Happy Hour with Fritz Hahn

Dec 05, 2019

Every other Thursday, Washington Post Weekend reporter Fritz Hahn discusses all aspects of going out: happy hours, date ideas, weekend getaways, new exhibits and other ways to have fun in the Washington D.C. area.

Hi everyone. Hope you're gearing up for the long holiday season ahead. To start: 16 things to do this weekend and my look at why this Saturday is the busiest, most wonderful day of the year. (No, really, it is.) Rudi Greenberg also has a list of the area's most festive concerts.

Also in GOG news, Solo-ish editor Lisa Bonos and I put together this list of our current favorite first date spots, as well as a guide to where to break up with someone

Ready? Let's get to the questions. 

I'm trying to decide whether it would be worth it to check out the Miracle pop up while I'm in another city, after having been to the one in DC. Do you know whether the menu varies upon location? I know there are at least some drinks that can be found in all (or most?) cities, but does each location also craft some of their own drinks in keeping with the theme?

Actually, the D.C.'s Miracle on Seventh is one of the most original - if not the most original - Miracle bars in the world. For comparison, check out the menus for Miracle in Atlanta, London and D.C. Notice how the others are almost exactly the same, but D.C. is wildly different? You'd really have to go to another city to find out what the rest of the world (well, 95 cities, anyway) is drinking. Speculating here, but because D.C. was one of the very first Miracles outside of New York, I think they get a little more leeway in drink creation.

Owen Thomson of Archipelago, which hosts the Sippin' Santa holiday tiki bar, told me that the bartenders are given some leeway to craft drinks for local tastes.

I meant to go to the Miracle in London last week, but just ran out of time. I think it would be interesting to visit other places for the decor - which doesn't come down from a central office, as the cocktails do - and see what each bar comes up with. 

Date destinations are one thing, but breakups? No, just no! Please do not subject the rest of us to your accusations and arguments. Do it in private. After all, some may be trying to enjoy their own dates!

You're not the only person we've heard this from. But as Lisa pointed out in the story, there are times when, for fear of backsliding or a worry that the person won't take it well, it's safer and easier to break up in public than at your place. 

Which brings me to another point: Contrary to the advice we in our story, someone I was talking to suggested that the best place to break up with someone is actually their favorite bar. While it seems rude, the thought is that if they know the bartenders or the regulars, they won't want to make a scene and look like a jerk. (I mean, sure, but you're ruining their favorite place.) 

I went by Gaslight Tavern recently and was bummed to see that it was closed. They posted on Facebook in August that they'd be closed for renovations. Do you know if they're going to reopen? I hope so!

I reached out to co-owner Ian Hilton, who says that they'll have more news about it soon. I was a fan of Gaslight, especially the tucked-away back patio, but Hilton says the new venue will be "remotely" similar, and "more open, lighter and brighter." We shall see. I'll share more news when I have it. 

Hi Fritz, my SO and I are considering going to the Alexandria boat parade on Saturday, but it will be on the chilly side. Assuming that we don't want to go to the heated taco tent, which restaurant do you think would have the best view? Blackwall? Vola's? Virtue? Or should we just shiver at a park?

I once went to a holiday party in the upstairs room at Virtue, and you could see *some* of the boat parade from the upstairs windows, but not a lot. (Still, it's better than nothing when the temperature is around freezing.) I'd think the outdoor fire pits at Blackwall would have more of a view than Vola's. Dare I suggest that you might want to think about Chart House? (They have tables during the parade available on Open Table.)

My very elegant 80 something Mom will be in town before Xmas. I’d like to take her out for a special cocktail hour, somewhere with a great holiday vibe. Points for a sense of DC tradition, but touristy or crowded is a no go. Happy to travel anywhere in the district. Thanks!

The Willard's Round Robin Bar would be high on my list, because the lobby is so bright and festive, while remaining classy and appealing. There are classic cocktails, warming drinks, and nightly caroling through Dec. 23. It's an all-around winner. 

The St. Regis' Bar is another place I'd go, for live jazz piano, drinks by the fire, and, if mom would like, an afternoon tea.

