The rickey cocktail is a simple, refreshing drink made with gin or bourbon, soda water and lime juice. (Marvin Joseph/THE WASHINGTON POST)
Mix it up for Rickey Month

There’s a reason the rickey is honored as Washington’s native cocktail: When it’s hot outside, very few things are as briskly refreshing as a glass of gin or bourbon with ice, soda water and fresh-squeezed lime juice.

Just in time for the recent heat wave, the D.C. Craft Bartenders Guild launched its fourth annual Rickey Month contest, inviting bartenders to create their own version of the drink — and it doesn’t even have to include ice.

Thirty-five mixologists from bars in Washington and Alexandria responded to the challenge this year. Participating bars will have their special rickey on the menu throughout July, and the best will be selected at a Rickey Month party Aug. 5 at Jack Rose Dining Saloon, which has four bartenders in the contest.

“When you think about summer in D.C., it’s so overbearing,” says Alexandra Nichols, a bartender at Estadio. “I wanted a drink that would cut through that.” Her Rickey Cristina Barcelona does the trick: gin, a homemade cucumber-and-celery soda for “that summer-garden freshness,” a touch of black pepper and a grapefruit peel.

At the Columbia Room, which Playboy magazine just named one of the top bars in America, bartender Katie Nelson’s Shandy Rickey was inspired by a traditional shandygaff, a mix of beer and lemon soda. “I wanted to make a shandy this summer,” Nelson says. “When you give people a beer cocktail, they think it’s really refreshing.” Her variation includes bourbon, Flying Dog’s UnderDog Atlantic Lager, bitter lemon soda and a bit of “this new dry curacao, for sweetness without adding sugar.”

Typically, you can’t get into the Columbia Room unless you have a reservation, but it doesn’t hurt to stop in and ask on Friday and Saturday nights, when this hidden little drinking den stays open later.

As in previous years, the D.C. Craft Bartenders Guild has made a Rickey Month passport listing all of the participating bartenders and bars. Ask for one when you order a rickey, and get the ticket punched for each rickey you sample. Once you have five, you get free admission to the Rickey Month party, which includes a free drink. Guess what it will be?

The Columbia Room, 1021 Seventh St. NW. 202-393-0336.

Estadio, 1520 14th St. NW. 202-319-1404.

Rickey Month Party, Aug. 5 from
4 to 8 p.m. Jack Rose, 2007 18th St. NW. 202-588-7388. www.dcbartenders
. $10 or free with stamped Rickey Month passport.

— Fritz Hahn