I make no secret of my intense love for Alexandria’s Captain Gregory’s; if you’re in the DC area, consider yourself a lover of cocktails, and haven’t been yet – you’re just doing it wrong. As my blog attests to, I’ve been to tons of awesome bars all over, but none of them impress me like Captain Gregory’s – cozy environs, a secret door, and some of the better drinks I’ve ever had. Alright, fawning over! Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to a rum tasting at the bar. Knowing how serious Captain Gregory’s takes its cocktails, I had little doubt the tasting would be a memorable and educational experience.
Oh boy was it! Handed a tasting menu consisting of six rums of different blends and sources, we went to work deciphering their flavor profiles and exploring the storied history of the sugary spirit that, among other things, fueled the Royal Navy. Rum aficionado Chris and bartender Rachel ably walked us through the ins and outs of spirit, including discussions on the impact of geography (high mountains can change the taste considerably), how different regions do their rum, and how barrels can radically change the tasting notes.
My menu quickly became a jumbled mess of frenetic notes as I kept track of all the information I was hearing and…drinking. I was struck by the really distinct flavor profiles among the variants; there truly are no two rums exactly alike, and I was blown away by the diversity of tastes and influences. I had tons of questions as we walked through the fascinating and delicious list which Chris and Rachel were more than happy to answer them.
This being Captain Gregory’s, we had to explore how these rums worked in cocktails, of course. As part of the program we were served up two excellent cocktails including the “Mai Tai” with Clement Premier Canne, Myer’s Dark, Ron Zacapa, Cointreau, Orgeat, and Lime and the “From Scratch Pina Colada” with Plantation 5 yr, smoked pineapple, coconut, cinnamon, and star anise. Both drinks were superb and served as perfect vehicles for exploring the different sides of rum; in the pina colada, you get the lighter, vanilla and molasses tones partnered with the soft touch of the pineapple, spice, and coconut, and in the Mai Tai, you sense its unrestrained, resonant power. They also prompted Rachel and Chris to walk us through Tiki’s colorful history including the legendary Trader Vic, what a Zombie is and why its important, and some cool foundational books including “Potions of the Caribbean.”
Of course, variety is the spice of life, and we decided to break up the rum-soaked evening with some gin. I usually don’t go “off-menu” because I’m so mission-focused at cocktail bars, but Captain Gregory’s is the place for risks. So I asked for a dealer’s choice gin drink and was provided a specialized Gin martini containing Monkey 47, a wonderful German made gin with a really fascinating history involving the Berlin Zoo and the Royal Air Force. Then some cocchi and lillet and magic happened – perfectly smooth with a sublime measure of juniper and bitterness, this was a beautiful martini, built for a sophisticated evening chatting about cocktail history.
But no night at Captain Gregory’s is complete without baked goods! Due to to its placement near Sugar Shack, we had all sorts of fun snacking on a donut or ten, including one with whipped cream all over it. Let’s just say my reputation at the office–usually bottom of the barrel low–was buoyed considerably when I showed up with these bad boys the next day.