Old Town’s venerable Bastille pairs some solid cocktails with its splendid French cuisine.
Overall Rating: 3.75
Another day, another restaurant in the Parker Gray neighborhood of Alexandria. Bastille, a French eatery that opened late last year, brings with it some notable culinary firepower and expertise. Now, I lack Continental sophistication, so when I saw its tricolor-decked storefront, I thought of only red wine and Beef bourguignon, not cocktails. But ignorance was not bliss in this case, and I was pleased to learn Bastille has a really formidable, diverse, and ever-changing cocktail list that took several visits for me to master. There were no masterpieces, but almost all of the drinks were solid and enjoyable. The big standout to me was the excellent service – bartenders Brian and Aio were great professionals, attentive, quick, and friendly. I never had to wait very long for the cocktails, which is key in my book.
Without further adieu, let’s walk through the drinks! Started off with two cocktails that are often included in Bastille’s HH, the Kir Royale and the Oubliez S Mai. The Kir is simple, with creme de cassis and sparkling wine. Tastes like you’d expect with a lovely, light, and sparkly tickle on your tongue. Nice early evening kickoff drink. The Oubliez with tequila, strawberry, cilantro, and lime was definitely more complex, with a distant, faint burn that balances and tames the tequila. Enjoyable.
The “Southern Shanty” has (get this) bourbon, mezcal, peach-tarragon shrub, and withier beer. An adventurous and unique mix results in a taste which I found a bit “off” but not entirely unpleasant. The mezcal burn off the beer was something I hadn’t experienced before; interesting, but not a great feel, I thought. Next up was “The Early Morning Harvest” with vodka, Grand Quinquina, graps, creme de violette, and bitter lemon. Hard to imagine a complex mix like this tasting so smooth but the Morning pulls it off, not much bite with a one-of-a-kind grape-ish hue. Again, an experience.
The “Peculiar Pear” was my favorite at Bastille – with Hayman’s Gin, Lillet Blanc, Chartreuse Jaune, and pear juice bitters (!), this drink delivers an extremely unique taste that stays with you and peaks over and over again. It’s a delicious and subtle experience that I loved. Get ready for how well the pear juice bitters bite, a touch that really sells this drink. I was not a fan of the next drink “The Sparkling Blackberry,” with white rum, creme de mure, lemon, and ginger beer. The burn was just a bit muddled and fractured with a strange after-taste that lingers too long. This was forgettable.
The next drink up was the brightly named “The Angel of Death.” Devised in-house, the Angel has brandy, dry vermouth, apricot liqueur, absinthe, and Norman cider, resulting in an intriguingly bitter taste and a slow, resonant burn. Not great, but interesting enough to try again and again. Then we had “The Misfits” with Tuaca, rouge vermouth, quince wine, lime, and Aztec Chocolate Bitters. I strangely sensed a hint of apple in this one, which was very sweet and relaxing.
Alright, we’re in the home stretch! The “Scent of the Lagoon” has rum, grenadine, lemon, curacao, and aromatic bitters. You know you’re going to get something sweet here and the Lagoon doesn’t disappoint, with an easy burn, a hint of tartness, and a sweet after taste. Less sweet was “The Angry Telephone” which consists of rye, bonal, cappelletti, and sparkling wine. This mix just did not gel with me with the rye overpowering everything else, presenting a harsh and unpleasant burn that ends in a syrupy, licorice ending. Not horrible, but not a favorite.
Our finale was “The Blacksmith,” an insanely inventive mix that certainly stands out from the crowd with scotch, kirschwasser, Benedictine, and root beer. For real. I’m generally not a fan of this sort of taste but this one was very nice, not overly syrupy, and the root beer is a fun and poppy touch. A great way to end a long cocktail tour and good times at Bastille!