Too many of our finest cocktail institutions have become overly stoic enterprises. They may as well hang signs above their entryways saying “come in awe and quietly worship at the altar of our cocktail mastery.” Shouldn’t drinks—even exceedingly well-made drinks, with the finest of ingredients and the most intensive of preparations and back stories—be fun? Washington, D.C.’s Dram & Grain thinks so, and they’re pushing the boundaries in the all of the right directions.
FUN YET THOUGHTFUL
In the newest edition of their Dram and Global menu, head bartenders Andy Bixby and Benny Hurwitz unveiled 20 new insanely inventive and unabashedly fun cocktails. There’s alligator-infused Chartreuse, coconut-flavored amaro, cinnamon-roll vermouth, and shimmering “precious” mineral water. There are drinks served out of tin cans, drinks ensconced within inflatable flamingos and others poured from wax-sealed, pre-batched bottles.
Dram & Grain co-head bartender Andy Bixby / Photo Credit: Emilio Pabon
The list could go on, so suffice it to say if you can imagine it, they’re probably doing it. But it’s not a gimmick. The drinks first and foremost stand up on their own accord and in the most important way—they’re delicious. And yes, they’re damn fun too.
The menu is broken down into different cities, showcasing influences and ingredients from those global destinations. There are 25 cocktails total, with the 20 new seasonal entrants from Bixby and Hurwitz—along with their cocktail wizard in training, Morgan Kirchner—joining five mainstays, spread across the cities of Havana, London, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Tokyo.
Below are two of the most unforgettable of the bunch.
TWO PINK FLAMINGOS – HAVANA
Made with: Ron Zacapa 23 Rum, house-made strawberry banana aperitif, heavy cream, soda water, lemon, lime, and egg white.
“It’s a take on a Ramos [gin fizz],” says Bixby. But there’s a whole lot more to it than that.
That house-made aperitif is a combination of Campari and Banane Du Bresil liqueur which is sous vide with strawberries. To make the drink, they use a combined wet and dry shake, putting two ice cubes in a shaker and shaking until the cubes are entirely dissolved.
And here’s where the flamingos come into play, with one folded paper flamingo on the straw, and the larger inflatable flamingo surrounding the glass. It’s fun. It’s silly. But it tastes great, and it’s backed up by ridiculously technical drink creation and execution.
Dram & Grain co-head bartender Benny Hurwitz / Photo Credit: Dram & Grain
GATOR WRESTLIN’ & PADDLE-BACKS – NEW ORLEANS
Made with: Alligator butter-infused Chartreuse, Don Ciccio & Figli C3 Carciofo Amaro, pineapple, tamarind, lime, Cajun spice.
Bixby describes the origins of this drink stretching back to Tales of the Cocktail 2016, and a boat ride and swamp tour that ended up with unexpected alligator wrestling, and Chartreuse shots taken down boat paddles.
The wild affair began with a Swamp Water cocktail, and that’s where this drink remains based. But yes, there’s actually alligator meat infused into the Chartreuse.
The meat is pan seared with butter, and sous vide with the Chartreuse and Cajun spices. “All of those notes kind of play and funk around with each other,” says Bixby. The drink is served in a tin can adorned with a plastic alligator. “But it creates a savory memory not just a fun aesthetic.”
A FEW MORE HIGHLIGHTS
With 25 drinks on the menu, there’s plenty more to explore. Here are a few more cocktails to consider:
Their ‘Shochu-Colada’, a shochu and Cynar pina colada riff.
‘Fresh Baked’ is a cinnamon-roll tasting “happy accident” made with Wild Turkey Rare Breed.
‘Stiggin’s at it Again’ is a tiki/negroni mash-up with Plantation Pineapple Stiggins’ Fancy Rum, D.C.’s Cotton & Reed White Rum, Cocchi Americano, and house coconut amaro.
Dram & Grain cocktails Left to Right: Two Pink Flamingos, Gator Wreslin’ & Paddle-Backs, Shochu-Colada / Photo Credit: Jake Emen
Representing Tokyo, ‘Thanks for Being a Friend’ is made in homage to Japan for essentially keeping the Four Roses brand afloat. It is made with a combination of Four Roses Single Barrel and standard Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon blended to about 86 proof. Angostura and umami bitters, Kuromitsu syrup, and Lapsang Souchong tea are its additional ingredients.
Of course, you don’t have to know any of this. You can just order a drink from the menu because it comes in a smoked glass or with a flamingo around it. Or because it tastes good and you’ll tell your friends about it, and you didn’t have to pretend the bar you were in was some hallowed memorial ground you couldn’t tarnish with a bit of laughter as you sipped it.
Thirsty for a cocktail of your own after reading about Dram & Grain?