The presidential election is just days away, and after this brutal campaign, no matter which candidate you support, you could probably use a good drink.
So, as the country’s eyes turn to the White House, we found ourselves wondering about the capital’s bar scene. To ferret out the best spots, we turned to José Andrés. The Spanish-born celebrity chef is in large part responsible for the current small-plates trend in restaurants nationwide. From his home base in D.C., Andrés has opened some 25 restaurants around the country and in Mexico City, including such notable spots as The Bazaar, Jaleo, and Beefsteak. His charitable work, including with the hunger-fighting World Central Kitchen, has attracted lots of attention as well, earning him a spot on the Time 100 list along with a National Humanities Medal from President Obama.
Cocktails have always played an important role in Andrés restaurants, including his flagship restaurant, Minibar, which is next door to his watering hole Barmini. And Andrés just got news truly worth raising a glass to: Minibar was awarded two stars in Michelin’s inaugural D.C. guide.
So whether you live inside the Beltway or are planning a trip to visit its constellation of museums or historic sites, here’s where the pioneering chef suggests you drink around town.
Pisco Sour at Del Campo
From Argentinian grilled steaks to Brazilian Caipirinhas, Del Campo specializes in the food and drinks of South America. But chef Victor Albisu has a particular sweet spot for Peru, since his mother is from there. So Andrés suggests ordering a plate of ceviche and a Pisco Sour, which is Peru’s signature cocktail, made using its local brandy. “To me, there is nothing more refreshing than a good Pisco Sour!” he says. Del Campo’s recipe keeps it simple, with just pisco, lemon, lime, and simple syrup, and that’s why Andrés likes it: “You don’t need too many ingredients to make an amazing cocktail.”
Tea Service at Daikaya
The Gin & Tonic is perhaps Spain’s most popular cocktail, and as a native, Andrés of course loves the bubbly concoction. His preferred version, served at Daikaya, however, has a distinctive Japanese twist, thanks to a unique house-made green tea-infused tonic. (The gin, Cold River, on the other hand, is small brand from Maine.) Like this cocktail, the restaurant is composed of two elements: a traditional ramen shop on the first floor and an izakaya with small plates and a wide variety of sake, shochu, Japanese whisky, and cocktails upstairs. “The best thing to do,” Andrés says, “is to enjoy a Tea Service upstairs before heading downstairs for an amazing bowl of ramen.”
This Is Not a Rosé at Columbia Room
“I love seeing more mezcal cocktails in D.C.!” Andrés exclaims. The smokier cousin of tequila is becoming trendy nationwide, and there’s no place better to try it in D.C. than Columbia Room, a James-Beard-Award-nominated monument to cocktails and spirits built by master bartender Derek Brown. Hardcore cocktail geeks can immerse themselves in the bar’s Tasting Room, which offers three- and five-course cocktail tasting menus, while the more casual Spirits Library features à la carte drinks like the This Is Not a Rosé. It pairs mezcal with a rosé vermouth called Cocchi Rosa that Brown infuses with lapsang souchong tea and red bell pepper for lovely savory flavor that still has the distinct fruitiness of rosé. “It has so many flavors that all work so well together,” Andrés says.