Drinking to the Oldies – EatBar

A welcoming little joint in Eastern Market, EatBar offers up some powerful, resonant cocktails.

Ambiance: ****

Decor: ****

Service: ****

Cocktails: ***1/2

Overall Rating: 3.75

As a fan of EatBar’s Arlington iteration, I have been eagerly anticipating my first trip to its new DC digs. I decided it was time during a recent rainstorm/metro apocalypse – in such urban hell situations, it’s important to go somewhere where you can get drunk and happy, posthaste. Situated in beautiful Eastern Market, EatBar is homey but elegant, and features an awesome jukebox that spins some great oldies, new wave classics, and indie rock that doesn’t suck. The restaurant helpfully posts the box’s offerings on their website.

One quick complaint – the small bar features eight comfortable but big seats which are unfortunately sort of jammed together, making entry and exit someone awkward. As an amateur bar designer schooled in feng shui (no experience, ever) I think losing one seat might make it a bit more comfortable. Although the seating arrangement left a bit to be desired, the bartenders provided very good service.

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Ok so the drinks: when I looked at EatBar’s short cocktail list prior to my visit, I knew I would be in for a somewhat tough time. The menu is loaded with amaros, cynar, and some other ingredients I don’t love. But that’s alright, if I’ve learned anything during my year-long blitzkrieg of fancy bars, it’s that the only bad cocktail is a BORING cocktail. And none of the cocktails at EatBar are boring – although I personally found their tastes a bit challenging and hard to embrace, almost all of them delivered some really interesting sensations I haven’t had before. Three in particular were out of this world in terms of risk-taking, even though the experience of drinking them wasn’t always pleasant, for me.

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So let’s start this disco, the “Done With Mirrors” with Hat Trick Rested Gin (that just sounds cool), Atxa blanco, turmeric vinegar, ginger, and habanero bitters. This was the only drink at EatBar that just fell flat IMHO; a very even taste with clear ginger hints and a little spice on the back end, the drink just never “kicked.” Not a bad drink, but nothing memorable. Ain’t it funny how the “Night Moves” with Pig’s Nose scotch, cherry liqueur, sherry, hickory, and orange bitters. Now this was a drink to remember – extraordinarily complex, the scotch is a heavy load on the front end, while the taste afterwords is hard to describe. I picked up on the cherry and the smoky, herbal hickory, but the combination is hard to decipher, offering an intriguing and earthy burn. Not a drink that I could necessarily embrace, but I won’t soon forget it.

Next up was the “Loc’ed After Dark” with armagnac, rye, cardamaro, dry vermouth, Peychauds, and chocolate bitters. This was actually a comparatively simple, even rye and armagnac taste that gets richer and darker as it goes on, influenced by the striking bitters. A slow, serious drink worthy of contemplation by the discerning drinker, the Loc’ed would pair well with dessert, I thought. Kept it casual with the “No Jacket Required” with Amaro Montenegro, Amaro Nardini, Amaro Angostura, High Wire amaro, and absinthe. Similar to the “wild” taste of the Night Moves, this was a bit licorice-y on the front end, leading to a formidable combination of powerful bitterness. It is also a drink you won’t get out of your mouth easily, its legacy a very intriguing and resonant aftertaste.

Then I met “Little Miss Dangerous” with rum, cynar, and muscadine vinegar. The third “wild one” at EatBar, this devilish number rams the vinegar home early, giving way to a syrupy, thick, and bitter rum and cynar burn. I know I’m a broken record at this point (get it?) but this taste is new and definitely different to me – can’t say I loved the taste, but I admire the combination and the pop, which you will mull over for a while, trying to make heads or tails of it. An adventurous drink to end an adventurous night at EatBar; ’til next time, keep spinning the hits!

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