Columbia Room has charmed roots. When the Washington, D.C. cocktail bar first opened, tucked away in the original incarnation of neighborhood joint the Passenger, it was petite, with just a few seats offering a mysterious, upscale, spirituous experience to sip artful cocktails served in vintage glassware. Now, since last year, it’s morphed into a sprawling compound in Blagden Alley with three dedicated spaces—the Tasting Room, Spirits Library, and Punch Garden, the latter of which emphasizes its namesake drink. Each one puts a premium on service and technique but thoughtfully conjures different feelings, and that’s why at the recent 2017 Tales of the Cocktail festival in New Orleans, Columbia Room was named “Best American Cocktail Bar.” Founded by one of the beverage industry’s most erudite bartenders, Derek Brown, Columbia Room is serious about the craft of cocktails, as revealed through its seasonally shifting tasting menus. This summer, three-and-five course aquatic-themed experiences make way for libations like the Pacific Ocean (Macchu Pisco, Junmai Daiginjo sake, sweet pepino, yuzu, lime, cane sugar, “caviar”) paired with a mélange of sea lettuce, kombu cracker, and sea urchin butter, as well as the Caribbean Sea (Guyana rum, allspice, annatto, lime, Scotch bonnet pepper) accompanied by a jerk spice chocolate truffle. The Spirits Library is perhaps less intense, but just as imaginative, devoted to drinks like the Schooner Rather Than Later (Japanese whisky, lime, gunpowder tea, cane sugar, green Chartreuse, sea foam) and riffs on the Old Fashioned. The Scotch-based Barrie Bevvie, for example, is anointed with blackberry shrub and porcini.
Photos Courtesy of Columbia Room