A warm and inviting watering hole off of bustling Dupont Circle, McClellan’s Retreat provides the busy urban drinker with robust cocktails and a space to reflect.
Overall Rating: 4.25
I appreciate challenges, particularly when they’re deviance or alcohol-based. So when McClellan’s Retreat, a fun cocktail bar off of Dupont Circle, released their special March menu with a “Seven Deadly Sins” theme, I felt compelled to partake. This was my first trip to McClellan’s Retreat that I can remember: the bar has a nice clubby vibe, comfortably social, and its dark upholstery and brick walls are easy on the eyes. Bar maestro Brian Nixon (@trustedbarman) is a good time and made us some daring cocktails, including one that used foie gras. Yes, that foie gras.
I enjoyed the sin list, admired the heck out of some of its more daring constituents, and discovered two standouts. First came “Wrath” with Ramazzotti, Angostura, Lucano and Montenegro Amari, Creole bitters, Herbsaint (an anise-flavored liquor), and flamed lemon. Solid cocktail with a bitter kiss that doesn’t overwhelm and flows perfectly into an oakey, burned citrus hint. Liked it. I slowed it down with “Sloth” with District vodka (DC represent), simple syrup, and Old Fashion and Orange bitters. This standout was superb with a light touch and nutty, subtly fruity flavor that concludes in a perfectly rich, not-too-sweet aftertaste.
My favorite sin and a good drink was the “Lust” with Leblon Reserva Cachaca, Chai Simple Syrup, Fino Sherry, Lemon Juice, and Habanero Pepper. This was just ok, the light heat from the habanero gels well with the cool sherry. Overall, however, I felt like the ingredients didn’t synch quite right. Next up was my favorite of the evening, the “Envy” with Rujero Singani, Kalani Coconut Liqueur, Matcha Green Tea, Pineapple Juice, Lime Juice, Milk, and Pineapple Powder. This was wonderfully imaginative, mixing three distinct flavors (milk, powder, and matcha) for a delicious conglomeration. Powder and matcha make for a smoky, spicy background that rides well on the soft milk. I loved this drink and never had anything else like it. Drink it up!
“Greed” is made of Very Old Barton Kentucky Bourbon, Miro Vermut (a Spanish vermouth variant) and Angostura and Orange bitters. As Mr. Gekko said, greed is good, pretty good, with a nice bite and heavy bourbon buzz throughout. The bourbon doesn’t crush it though and the drink is relatively relaxing swallow. An often underrated but much loved sin is “Gluttony” with Foie-Gras Washed Calvados (you read that right), Cherry Heering, and Chocolate Bitters. Believe me friends, you ain’t never had anything like this – an ultra-rich, faintly meaty mix that defies normal cocktail description. The protein aura works well with the dark chocolate bitters I thought, making for a thick and strong one two punch. While not a particularly easy drink, the Gluttony is an experience, and most experiences are worth having.
Our finale was “Pride” aka “The Irish Goodbye” with Jameson Black Barrel, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, Green Chartreuse, Palo Cortado, and Angostura Bitters. This was a long trip down bitter road, drinkable but pungent, with a strain of chartreuse and Jameson that adds some character and distinction. A slow, contemplative sipper, it was a good way to end a fun time at McClellan’s Retreat. Make sure you get there before April rolls around!