(Farrah Skeiky photo)

Trevor Frye, the beverage director of Jack Rose Dining Saloon and co-founder of the celebrated basement cocktail lounge Dram & Grain, is leaving the establishment to launch a project of his own in Adams Morgan. A lease is still being ironed out.

The bar, which he hopes to open by the end of the year, will be called Marble Alley, a reference to the notorious D.C. slum known as Murder Bay, which arose in the mid-19th century. Within Murder Bay was Marble Alley, an enclave that was a bit more refined while still peddling debauchery. “It was this upscale, high-end place, but definitely still with an element of risque business,” says Frye, who came in third place for best bartender in Express’s 2015 Best Of competition.

Frye says his concept is perfect for Adams Morgan, a neighborhood he cherishes. “I wanted to offer an elevated experience of what Adams Morgan really is without losing its soul,” he says. “I want to have the people that live in this neighborhood come to my bar.”

Marble Alley will focus on creating a casual, comfortable experience rather than “craft cocktails,” a term Frye has begun to loathe. “Making cocktails is such a small part of bartending,” he says. “Bartending is more tending to the bar, tending to the people at your bar. I’ve never understood when you go into craft cocktail bars and I see people almost turning their nose up.

“The nerding out is great, and there’s definitely a niche for that and a time and a place for that, but the experience and the atmosphere is really what’s going to cultivate the business.”

Moving on from Jack Rose and Dram & Grain was a difficult decision, but the timing is right, Frye says. “When I started at Jack Rose, my plan was only to be there for six or seven months, and that was over three years ago,” Frye says. “Bill [Thomas, owner of Jack Rose] and I created an amazing friendship out of it … They were so gracious to let me do Dram & Grain the way I’ve been able to do it the last couple of years.”

Frye will remain in his current roles until June 7. He says his “super-aggressive” timeline has him opening Marble Alley’s doors by late fall.