World Cocktail Week kicks off on Monday, and DC Toasts wants to commemorate the District's favorite excuse to celebrate by throwing an educational event. Well ... sort of.
On Friday, Howard Theatre will go-go to Chuck Brown-style music while drinking cocktails made by some of the best mixologists in the business and celebrating influential bartenders from the District's history, such as Dick Francis, a freed slave who became bartender in the Senate's restaurant, and other Prohibition-era bartenders who formed the Black Mixology Club.
Modern bartenders will pay homage to some historic recipes at Friday's event. Jay-Z's favorite cognac, D'USSE, is a co-sponsor and at their table, Colin Asare-Appiah will be serving D'USSE Quiot Club Punch (cognac, Bacardi rum, Madeira wine, lemon, simple syrup), a drink created in the early 1900s at the Quiot Club in Richmond, Va.
"D.C. is working its way to the forefront of cocktail culture in the U.S.," Asare-Appiah, who also co-hosts British TV's "Cocktail Kings," told Yeas & Nays, noting the farm-to-table movement and more women getting behind the bar.
The event is a chance to experience that "cocktail culture" in person.
"Drinking is a tangible way to experience the past, to literally taste history," explained Derek Brown, who owns the Passenger and helped organize the event. "This is an event to toast great bartenders first and foremost, and that's who the Black Mixology Club were, great bartenders. However, due to historical circumstance, they were never given the credit they deserve."
Brown, also a founder of the D.C. Craft Bartender's Guild, pioneered the Rickey as D.C.'s official cocktail, and will be serving the Gin Rickey at the event. He thinks both bartenders and consumers should aim higher when it comes to drinks -- and he wants more bartenders to learn how to make and suggest the Rickey ("Gin, half of a lime squeezed and dropped in the glass. Add ice and soda water," he tells us).
"What we drink says who we are as individuals and as a community," according to Brown. Understanding the history of the craft is one step anybody can take toward becoming a better mixologist.
Asare-Appiah encourages anyone to experiment making cocktails at home, but recommends premium ingredients and fresh fruit. Friday's event ought to be a good source of inspiration.
The event will make some history, as well, by awarding Ann Tuennerman, founder of the New Orleans Tales of the Cocktail festival. Tuennerman is someone Asare-Appiah credited with helping bring “the global community together.”
D’USSE is honoring Tuennerman with the “Tom Bullock Award for Distinguished Service” (Bullock was the first black bartender to publish a cocktail book prior to Prohibition).
“Ann has been such a trailblazer in the industry and we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate and honor her success,” Brown said.
Tickets ($75 to $100) are available at dctoasts.com. Proceeds partly benefit the Museum of the American Cocktail.