Serving up some of the best drinks in the DC area, Brabo is a top-flight cocktail bar posing as a fine dining restaurant.
Overall Rating: 4.5
The last time I visited the fine dining establishment of Brabo in Old Town Alexandria was in January and boy was it chilly. The kind of weather that keeps you at a bar for hours, provising a natural and welcome excuse to drink leisurely and long. But of course, one hardly needs an excuse to drink a lot at Brabo; with an exceptional cocktail list curated by Mr. Phil Clark, Brabo stands as one of the few bars I’ve visited that 1) took chances and where 2) I loved everything. Like, everything, all 16 drinks. During my more temperate visit this week I was happy to learn that Brabo remains a classy, well-serviced, and adventurous bar, pumping out simply-named cocktails whose tastes are anything but straightforward. I sampled five new Spring-ish cocktails and spotted two standouts.
We started nice and springtime light with the “Collins” with Bombay Sapphire east gin, St. Germaine, lemon, cucumber, sugar, and sparkling water. If you’re expecting an ultra-basic taste you could whip up in two seconds at home, you’ll be pleasantly surprised – true, this standout is light and easy, but the balance is just perfect, with each refreshing flavor leveling each other off so well. I especially loved the gin and cucumber, just the right amount of green, herb, and floral notes with a sweet taste on the backend. I promise to come back to Brabo on a 100 degree day and sit outside and guzzle five of these. Promise. Next up was the “Fizz” with Botanist gin, lemon, sugar, egg white, and sparkling water. This was a tad heftier than the Collins but no less enjoyable with the gin and sugary fizz working well for a well-balanced, envigorating taste. Due to its froth and body, you might save this one for a warm summer night.
So if you’ve paid any attention to my blog over the past year (my condolences) you’ve probably noticed I love Moscow mules and its ever expanding roster of cousins, such as the Razor Mule, the Cider mule, the Whiskey Mule – I could go on and on. So here comes the “Mule” with Greg Goose vodka, lime juice, honey, and rhubarb-vanilla (!) ginger beer to steal my heart. After I drank this uber-standout, I exclaimed “this is next level” and thought about Samuel Jackson in Pulp Fiction:
Yeah, it’s that good. The classic vodka and lime are there, but the rest of the drink is something different, with a cold, faintly fruity, almost creamy taste off of the rhubarb and vanilla which is softened pleasantly by the honey. I loved this sprightly stunner, every flavor is in its place for a classic mule taste while the new influences enhance those classic sensations. Drink this immediately and in mass quantities. Next up was the “Cobbler” with Lustau Oloroso sherry, muddled orange, and sugar. I’m not the world’s biggest sherry fan and I felt the orange overloaded my taste buds a bit, so this one was a bit of a struggle for me. As I drank it through and got some sugar on my tongue I enjoyed it more, but this is a fairly stiff and sherry-forward taste that I couldn’t embrace whole heartidly.
Our finale was an ode to the DC area’s favorite Spring event, the “Cherry Blossom Collins” with Hibiki Japanese whisky, dry vermouth, lemon, and cherry bitters. That floral title might give you the idea that this will be a light and airy sipper, but no, that Japanese kick is hard-hitting, levying a stiff shot of blended whisky up front that smooths out nicely with some lemon and vermouth. I wanted more of a cherry flavor, but I always want more cherry. This was a good and timely drink that provided the cherry on top (get it?) of another great evening at Brabo. I thought I spied a bit of a patio scene popping up outside, which got my mind thinking of lazy summer weekends sipping on cold gin. Sigh, so close…