blend, co-owner Ali Bagheri told me later, is a mixture of olive juice, cornichon juice and onion juice, produced in-house. (The cornichons, for example, are used in Sundevich’s Russian salad and also sold individually.) There was a lot of trial and error, he says, to make sure it wasn’t too acidic. The result is fairly balanced, though a little sharp, but that’s how I like my brine. It helps that it’s made with Green Hat, which has gotten less sweet since its initial October release but has a solid base of botanticals that play well with the juice.
It’s served in a stemless martini glass, for which I’ll deduct a couple of points — it’s hard to keep your hand from warming the liquid as you hold the glass, and no one likes warm gin. But I loved the long spear of olives and a cornichon to enjoy while sipping.
Finally, if you’re in the mood for something more seasonal, go for the 9th Street Coquito ($7). The house eggnog is made rich and silky with the addition of coconut milk, then punched up with a sweet-smelling vanilla rum, a bit of brandy and a dusting of spices. Served cool in a mason jar, it’s perfect for fortifying yourself before heading back out into the cold.