The more low-key would be Martin's Tavern, for its over-the-top decorations and Kennedy/D.C. history connections. The downsides are that you'd probably have to arrive super-early or make a reservation if you need a seat. 

Happy Repeal Day, feel free to exercise your rights under the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That is all.

Yes. And don't forget that Jack Rose's annual party starts with "Pappy Hour" -- all six Pappy Van Winkle bourbon and rye offerings at happy hour pricing from from 5 to 7:30 -- plus $10 vintage cocktails and burlesque performances all night. (There's an open-bar party with whiskey tastings in the basement for $75, too.)

We, together with our neighbors, host a multi-house holiday progressive for our neighborhood (adults only). Our house is first. We will have nice snacks and desserts. We are looking for a new drink to serve this year. We always have beer, wine, and one cocktail. We have been doing a whisky punch the last couple of years, but are ready for something else. It needs to be comparatively easy to make (lots of other food-making going on that day!), festive, and able to be made in a large batch or at least partly made ahead of time. Any great suggestions? Thanks!

I love holiday punches. My roommates and I used to make bowls of punch for a "friendly" competition at our annual holiday house parties. The go-to source for me is local bartender Dan Searing's "Punch Bowl" book. This is a wonderful (and so easy) punch that I made shortly after that book came out - the hardest part is juicing lemons and boiling water and honey: Horse and Carriage Punch

Here's another story that Carrie Allan wrote with punch ideas. 

My favorite punch, though, is the delicious and dangerous Jubal Early Punch, a mix of dark rum, brandy and champagne that I've made for multiple parties, using this recipe from cocktail historian David Wondrich. It would be excellent jumpstart for the party.

Hi Fritz - I'm looking for a good place to take my significant other that has some festive cheer/ unique drinks. Want to avoid corny places like Miracle on 7th Street. What do you recommend?

After a trip to London, where you couldn't turn around without seeing holiday lights, themed decorations, seasonal beers or special cocktails, I have to say that I wish more bars in the D.C. area dove headfirst into the holiday spirit.
Martin's Tavern is ridiculously festive, covered in bows and wreaths and Santas and greenery. Wunder Garten has a three-week schedule of ugly sweater parties, DJs and "Santa Paws" pet events, as well as firepits, cabanas and spiked hot cocoa. 

If you're heading out this weekend, I should suggest Calico in Blagden Alley, where the bar's Winter Market includes cookie decorating, ornament painting and hot cocktails. The fall market was enjoyable; hoping this one is as well. 

Also, while I haven't been yet, I like the Archipelago "Surfin' Santa" pop-up a lot -- it's not as crazy as Miracle on Seventh, and the holiday tiki mugs and surf/rockabilly Christmas tunes combine for a great atmosphere. 

My wife and I really enjoyed a night out at Bar Mini with another couple but the logistics and cost of planning something like that again can be difficult. Are there any good alternatives to Bar Mini that offer something (almost) as unique in terms of drinks and atmosphere with easier access and reservations? I'd imagine the price points may be a bit similar considering the request. -- Thanks!

In D.C., for wildly inventive drinks and an almost omakase-style level of service, you're looking at Barmini or the Columbia Room, which also requires reservations before a guided five-course presentation of cocktails and food for $85 per person.  

I'm really hoping for something similar when Silver Lyan opens at the Riggs in Penn Quarter next year - the Dandelyan pop-up at the Gibson, from London-based cocktail wiz Ryan Chetiyawardana, was one of my favorite drinks events of the year. 

which of your recommendations will also work on the 8th?

That's tough. The Heurich House and GRUMP Holiday Markets and the Spoons, Toons and Booze day of retro holiday cartoons and all-you-can-eat breakfast cereal are basically it. 

The Mount Vernon by Candlelight and Gay Men's Chorus Holiday Show both have dates the following weekend, though. 

Well, we've run over our allotted time. Have an incredible weekend and I'll see you back here in two weeks. 

In This Chat
Fritz Hahn
Fritz Hahn has covered bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003, but he also writes about everything from Civil War battlefields to sailing classes.
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