Ask people in D.C. if they think there’s a cocktail craze in our midst and they’re likely to respond with something like, “Yeah, sure. Now can you please pass me that burnt-orange Manhattan?” The city has witnessed an undeniable uptick in cocktail lounges and watering holes where alcohol aficionados can venture way beyond the PBR and Jack Daniels combo. “Some people come to the bar who just want their beers,” says Trevor Frye, a bartender at Jack Rose. “But sitting next to them might be someone with a lot of interesting questions about the cocktails. I really enjoy serving the people who want to learn about what I’m making.” Inquisitive imbibers should consider these new opportunities, where your drink comes served with much more than just a twist of lemon.

Delicatessen After Dark at DGS Delicatessen
1317 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-293-4400, (Dupont Circle)
Last Thursday of every month; the next session is April 24 at 8 p.m.

In March, DGS launched a monthly free-to-enter salon where guests can experience a one-time-only cocktail menu centered on a new style, a particular spirit or a historic era of drinks. Led by beverage director Brian Zipin at the restaurant’s bar (which seats about 50), the event pays homage to a culture of deli drinking that was prevalent in New York in the early 1900s. “The neighborhood deli, at its core, is a convivial gathering place,” says Nick Wiseman, a partner at DGS. “We’re bringing a modern sensibility to something that was shaped in the taverns across New York and hotels in the Catskills.” The next session, scheduled for April 24, will include reinterpretations of infamous cocktails from the 1980s, including the Midori sour and the Cosmopolitan.

The Gin Club at Wisdom
1432 Pennsylvania Ave. SE; 202-543-2323, (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,
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, (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.