Ode to Copperwood

A lot of people who get into cocktails were introduced to them by a family member, a friend, or at an office party.  Not me.  I fell in love with the art at a restaurant — Copperwood Tavern in Shirlington.  While it might be famous for its brunches and its craft beers, the cocktails are where its at!  The tastes, the variety of ingredients, and extremely friendly and knowledgable bar staff really instilled in me an appreciation for the cocktail world.


This was the one that started it all — the Commonwealth Mule.  I had had about 11 Moscow Mules at a very boozy Thanksgiving years ago, which led me to order one of these at a coworkers party at Copperwood.  I was blown away at how complex and good it was — its one of the more refreshing and “drinkable” cocktails I’ve ever had.  It became my brunch drink of choice but also confounded me: why was it so much better than the mules I was making?  Through exchanges with the bartenders, I learned the secret is in the syrup which serves as a substitute for ginger beer.  It was a realization — with some relatively simple ingredients, an ok drink could become an amazing one.  And the rest is history!

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Another reason to appreciate Copperwood is its uncanny ability to churn out complex but refreshing drinks that hit the spot in the summer.  These are three good examples, the Spice Cooler (rum), Bourbon Thief, and Backwoods Punch.  All of these go down smooth and just beg to be sipped on a veranda while wearing a wide-brim hat.  The Spring Cardinal is another favorite.

On top of all of this, the bartenders including Will the bar manager are friendly, knowledgable, and enthusiastic; they just love their craft and have fun with it. Once they realize you feel the same way (and can drink several cocktails in a sitting) they may work out a few “off menu” drinks with you.  I am more than happy to be a volunteer in this effort!  Here’s a moonshine and lemon drink one of the bartenders tried out on me — it had a few more ingredients, but my memory wasn’t in great shape at the time 🙂


I could go on — I’ve had all the cocktails on their new menu and they are uniformly amazing.  The use of moonshine is another trait that makes Copperwood stand out — their Red White and Blue is a very colorful and patriotic combination that uses raspberry syrup, Acai, lime foam, and Belle Isle moonshine.  They discontinued “The Catalyst” which was a winter moonshine drink, but I’m sure they’d make it for you if you asked nicely, and man is it worth it.  In closing, if you 1) love cocktails and 2) want a crash course in how good they can be, head over to Copperwood.

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