The inspired cocktail names on Bibiana’s drink list shows that it’s Ladies’ Night, and the sipping’s right.
By Kelly A. Magyarics
When I recently stepped up to Bibiana Osteria and Enoteca’s (1100 New York Avenue NW, Washington, 202.216.9550, bibianadc.com) sleek, inviting bar and was handed a copy of the cocktail menu, two things immediately caught my eye. First of all, the list was peppered with a bevy of enticing drinks, many of which included off-the-beaten path ingredients (full disclosure: I love funky spirits, bitters and mixers, and Bibiana’s backbar stylishly displays their collection on a series of brushed nickel staggered shelves.) Secondly, all cocktails appeared to be named after women.
Mixologist Tom Street told me that the liquid creations (which are all $12) are indeed all inspired by women—famous and otherwise—including management and staff family members, as well as that ambitious Egyptian ruler Cleopatra. (Her namesake concoction, by the way, mixes Coke with rum that’s infused with dates, which just so happen to be Egypt’s most popular and plentiful fruit.)
But enough about history, and nepotism for that matter. I perused the well-thought out menu, and opted first for a Simona, with Plymouth gin, Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, and grapefruit. Served up in a cocktail glass with an ample grapefruit slice garnish, the pink-tinged drink is refreshing and full of zesty citrus-y flavor, with just a whiff of fresh pine. (Pine liqueur requires a hand that’s both deft and light to keep drinks from taking on the taste of floor cleaner, a fact that’s well understood here in this mouthwatering sip.)
On the opposite end of the flavor spectrum is the Gabriella, shaken with Rittenhouse Rye, cardamom syrup, ginger and bitters. Street told me he typically uses Fee Brothers Chocolate Bitters, but he ran out that evening and instead used a few dashes of his house made chicory bitters. My gain, as they lended a great bitter dimension to the multi-layered yet approachable drink, which also has an appealing spicy kick from the rye, cardamom and ginger. This cocktail just screams winter, and Street said it’ll be on the menu throughout the season. (Oh, and those chicory bitters are far from the only ingredient made in house. Street and his team also mix up hibiscus liqueur, rose liqueur, limoncello, spiced molasses syrup, and a few other types of flavored syrups. On tap for spring are some homemade sodas and various bitters. Sign me up.)
Street names the Katia as his favorite cocktail on the menu, with Early Times Bourbon, spiced molasses syrup, orange juice and soda water. “It has good balance, and the flavors of the molasses and the Bourbon compliment each other very well,” he says.
The restaurant’s most popular drink happens to be its namesake one, and the sparkling wine-based Bibiana has gone through three or four incarnations since the restaurant opened last fall. The current recipe (which may have even changed since my visit a week or so ago) pours hibiscus liqueur and classic ingredient Crème di Violette along with fizzy, fresh and clean Italian sparkler Prosecco, resulting in a pretty, floral, feminine drink that certainly gives a nod to Bibiana’s ode to the fairer species.