Derek Brown is proud to say he drinks for a living. He’s the owner of trendy District bars Mockingbird Hill, Eat the Rich, The Passenger and Columbia Room. His latest creation, Southern Efficiency (1841 Seventh St. NW), opened this month; it serves about 30 different varieties of bourbon and Tennessee whiskey, along with Southern food. Brown’s booze résumé is impressive: In addition to creating cocktails, he’s written about them for The Atlantic and Bon Appetit, among other publications. Who better to ask what to imbibe this New Year’s Eve?
What do you drink on Dec. 31?
I drink the same thing I drink all the time. I drink Champagne.
That’s your favorite drink?
Whiskey is my favorite, but you can’t drink whiskey all the time, can you?
You can try …
I’ve always had a great love of Champagne. It’s not just a celebratory drink. It’s something that goes great with food and is generally a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful product. So I will be drinking Champagne, just slightly fancier Champagne than I usually drink.
Any expert advice on Champagne?
Drink it in wine glasses.
Why is that?
Flutes help to concentrate the bubbles, but you can get a broader range of characteristics and aromas from a wine glass. I used to drink it in flutes, and my staff would get upset when I’d come in on my off days and have Champagne, because they’d have to refill them too quickly. So I started a tradition of just drinking out of a tumbler. They affectionately refer to it as “Derek Brown-ing” the Champagne.
What should people drink on New Year’s Eve if they don’t want Champagne?
I would say take their everyday cocktail and ramp it up a little bit. Let’s say that they’re a Manhattan drinker and they usually have a rye or bourbon with it. Pick a really nice rye and do something a little special with it. Spend a little extra money on it. You’ll really impress your friends as well, of course.
What’s your ideal way to spend New Year’s Eve?
It’s de rigueur to spend time with really good friends. I think of New Year’s Eve as predictive of how you spend your next year. So I always want to spend more time with friends.
Anything to avoid?
Don’t drink vodka on New Year’s. It’s like you’re gonna have a bland year. It’s like eating chicken breast for your meal. I’m not anti-vodka, but it’s worth going out of the way to try to find something new and fun.
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