Wine & Spirits: A Powerful Mix

by Editorial

Three of Washington’s most influential mixologists share their favorite power cocktails.

Derek Brown, Co-owner of The Columbia Room at The Passenger

Whether it’s the power or the politics, it comes as no surprise that Washingtonians drink more per capita than any other city in the U.S. We asked three of the city’s most venerable mixologists to create a “power” cocktail for us to see what makes them game-changers.

Derek Brown

Co-Owner, The Columbia Room at The Passenger

Easily the Godfather of the local cocktail scene, Derek Brown’s dry martini was named the best in the United States by GQ magazine. Don’t let his trendy accolades fool you. Brown is a self-proclaimed nerd and history buff who finds equal inspiration in the ghosts of libations past and present. Affectionately calling his hero Jerry Thomas, a pioneer of the mid-1800s American bartending scene, “The Professor,” Brown likes to stick to the classic definition of the cocktail: sugar, bitters, spirits and water.

Derek’s Power Cocktail: The Classic Dry Martini

Adam Bernbach

Bar Manager, Proof and Estadio

Adam Bernbach, Bar manager at Proof and Estadio.

While he’s had visibility in the area for many years, Adam Bernbach’s Tuesday night cocktail sessions at his former home, Bar Pilar, catapulted him to another level of stardom. Patrons and local bartenders alike raved about his drinks’ intense artistry and unusual ingredients. Now the bar manager at both Proof and Estadio, Bernbach enjoys experimenting with curious ingredients like China to, an Italian dessert wine from Barolo. He likes to turn the rulebook on its head by employing more botanical gins and whiskeys as mild backing notes.

Adam’s Power Cocktail: The Kano

  • Named for Judo founder Kano Jigoro
  • Is a Sercial Madeira-based cocktail with: Cocchi Americano, lighter in alcohol with a dash of flowery gin to perforate the texture.
  • Adam imagines modern architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe ordering one up at the bar.

DUane Sylvestre, Mixologist at Bourbon Steak.

Duane Sylvertre

Mixologist, Bourbon Steak

Winner of the inaugural Quill Cocktail Competition at the Jefferson Hotel, Duane Sylvestre has already proven himself to be to ahead of the pack, even in comparison to his craft cocktail peers. Inspired by a range of forces that includes local Todd Thrasher of PX and Kevin Diedrich of Burritt Room in San Francisco, Sylvestre feels most rewarded when someone tastes one of his cocktails and looks pleasantly puzzled. Vermouth, he says, has gotten a bad rap

Duane’s Power Cocktail: The M and Penn

  • Named for the Georgetown almost-intersection where movers and shakers meet.
  • It’s made with Applejack, orange bitters, sweet and dry vermouth and Cointreau.
  • Sylvestre pictures George Washington, who acquired the recipe for “cyder spirits” from the young Robert Laird, drinking his version of the then-general’s favorite spirit.

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