Wine & Spirits: Bar Rouge Gets a Makeover

Nearly ten years after first opening its doors, Kimpton’s Bar Rouge introduces a new menu and a new look.
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Bar Rouge's new look Photo credit Paul Gelsobello

Swanky and sumptuous in shades of crimson, the lounge that’s adjacent to Hotel Rouge recently re-invented itself as a neighborhood wine bar, with a globally-focused wine list, seasonal small plates, and well-crafted cocktails courtesy of the immensely talented Manager/Mixologist .

Hamachi Crudo at Bar Rouge. Photo credit Michael Harlan Turkell.

Kimpton tapped Executive Chef Thomas Dunklin of the B&O American Brasserie in Baltimore to develop the menu, an expansive selection of shareable American small plates ($4-$12) that are perfect for pairing with your favorite beverage, including Hamachi Crudo with Preserved Lemon and Green Olives, and Roasted Beet Carpaccio with Goat Cheese, Pistachios and Creamy Mustard. Larger entrees prices from $12-$20 include Slow Cooked Pork Ribs with a Pineapple Glaze and Spicy Cabbage Slaw, and Seared Rockfish over a Polenta Cake with Chard and Citrus Butter.

Each of Bar Rouge‘s fifty wine selections from around the world, ranging from crisp and peachy Paco & Lola Albarino from Spain’s Rias Baixas region, to a local Verdejo from Charlottesville’s Keswick Vineyards, is offered in three pour sizes, with all standard pours under $10. “Our goal is to offer wines that are hot yet approachable, and that over-deliver on value,” explains Wisner. Bar Rouge is also one of the first venues in the District to offer Silver Tap Wine – which allows wine to be transferred directly from vineyard to keg, not only decreasing the carbon footprint but guaranteeing optimum freshness with each pour — including a Chardonnay, organic Sauvignon Blanc, and Zinfandel. Beer lovers have a diverse selection of craft and local beers, like Baltimore’s Heavy Seas Dubbel Cannon, and Port City Optima from Alexandria’s local brewery.

Rico Wisner's bar creations have earned him quite a following in DC. Photo credit Michael Harlan Turkell.

I’ve long been a fan of Wisner’s concoctions when he was Mixologist over at Poste Modern Brasserie. Most of his new drinks on this menu (priced $7-$11) have a wine base, and use fresh ingredients from the hotel’s organic rooftop herb garden that he manages. New creations include the Sakerinha, with sake, sugar, pineapple and basil; the San Juan Sizzle, with Bacardi 8, Domaine de Canton, Cockburn Ruby Port and soda; and the Taurus 38 special, an aromatic and summery combination of Novo Fogo Silver organic Cachaca, lemon juice, Prosecco, and blueberry and sage syrup.

Wisner shared with me the recipe for and story behind the Taurus 38 Special. “It was inspired by a French 75, a gin- and Champagne-based cocktail named after an artillery gun from WWI known for its kick,” he explains. He replaces the gin with Cachaca–a Brazilian spirit made from sugarcane. “So the name ‘Taurus 38 Special’ is a handgun made in Brazil which packs a punch.” He picks the sage for the syrup from the rooftop garden–I don’t happen to have one of those, and I didn’t plant sage in my garden this year. But I’ll be making a trip to the farmer’s market soon, as this cocktail is just soooo perfect for a Fourth of July get-together.

The Cachaca, blueberry and sage based Taurus 38 Special at Bar Rouge. Photo credit Michael Harlan Turkell.

Taurus 38 Special
Courtesy of Rico Wisner, Manager/Mixologist, Bar Rouge, Washington, DC

1 oz. Novo Fogo Organic Cachaca
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz. Blueberry Sage Syrup (see Note)
About 2 1/2 oz. Prosecco
Blueberry skewered by a sage leaf, for garnish

Combine Cachaca, lemon juice, and syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled champagne flute. Top off with Prosecco. Garnish with a blueberry skewered by a sage leaf.

For the Blueberry Sage Syrup: Combine 1 pint of blueberries, 2 quarts of water and 10 sage leaves in a pot. Bring to a boil, and simmer until blueberries break down (about 30 minutes.) Add 1 quart of sugar and remove from heat. Cool, and strain through a fine mesh strainer. Keep refrigerated.

Bar Rouge is located at 1315 16th Street, N.W. The lounge is open from 5:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.  for dinner daily, and from 5:00 p.m. to close for drinks.

Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, DC area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on www.twitter.com/kmagyarics.

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