This weekend, I had the great fortune of being invited to at seating a Dram and Grain, a speakeasy located beneath Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Adams Morgan. I should begin by saying that if it weren’t for my annoyingly low tolerance for alcohol, I would have willingly worked my way through the menu. I am typically one to boast about an amazing meal I have had, but I often lose sight of the art behind craft cocktails and the often fun experience that comes with it. I have previously visited Barmini, which is also renowned in the DC community, though it did not have the eclectic mood or mysteriously inviting atmosphere I often crave in a bar.
Dram and Grain is exactly the type of bar/lounge I’ve been scouring DC for over the past couple of years. The speakeasy atmosphere and unabashed exclusivity, backed by high quality offerings, seems like something that Anthony Bourdain, Jack White, and Johnny Depp would have concocted if they put their heads together. You can use a “secret” phone number in order to book a reservation, and upon arrival, a host will escort you down multiple flights of stairs, past “employees only” signs, and through code-locked doors until finally reaching the hidden lounge. The bar is small, seating only 20 people at a time, which allows each guest to have the full attention of the mixologists (GODS) on duty. I was shocked by their willingness to explain the origins of some of their more antiquated whiskey and brandy, some bottles dating back to the late 1800’s. They even indulged us with a sniff of many of the spirits and ingredients, and as a result, I walked away knowing a great deal more about the craft of mixology. I also appreciated the warm, moody atmosphere, which put leather furnishings, wooden countertops, and a vintage Americana vibe into play. The displays in front of and behind the bar featured various bottles and mystery vials, which gave off the feeling of an apothecary of sorts from a bygone era.
Upon being seated at the bar, we were presented with a dainty glass tea cup filled with a complimentary fruit punch, the flavor of which changes nightly. I believe ours included creme de banana and an assortment of fruit juices, though I can’t recall the exact ingredients mentioned. It was refreshing, light bodied, and a great way to awaken our palettes in preparation for the drinking excursion ahead. I sipped on the punch as I dove head first into the menu, which was divided into five “city” categories- Tokyo, London, Havana, New Orleans, and San Francisco. Each city’s drinks included ingredients and flavor profiles that strikingly captured the essence and culture of the locale it represented. For instance, while the New Orleans selection was booze forward and emphasized dark liquors, Havana featured a more tropical, rum-based selection.
After perusing the inventive menu for what was probably an obnoxiously long amount of time, I settled on a selection under the Tokyo menu entitled, The Art of Toki. Reminiscent of an Old Fashioned, the drink was comprised of Japanese whiskey, fuji apple, and a house made tincture of sorts that incorporated traditional fall spices, which paired effortlessly with the apple. It was definitely a spirit-forward drink, though I happen to be quite a fan of whiskey and didn’t mind the potency. The apple and spices did a great job of balancing the harshness of the alcohol, but I also preferred waiting a couple of minutes until the ice melted down a bit.
My final indulgence of the night was a cocktail listed under the San Francisco menu, called the Teahouse Tipple. It was composed of gin, matcha, basmati syrup, and a generous dousing of yuzu foam. This was OUTSTANDING. It was such an unexpected flavor profile and so tactfully balanced. The matcha was present but not too overwhelming, and the basmati syrup cut out any of its bitterness. The yuzu foam definitely elevated the drink, and our mixologist jokingly mentioned his ardent wish to import a yuzu tree from Japan if given the opportunity. Its just that good. As someone who doesn’t typically go for gin, this was a very pleasant surprise and a testament to the innovative minds of the mixologists.
Whether you typically just enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, or can marathon drink with the best of them, I’d say this is the single best bar currently in DC and a destination in and of itself. If you can get your hands on their phone number (which I believe is floating around the Internet), do not hesitate to book a seating at Dram and Grain. Be inquisitive, try something new, and enjoy the ride.