Though D.C.’s restaurants and bars have been smoke-free since 2007, tobacco is still finding its way in. Chefs and mixologists are incorporating loose leaves to add a slight kick and a compelling dried-grass finish that works especially well with darker beverages like bourbon, coffee and black tea. “You get the flavor of a cigarette,” says Jack Rose bartender Amy Russell of the restaurant’s tobacco-infused cocktail, “without smelling like an ashtray after you drink it.” And although these tobacco-laced cocktails (and one dessert) are tempting enough to double up on, you won’t need to worry about developing a nicotine habit, as the amount in them is negligible.
PX, 728 King St., Alexandria; 703-299-8385, www.eamonnsdublinchipper.com/px. (Braddock Road)
A few years back, Restaurant Eve chef Cathal Armstrong was trying to quit smoking. His master mixologist, Todd Thrasher, decided to taunt him during his detox with a cigarette-inspired cocktail, the Smoker’s Delight ($13), which he featured on the menu at his nearby speakeasy, PX. Thrasher created a sweet “tea” out of sugar, water and a small amount of dried tobacco. “I change the type of tobacco all the time,” Thrasher says. “I started with a Virginia varietal, but I’ve used clove cigarettes and pipe tobacco.” He combines an eyedropper’s worth of this mixture, Woodford Reserve bourbon, a squeeze of fresh lemon and a little honey syrup and serves it up in a martini glass with a coil of lemon peel.
Surgeon’s General Warning
Jack Rose, 2007 18th St. NW; 202-588-7388, jackrosediningsaloon.com. (U Street)
Back in the day, Russell’s great-great-grandfather was a moonshiner in West Virginia. According to family legend, his secret recipe for hooch included a bit of tobacco. This tale inspired the bartender to create the Surgeon General’s Warning ($13), which features housemade, tobacco-infused simple syrup. The sweetener is mixed with Old Bardstown bourbon, Heering cherry liqueur, and orange and lemon juices. “The tobacco doesn’t overpower the liquor,” Russell says. “You get all the other flavors before it hits you at the finish.” Served on the rocks, it arrives with a brandied cherry spiked on a skewer.
Coffee, Doughnut and a Cigarette
Blue Duck Tavern, 1201 24th St. NW; 202-419-6755, blueducktavern.com. (Foggy Bottom)
“Imagine I’m talking in a good Brooklyn accent,” executive pastry chef Naomi Gallego says in a raspy tone. “I call this dessert Coffee, Doughnut and a Cigarette.” Her clever float ($13) has a base of housemade La Colombe coffee soda pepped up with orange zest. She adds scoops of white chocolate coffee ice cream infused with cardamom and vanilla beans. The striking sweet is finished off with a freshly fried miniature doughnut rolled in a mixture of sugar and finely ground tobacco from the Old Virginia Tobacco Company. “I’m not a smoker and I don’t drink coffee,” Gallego admits, “but these adult flavors turned sweet really turn me on.”
Bar Charley, 1825 18th St. NW; 202-627-2183, facebook.com/barcharleydc. (U Street)
“Smoked ingredients are all the rage,” co-owner Gordon Banks says, “so I wanted to create a drink where the smoke came to the table.” To make the Stepdad ($18), he blowtorches a small spot on a cedar plank, then covers the blaze with a glass to extinguish the flame and capture the woody haze. A large ice cube comes on the scorched plank along with a pitcher filled with tobacco-infused bitters, black tea bitters and Kelt cognac. Guests combine the ingredients into the smoky glass. Banks says he perks up every time someone orders one. “I used to be a smoker,” he says, “and I miss the smell of smoke.”