Neighborhood Haunt – Mason Social (Visit #2)

A nice neighborhood spot, Mason Social is a good spot to chat with Alexandria locals and down a few cocktails.

Ambiance: ****

Decor: ***1/2

Service: ****

Cocktails: ***1/2

Overall Rating: 3.75

It was a beautiful spring Saturday in Old Town Alexandria – the sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and I was wearing shorts for the first time (hallelujah!). Out for a stroll and brunch, I spied the friendly neighborhood bar Mason Social, the latest stop in my cocktail “gettin-to-know-you….again” tour; my previous visit was all the way back in August, so it was high time for me to head over and try some new cocktails. I’ve always liked Mason’s layout, featuring a sizable bar with a few large tables for groups as well as a service bar, which I think you can sit at. Word to the wise, the place can get positively packed most nights with locals, so try to get there early/late.

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During our reunion I sampled five of Mason Social’s cocktails and found one standout. Nothing ultra fancy here but some simple and solid mixes with a few intriguing ingredients like brown sugar syrup, smoked grapefruit soda, and pear and ginger infused gin. Let’s drink!

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I started my reunion with the “Tinsel 75” with house pear and ginger infused gin, rosemary syrup, lemon, and sparkling wine. The Tinsel carries a surprisingly sophisticated cascade of flavors with the pear, ginger, and rosemary dominating up front, very herbal, and an even lemon flavor through the rest of the drink until a kiss of wine at the conclusion. When I read pear and sparkling wine I think light and easy, but the Tinsel is a formidable more-than-a-mouthful, replete with a full body and deceptively hard-hitting alcohol content. Next up was the gorgeous “Taylor Made” with house hibiscus infused Catoctin Creek gin, lemon, egg white, and Bittermen’s tiki. This was ok with a pleasant lemon and egg white soft touch but I thought the hibiscus hit oddly, souring the mix for me. Not awful, and beautiful looking, but the flavor profile just felt uneven and odd.

I switched to smoke with the “Chimenea” with tequila, lime juice, smoked grapefruit soda, and smoked sea salt. This was a sharp tequila-centric hitter rendered refreshing by the lime. I was hoping the grapefruit soda would be more of a player, but all I really picked up on was its carbonation. No, this is a smokey one through and through, so order it with that in mind. Good stuff. I went a little lighter with the “Mason Punch” with vodka, honey tarragon syrup, and grapefruit juice. This was a perfectly acceptable spring/summer punch although I thought the grapefruit played a little too heavy and the honey syrup was sadly subdued. Hard to argue with punch though on a sunny 70 degree day, though.

My last hurrah at Mason Social was also my favorite, the standout “Northside Coffee” with Irish whiskey, brown sugar syrup, and whipped sage whiskey butter (!). Even with the spring heat I loved this hot cocktail, which wields a perfect mix of whiskey and strong, strong coffee. What took this drink to the next level though was the butter, which dissolved quickly in the hot brew, forming a rich, resonant, and delicious film on the top. It’s a great new twist on an old drink that adds some wonderful, savory goodness.

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