Basement Chic – 2 Birds 1 Stone

One of the more beautiful bars in the DC area, 2 Birds 1 Stone is a wonderful little basement spot with best-of-class cocktails.

Ambiance: ****

Decor: *****

Service: ****1/2

Cocktails: ****1/2

Overall Rating: 4.5

So many bars, so little time – that’s the dilemma for any two-bit cocktail blogger like myself. A glut of nice cocktail bars and my liver were the only things that could keep me away from 2 Birds 1 Stone, a well-regarded, low-visibility cocktail spot off of 14th street. But when I heard that 2 Birds’ cocktail program was recently nominated for a RAMMY, I loudly exclaimed “enoughs enough!” and headed down the steps to the slightly covert cocktail bar.

I rapidly fell in love with 2 Birds’ pleasant blue and white space, which I though resembled a successful New England-based artist’s basement studio. Wide open with nautical colors on the wall and simple, cream colored furniture, 2 Birds’ ascetic is happily distinct from the cliched “covert industrial” or “dark antique shop” tropes that you see so often these days. That radiance and beautiful artwork helps attract a great crowd of happy and polite folk. The bar gets very, very busy on a Saturday night but never felt cramped, and the excellent service kept pace so well.

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2 Birds’ March menu (rendered in charming cartoon fashion) was a bit of a surprise – just knowing the bar’s reputation and location, I expected the list to lean towards the fancy and absurdly complex. But no, the very good menu is straight forward and simple, fielding some fresh tropical blends with pineapple, ginger beer, and coconut. The seven drink cocktail list also gets credit for offering some intriguing infused spirits such as thyme and oregano with rye. I liked most of the drinks and found 3 standouts that really knocked my socks off.

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We began with the “Dunlap Variation” with aged rum, cynar, cream sherry, and angostura bitters. I don’t have great affection for cynar so this was a bit harsh for my palette, but it did introduce me to the intriguing taste of cream sherry which is smooth and slightly rich. That light sherry influence does a bit to tame the cynar but not enough, I thought. Not bad, just not my cup of tea. Next up was the “Punch du Jour” which was a potent mix of tequila, pineapple, ginger, citrus, and lime. This was a great standout punch with a perfectly tailored mix that accentuates the tequila’s unique burn with a spicy, superb ginger influence and a bright citrus pop. A simmering, sweet burn that hits hard, I loved this drink.

Moving on to the “Camel’s Eye” with gin, yellow chartreuse, apricot liqueur, and lemon. This was pretty good with an attractive mix of gin and lime colored by that distinct, herbal chartreuse spice, which is subtle here. The apricot liqueur also pops very well on the back end with the lemon, delivering a really strong citrusy sweet kick. Good stuff. Then “Our Lady of the Harbor” with Irish whiskey, pineapple, green chartreuse, lime, and angostura bitters. A very measured drink, the whiskey and the chartreuse click well and give a herbal, powerful wake-up call on the front, while the pineapple lends a welcome citric influence in the background. Ok.

My favorite drink of the evening came next with the “Mamie Taylor” a simple mix of Scotch whiskey, lemon, and house ginger beer. This mix was sublime with one of the better ginger tastes I’ve ever had, just a perfect ginger beer-ish pop and bite. The scotch burns so well with the lemon/citrus twang, gelling effortlessly with that ginger heat. All-star drink. Got a little tropical with the “Masala Colada” with a chai-spiced rum blend, coconut, lime, and pineapple. This was another standout, with the soft coconut flavor adding just the right amount of heft and peppered with some energetic chai. And then the pineapple! The pineapple comes in wonderfully, lending that citrus twist to the softer rum and chai for a nice, cold relaxing sipper. Awesome.

I bid adieu to 2 Birds with the “Sly Pal” with thyme and oregano infused rye whiskey, Campari, and sweet vermouth. Yeah, thyme and oregano! This was probably the most interesting taste of the evening; words can’t do justice to a rye burn with a thyme hint on the back. I actually wish the thyme and oregano were stronger just for the experience, as it was still a bit subtle and drowned out by the rye. That rye mix is an extremely powerful flavor alone, but with the Campari, it’s even more hard-hitting. Slip it slowly for the full flavor. With that, my evening at 2 Birds 1 Stone was sadly over, but I hope to get back to the basement soon!

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