A beautiful new gem of a seafood restaurant in southeast DC, Salt Line offers a relaxed riverfront setting and a surprisingly strong battery of cocktails.
Perhaps it was the bright summer sun, perhaps it was the good company, perhaps it was the river breeze, but memories of my time at the Salt Line just make me smile. The setting for this new seafood outpost in SE DC is just so pleasant: starboard of the Nats stadium, the airy and bright Salt Line offers a huge outdoor deck overlooking the un-ironically attractive Anacostia. Inside, I fell for Salt Line’s modern Yankee design and decor, which evokes a blue collar New England sea food haunt dusted with DC sophistication. Combined, these ingredients make for one of the more aesthetically pleasing happy hour/dinner spots in DC.
I was actually a bit startled at how much I enjoyed Salt Line’s cocktail list; given the splendid food and ambiance, I thought they might skimp on the drinks, relying on familiar rum-based and tiki hits. But the list here is surprisingly adventurous, weaving some aggressive flavors into very pleasant and mostly sedate drinks. Put simply, the perfect cocktail balance for a nice day by the river with friends. Of the six drinks we tried, I thought four were standouts, which is a great ratio in most things.
We started from the top with the “Fish House Punch” with Anejo, Cotton and Reed spided rum, cognac, peach brandy, assam tea, oleo, and lemon. This standout was splendid, splendid with an ultra-complex tea-based background that rides well with a relaxed peach taste and a light citrus current. Advanced drinking but easy tasting, this is a great summer cocktail for the deck. Speaking of easy deck drinkers – next was the standout “Cape Codder G&T” with Tanqueray gin, house tonic, cranberry, and lime. I drink a lot of G and Ts so it takes a lot for me to notice a gin and tonic, but this was superbly balanced, with a good cut from the cranberry through the drink and a well-blended gin burn. Nice.
I then ordered the “Saltier Dog” with Wheatley vodka, strega, lemon, Peychaud’s aperitivo, and grapefruit. I’m skeptical of grapefruit in cocktails and it leads here, with a strong citrus cut and a formidable bitterness as the drink goes. Not a bad drink, but not my favorite either – it’s just a little strong up front and doesn’t quite gel as you go through. Pretty though. Then the “Blueberry Cobbler” with sherry, Woodford Reserve bourbon, ginger brandy, blueberry preserves, and lemon. So I’m a bit of a doubter on blueberry in cocktails, although I’ve been warming to it recently because of drinks like this. A great bourbon pop up with a nice sumptuous richness from the blueberry jelly, this offers such a pleasant taste profile up front that sticks with you. Delightful.
Then I had the “Wicked Good Daiquiri” with overproof rum, Kirsch, Yzaguirre Blanco, lime, and simple syrup. I’ve been getting more into Daiquiri science, so I’ve been seeking out good ones with added gusto: as its braggadocios name promises, this is a strong entry, with the a sharpened run punch cutting through partnered with fresh lime and sugar. I was looking for an added influence from the blanco, but I didn’t detect much of a deviation. Instead, it’s just a standout daiquiri – no sweat off my brow. My final drink was the “Ward 79” with Dickel Rye, Luxardo Triplum, lemon, blueberry grenadine, and prosecco. This one was surprisingly shy and simmering, with only a faint hint of rye behind the sugar and bubbles. It’s a good summery rye drink, I thought, and ordered myself one on the deck. It just seemed right.