The Gin Club at Wisdom
1432 Pennsylvania Ave. SE; 202-543-2323, dcwisdom.com. (Potomac Ave)
$25 for a lifetime membership
Since Wisdom owner Erik Holzherr called the Gin Club to order on Feb. 6, he’s amassed 74 members who convene at his under-the-radar bar in Capitol Hill to earn points by trying gins from his impressive collection. (Points can be redeemed for swag like gin-branded hoodies and shakers.) The one-time, $25 membership fee also grants you $1 off 1.5-ounce pours and $2 off martinis, as well as a 50 percent discount on tastings with producers. “This all started because I was carrying all these bottles of gin collecting dust that no one was drinking,” Holzherr says. “The only thing that made sense was to get even more and really turn it into a club.” He’s even noticed some friendships budding among club members: “It creates a fun competition. It’s becoming this little mini society.”
Dram & Grain at Jack Rose Dining Saloon
2007 18th St. NW; 202-607-1572, jackrosediningsaloon.com.
Friday and Saturday evenings; 90-minute seatings at 7, 9 and 11 p.m.
In the basement of Jack Rose lies a dimly lit cocktail lounge with worn-in sofas and cafe tables. After snagging one of 20 reservation-only seats via text, guests sip on complementary punch while marveling at the rotating drinks list curated by Frye and co-founder Nick Lowe. Current options include the smoke-infused Ode to Omaha ($17) with Thomas Tew Rum, blackberry cinnamon syrup and bitters, and the Vault ($15), which morphs from a Sazerac into a Vieux Carre as the ice melts. (The cube is made with Dolin Rouge Vermouth, Benedictine and Angostura bitters.) “There’s one bartender for every 10 guests, so we can talk to every single person and answer any questions they have about the ingredients,” Frye says. And there’s sure to be plenty: Many of the mix-ins are steeped in history or are incredibly rare, including vintage whiskeys that were distilled pre-Prohibition.
The Gibson Laboratory at The Gibson
2009 14th St. NW; 202-232-2156, thegibsondc.com. (U Street)
Wednesdays through Saturdays, 6 p.m.-close
At the Gibson’s second-floor, 16-seat bar (once inaccessible to the public), guests order cocktails by checking off preferences on an “I leave it to you, bartender”-style menu. They start by selecting a base spirit, a flavor profile (sweet, sour, bitter, savory or spicy) and the desired strength of the cocktail. Once it’s prepared, the drink arrives with a detailed explanation from the bartender. The inspiration for this experience stems from general manager Frank Jones’ general aversion to drinks lists, which he finds stifling. “People gravitate toward spirits they’re familiar with, rather than imagining the culmination of the spirits and flavors,” Jones says via email. Still, if you’d prefer having a little more control over your drink order, you can pick from prefab selections like the Cicada Song ($14), with green pepper-infused Plymouth Gin, Salers Aperitif, Dolin Blanc Vermouth, grapefruit liqueur, yellow Chartreuse and creme de violette.