Congenial with a proper amount of class, Left Door provides stunning cocktails and is the perfect spot for an evening drink on the town.
Overall Rating: 4.25
So new month, new hot DC cocktail bar for me to try! Multiple acquaintances have recommended the Left Door off 14th St. to me, and the new bar was the subject of some good press that discussed its $100 French 95 “World’s Greatest Cocktail.” Myself, I had a hell of a good time at the Left Door; a classy celebratory vibe with an eclectic, subtly sophisticated, yet still homey decor. I struggled for the right description of the space, but I think owner Tom Brown nailed it when he said the former apartment-turned bar resembled a “Victorian whorehouse.” A great soundtrack of Motown favorites and other golden oldies kept my feet tapping as some friends and I started our journey through the cocktail list.
During a five hour bacchanale I drank through the Left Door’s solid cocktail list and discovered three standouts among its eight custom recipes. First among them, the impossibly luxurious French 95 “World’s Greatest Cocktail” with Pappy Van Winkle 20-year bourbon, Louis Roderer “Cristal,” lemon juice, and honey. OK, so obviously I’d like to say this is the greatest thing I ever tasted to justify the c-note I laid out for it; in truth, it’s a great drink and a true-blue standout, but it didn’t knock my socks off. It’s ultra-smooth and the Roderer is a perfect revelation of bubbly flavor. The honey smoothes it out and the drink’s power is something else, but the bourbon didn’t stand out quite as much as I expected. Of course, at this price, I don’t think any flavor could live up to expectations. But let’s face it, it’s about the memories and experience. I’ll always remember that time where I paid a ridiculous amount of money for a great drink at a fun bar with friends. In that way, it was cheap.
Alright, on to the “Sazerac” with Bas Armagnac, absinthe, aromatic bitters, creole bitters, cane syrup, and “secrets.” This was good with a very consistent burn through and through and some nice sugar cuts on the front end. But the body of the drink is down, almost rye-ish, sedate, and echoes smoke. Nicely done.
The next drink was a standout and my favorite of the evening, the “Diamonds are Forever” with London dry gin, lemon juice, cucumber syrup, and sparkling wine. Very poppy and clean, I loved the cucumber sensation and the energizing bite from the wine. Did I mention how much I loved the cucumber syrup? Great and balanced gin flavor, loved it to death. Then, another standout, the “Make it a Mule” with Maker’s Mark, lime juice, ginger syrup, and soda. I’m a sucker for a good mule and have been trying lots of fun variations lately; this was very good with a ginger syrup that was simply divine, just the right mix of power and organic inflection The bourbon and the soda had this nice complimentary effect, spice clashing off of the carbonation. Loved this take on the classic.
Next up was the “Cougar’s Tale” with calvados, all-spice dram, lime juice, aromatic bitters, and cane syrup. Very clean, smooth drink, with the allspice dram riding herd over the body of the mix. The lime and cane syrup round out that spicy heft for a quality combination. Moving on, I had “Pretty Things” with sweet jasmine green tea, 12 year amontillado sherry, lemon juice, and honey. This was a really cool, intriguing taste that I hadn’t experienced before. The tea is dominant up front, gently leading you to a nice sherry and honey body. Pinkies up!
Then the “Salty Chihuahua” with anejo tequila, pamplemousse, agave syrup, soda, and black salt. This was a favorite among my friends and I liked it too, an easy ride through the tequila with the sweet agave and the soda pop. A gentle sipper with only a glean of tequila heat. I will say, I wasn’t a huge fan of the black salt. So just drink it from the other side 🙂 My final drink of the evening was the “On a Date” with rye whiskey, amontillado sherry, curacao, Calames bitters, and flamed orange peel. This was peppery and rich with a dense spice aura off of the sherry and rye. Earthy and fine. Good way to end a memorable evening!