Friday, May 12, 2017

Columbia Room

Columbia Room is a cocktail bar created by Derek Brown, where the ingredients, techniques and lore of cocktails merge together to create a memorable experience. They focus on exceptional service and meticulously crafted unique cocktails paired with food.  Located in Blagden Alley, the closest Metro is Mt. Vernon Square-Convention Center.

With several different "rooms", we were seated in the main Columbia Room.  From the Washington Post: "Fourteen bar stools are spaced along the gently arching bar that runs the length of the room. Behind the bar is an elaborate mural designed by John DeNapoli of Edit Lab at Streetsense and made of tiles hand-cut in Italy. "In a way, this mural tells the story of the Columbia Room," Derek says, cryptically. Some parts are obvious: The names running along the bottom include alchemists (Aristotle, Kenelm Digby) and 19th-century Washington bartenders, such as George Williamson, the creator of the rickey, and Dick Francis, an African American who became the head bartender at the U.S. Senate after the Civil War. Clusters of plants show ingredients used in the Columbia Room's cocktails, including saffron, bergamot and gentian. The main figures in the mural represent the Columbia Room's founders and bartenders. Derek Brown, for instance is the Tiger, because it's his astrological sign, and because the Columbia Room originally opened in 2010, which was the Year of the Tiger."

We did the five course prix-fixe experience for $109 per person, inclusive of tax and gratuity. Entitled "Paris in the Spring" we started with an amuse of Punch Ne Plus Ultra made with gentiane quina, pineapple, and punch "aspic".  The bold bite of pineapple complemented the brandy punch very nicely.

The first drink was called Into Great Silence made with green chartreuse, jus vert, fino sherry, orgeat, lemon, and grapefruit. It was very tart and herbacious and was paired with Peas  - a vibrant green orb of spring peas, jambon, and tendrils.  An edible flower with a drop of foie gras, and a rose meringue were additional small bites with this drink.

For the second drink, we could choose from Rouge made with terroir armagnac, dry vermouth, cherrykriek cider, crème de mûre, cherry liqueur, and aromatic bitters - or - Rosé made with terroir vodka, pineau des charentes, fraise des bois liqueur, rhuberry cider, bitter orange, and citrus bitters.  Keith got the first with notes of cherry that emulated a Pinot Noir, while I chose the other that was much sweeter with strawberries and rhubarb.  This drink was paired with a fun interpretation of Coq Au Vin made of chicken skin, mushroom, and red wine.

The third drink was a dessert cocktail of sorts called The Café Society Cocktail made with marc de bourgogne, port, amer, coffee liqueur, beet, and crema paired with an airy Crème Brûlée made with caramel powder, creme anglaise, and croquant.  This course was delightful and a bit more interactive than the other bites, as we could mix the cream and beet topping into the drink, as well as crack the sugar shell of the crème brûlée.

The final course was La Ballade de Paris - a fizzy drink made with pommeau, sweetgrass, peychaud’s bitters, trash cordial, cream, and egg white paired with Absinthe Pâte de Fruit.

Overall, we had an elegant yet fun and creative evening at the Columbia Room that was perfect for our anniversary celebration.  The bartenders are very knowledgeable and have a passion for the history of cocktails and bringing a modern interpretation to them for their guests.  Be prepared to grab food elsewhere afterwards, as the food pairings here are truly just light nibbles.

Total Rating: 3.85
Food: 4, Price: 2, Service: 5, Ambience: 5, Accessibility: 5

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