Four years ago, I had my first handcrafted cocktail at PX in Alexandria, Va., thanks to a colleague of mine, and that’s all it took to fall in love with the sound of ice falling into in a Collins glass or a tumbler. Fast forward to Dec. 4., and he and I were standing outside the Maison Biltmore in Washington, D.C., attending my first Repeal Day Ball — my first of many, hopefully — to join with the DC-area cocktailian crowd to exercise our right to imbibe.
I was there to represent Nightclub & Bar Magazine, shoot some photos, write this blog, of course, but I also couldn't wait to taste all the amazing drinks made by some of the most well-known mixologists that were sure to be there.
The black tie affair was just what I thought it would be and more: Room after room and floor after floor of drinks that reflected the cocktail styles of each decade. We started in the 1800s room with author/ mixologist David Wondrich’s hot Bols Genever punch. The initial taste was great, as I’ve never had Bols Genever before, but the hotness of the cocktail didn’t work for me whereas the Pisco Punch redeemed my faith in the 1800s.
In the 1900s room, we were served the Maimie Taylor, a whiskey and lime drink that pleasantly surprised me. While it had that familiar whiskey taste, it wasn’t overly strong and was mixed perfectly. In fact, it went down a little too easily. There was Prohibition Eggnog and a “Valentino and Scuttlebutt” in the 1920s room (mixed by none other than our own November Bartender of the Month Chantal Tseng of the Tabard Inn in D.C.), while tiki drinks were featured in the 1940s room, which included the Ancient Marnier and the Fog Machine, created by Jeff "Beachbum" Berry.
With all these great mixologists mixing incredible drinks, it was hard to find a decade or drink that I loved the most until I walked into the Mad Men room of the 1960s. The 3:1 Dry Martini and Sloe Gin Fizz made my imbibing experience worthwhile. The 3:1 Martini (3 parts gin, ½ part dry vermouth, ½ part sweet vermouth and a twist of lemon peel) made by J.P. Fetherston, right hand man to Derek Brown (one of our hosts for the evening) of The Passenger, was blended so well that I didn’t even taste the gin. The Sloe Gin Fizz, however, was the drink I tried again; its smooth taste had me convinced it couldn’t be an alcohol drink.
From there I headed to the '80s room to see what Dale DeGroff, King Cocktail himself, was conjuring up. Of course, it was the quintessential drink of the '80s, the Cosmo. Very well mixed — a tasty drink, indeed. The best part: Right after he mixed our drinks, he headed downstairs to sing “Baby it’s Cold Outside” with Katie Nelson of The Columbia Room.
The final room of the evening was dubbed the Future Room, and unsurprisingly the drinks here were by no means based on the typical drinks we’re used to; it was a complete 180. Gina Chersevani of PS7’s in D.C. was making a Dippin’ Dots-textured Caipirinha. It was frozen, and it was awesome. There also was a futuristic twist on old school dot candy; the sweet was infused, resulting in a Blue Hawaii and a Mojito-flavored candy to name a couple.
We ended the night at the after party in the theater room of Derek Brown’s bar The Passenger. We mingled, we talked to people and, above all, we had a great time celebrating the Repeal of Prohibition and enjoying the cocktails that it makes possible. The Repeal Day Ball was everything that I hoped it would be and more. I can’t wait to go again next year!
Sidenote: Later in the evening — much later actually — someone told me and my colleague that we were drinking the wrong way. We should have been sipping and discarding, sipping and discarding, rather than drinking the whole drink. Once we found a drink we really liked, to focus on that. I wish I had heeded that advice when I woke up the next day.