One of my favorite bar experiences this year (that I can remember) was drinking the night fantastic at Chris Hassaan Francke’s Middle Eastern cocktail pop-up “The Green Zone” in February. During that visit I earned the title of Green Zone champion/hero; I won’t say it was the proudest moment of my life, but it was definitely top ten. This week’s trip was a little less boozy but no less fun: the GZ scene is always rollicking, with blaring Middle Eastern jingles, club hits, and tipsy folk dancing. This was the first time I saw the GZ’s new home on the back deck of Zeba Bar on 14th street – I loved the space, it’s bigger, has more spots to sit down or place your drinks, and has a nice rustic end-of-the-world-so-let’s-party-til-we-drop vibe.
And no night at the Green Zone is quite like the last, as Chris is always serving up something new and interesting. In honor of Nowruz, the Persian New Year celebrated throughout Central Asia, the GZ broke out tons of fun ingredients such as Ararat brandy, pistachio syrup, saffron, and Rujero Singani, a Bolivian spirit made from distilled grapes. Oh and political anger and loveliness, can’t forget those.
I was ultra-excited to try the “Muhallebi Fizz” because I love a good yogurt drink (my favorite of all time is the Nicolaki at Iron Gate). In addition to the yogurt, this one brings Rujero, milk, lemon, and rose. I love all of those things, and together they make a wonderfully rich, full, and nutty drink. Like a more interesting adult milkshake, this was a delight to drink, and I especially loved the rose tickle underneath the dairy. Solid stuff. Next up was the “Farvadin” with Rujero Singani, verjus (a juice made by pressing unripe groups, crab-apples or other sour fruit), saffron, and Persian bitters. This was an intriguing one, with a hard to place sugar citrus hue (guessing that was the verjus) and a really powerful kick. The saffron is a nice addition, sort of grounding the drink with a herbal hint. Good drink.
My favorite of the evening was the “Capulcu” (which I pronounced flawlessly as the Chapulju) made of Green Hat gin, sweet lime, honey, and political anger (my favorite ingredient). A perfectly layered drink that starts strong with a sprightly lime and gin kick, then mellows out with some sweet honey and a citrus spritz at the tail end. A nice evening out with good friends and fun people at the Green Zone; I’ll see you again in two weeks!