From the Sea to A-Town – Mussel Bar

Mussel Bar is a good easy spot to catch some games and sip a few simple drinks.

Ambiance: ***

Decor: ****

Service: ****

Cocktails: ***1/2

Overall Rating: 3.5

It’s been my pleasure over the past few years to use Glebe Rd for my morning and afternoon commutes. Usually I’m so dead-eyed tired or worn down that I fail to perceive the world around me, frequently overlooking some of the new restaurants and bars that have sprouted up in the Ballston Mall area. For instance, I have passed Mussel Bar and Grille–a Robert Wiedmaire outpost modeled after a old-world Belgian roadhouse–at least 1000 times, but never ventured in.

To right this wrong, I stopped into Mussel Bar this weekend for some seafood, NCAA basketball, and cocktails. The bar is inviting and well-spaced, and features a nice open view of dear Glebe. For those of us inclined towards sports, Mussel has a nice range of flatscreens.

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Mussel Bar features a nice little battery of five simple but good cocktails, two of which I thought were standout excellent. Because I’m Mr. Methodical, I started from the top with the “Linger” with cranberry-infused rye whiskey, luxardo cherry, and sweet vermouth. This was ok, the rye a dominant influence with a bit of peppery, dark fruit flare from the cranberry. Interesting flavor there, worth trying on its own. A lighter, slightly sweeter take on an Old Fashioned, the luxardo also plays a supporting role, pumping in some intriguing bitterness. A worthwhile drink. Next up was a “Corvette” with rye, old fashion bitters, orange peal, and cherries. This was against a rye-without-pretense cocktail with a bit of citrus pop in the middle and on the back end, with hints of spice throughout.

Moved on to the “Pear Jam” with gin, lemon juice, and Asian pear. This simple looking drink belied a surprisingly complex taste, much more interesting than expected. The gin is a heavier influence then you would expect in a summery sipper, which is fine for a gin fan like yours truly. The Asian pear lends this resonant, almost apple-ish taste on the finish. Good. Then, my first standout of the evening, the “Shake Your Pom Pom” with Kraken rum, pomegranate syrup, lime, and ginger beer. I loved this sharp rum drink which is spiced up so well by the rich, tart pom and a perfect amount of fresh ginger beer. Honestly, the other ingredients work so well you hardly notice the rum influence, which is definitely in the background. Very good cocktail.

The last drink was probably the prettiest and the best, the “Bittersweet Symphony” with silver tequila, jalapeno, passion fruit, lemon, and lime. More and more I’m drawn to tequila and pepper drinks, and this colorful cocktail only cemented my addiction, with the perfect amount of sweet heat from the tequila and the spice of the jalapeno. Those hot tastes float so well on the pleasant, refreshing citrus sensation – this is the sort of cocktail made to be sipped on a lazy summer weekend on Mussel Bar’s patio. Loved it. Good way to end a nice evening at Mussel Bar, I promise to think of you on my next commute!

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