Cocktails on the Med – Kapnos Taverna

Mike Isabella’s Ballston outpost Kapnos Taverna provides a few notable cocktails to go with your tzatziki and moussaka.

Ambiance: ***1/2

Decor: ****

Service: ****

Cocktails: ***1/2

Overall Rating: 3.75

On a recent Fall stroll I was struck by the growth of the restaurant scene in Ballston, which I used to associate with sterile office buildings, a crummy mall, and drunken herds fleeing Clarendon. One of the new spots I spied was Kapnos Taverna, the NOVA sister of the well-regarded Kapnos in DC.  Last week  I finally made it in, taking my seat at the very pretty bright and airy bar that gives you a nice view of bustling Ballston. Kapnos offers a list of 11 cocktails that, in my humble opinion, were mostly solid and included one or two standouts and one or two duds.  So on to the drinks!

First up was the dangerously named “Razor Mule” with vodka, lime, and sarsaparilla ginger beer – I’ve been noticing more bars working on some creative takes on the standby Moscow Mule, and this was an interesting attempt – the drink is smokey with some sass and heat on the back end and a good combination of tastes throughout.  Didn’t blow me away but worth trying, particularly if you’re growing a bit bored with the ol’ MM.  Moving on to the “Piece O’ Work” with vodka, passion fruit, lemon, and Prosecco – this was fine, a little more interesting than your average mimosa with a citrusy, grapefruit taste that satisfied.


The beautiful violent hue of the “Seasonal AM Smash” with Elijah bourbon, dolin blanc, blueberry, lemon, and sage belies a sort of blase taste.  I didn’t really like the blueberry burn and the taste wasn’t all too pleasant, leading me to think that bourbon just doesn’t mesh well with blueberry.  Taverna’s game picked up considerably with the next drink “The Shepherd” with gin, mountain tea, grilled lemon juice (which just sounds cool) and oregano.  This was a superb drink and my favorite at Taverna, great lemon bounce off of the gin and a thick, rich, and substantial gin-forward pleasure.  Run out and try it.

You know what you’re getting from a drink named “Hannibal” that brings mezcal, Cointreau, lime, ginger, and harissa.  This was haaaaarsh with no apologies, a blunt burn that braces you.  To its credit, the strength of the drink doesn’t overwhelm the flavor, and overall I enjoyed this powerhouse.  Next was a nice soft antidote to the mescal uppercut in the “MIC Martini” with gin, dolin blanc, and orange bitters.  This was a delightful, ultra-smooth martini with a smart and pleasant burn.  Perfectly balanced and nice on the eyes, definitely give this one a whirl.

  Moved on to the “Papa Bear” made of Evan Williams Bourbon, cardamaro, cinnamon raisin infused sweet vermouth (!), and pimento bitters (!!).  What an interesting mix of ingredients, Papa comes across well-balanced.  I especially liked the raisin tint and the nice, honey-ish burn.  Next up was the “Gracias Amigo” with tequila, aperot, grapefruit, agave, and thyme – wasn’t a fan of this was despite it’s beautiful look, just tasted overly bitter and watered down by a heavy tequila dosage that didn’t click well.

My finale at Taverna was the “You Strawgn” with cachaca 51, watermelon, tarragon, tincture, and lime.  This had a nice little watermelon sweetness to its but a jarring citrusy flavor comes across poorly.  Just an OK drink.

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