Whenever a friend asks yours truly “what’s your favorite cocktail bar in DC?” I’m always quick to answer “it’s not in DC, but the best in the area is Captain Gregory’s.” From its sophisticated ambiance to its list’s flawless combination of whiz-bang experimentation and stunningly good tastes, the Captain is a must-visit. Simply put, if you like cocktails and haven’t yet stepped behind the wooden wall of Sugar Shack Donuts, you’re just doing it wrong.
So I was very excited when I heard that Captain Gregory’s was starting its Tiki season on Sunday with a special tasting. Now, there are plenty of nice little tiki places popping up all over; after all, all you really need are some palm fronds, cool mugs, and gobs of sugar. But Captain Gregory’s takes tiki seriously: their tiki mixes come with full explanations of each drink’s heritage and place in tiki lore. Barmeisters Rachel and Sam are hardcoretiki nerds and can effortlessly regale you with fun trivia on Trader Vic or Don the Beachcomber.
We tasted four cocktails as part of the tasting menu and ordered a fifth off the special tiki night menu. The first was a cute little totem that punched above its weight, the “Doctor Funk” with Myer’s Dark Rum, absinthe, burnt sugar, grenadine, lemon, lime, and soda. A drink from the mind of Dr. Bernard Funk of Samoa, the elixir was revived by Trader Vic in the 40s. It was a great welcome to the tiki party with an intense poppy sweet resonance that ran evenly through. A nice shot of humming boozy electricity in a small package. Next up was the enchanting “Missionary’s Downfall” from Don the Beachcomber with Plantation 3 Star Light Rum, peach brandy, honey, lime, mint, and pineapple. This was probably the most unique drink of the evening, with a blended mint froth lending a mikshakey, cool burn to the front end, rounded out nice with the rum cut and pineapple. A visually stunning drink, I loved the approach on this one, daring but eminently drinkable.
Then the “Enchanted Catnip” with Flor de Cana 7 yr rum, lime, sugar, and tamarind. This was nice and sedate with a hint of heat at the end that mixed well with the sugary citrus. An even and attractive cocktail that I’d definitely order again. To round out the tasting, portion, I had a “West Indian Planter’s Punch” with Smith and Cross Jamaican rum, cognac, madeira, green tea, lime, guava, and burnt sugar. This pleasurable herbal and sugar mix was tiki-light, a perfect pool-sipper or relaxed bar cocktail. Easy drinking with enjoyable organic notes throughout the even taste.
The conclusion of this splendid evening was the “Out of the Water” from impressario Sam Brooks himself with vanilla and pineapple infused rye, homemade all spice dram, 10 yr white port, and PX sherry. This was the hit of the night for me and one of the better cocktails I’ve had in a long time – a steady current of spice and sweet port is a wonderful thing to behold, and the rye burn is measured just right to compliment the overall taste. Loved this one, it’s a must have. Great way to end a superb evening at Captain Gregory’s!
If you weren’t able to attend Sunday’s event, don’t worry: Captain Gregory plans to throw additional tiki events throughout the summer. Stay tuned to their Facebook page for future announcements!