Sip cocktails inspired by horror flicks and characters amid shelves of creepy dolls and a haunted forest.
After a wildly successful Game of Thrones pop-up bar this summer, another that paid homage to Japan’s gift of the cherry blossoms last spring, and back-to-back Christmas- and Hanukkah-themed bars, the Drink Company team returns to spook and scare costume-clad cocktail fans this fall. For the month of October, they’ve transformed their trio of bars in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C., into a space inspired by the beloved terror-inducing holiday.
“My favorite part of Halloween is how it blends horror, fantasy, pop culture and camp all together in one day. It's a chance for us to get outside of ourselves and have fun,” says Drink Company president Derek Brown. “Of course, we’re offering people that chance thirty-one days at PUB Dread.” (Brown and some other key players starred in a theatrical teaser trailer that dropped about a week before the bar was announced.)
Drink Company’s special projects team – led by director Matt Fox and manager Adriana Salame Aspiazu – were responsible for the pop up’s design. A Haunted Forest touts spiders, watching eyes, creatures, skulls and ghouls hanging from the tree branches, joined by a web in the front window that spells out “PUB Dread” à la Charlotte’s Web. Adjacent in The Crypt, tombstones and bats flank the walls and hang from the ceiling, while red velvet-lined coffins stand up on their sides; anyone who isn’t creeped out too much by the idea of being dead and buried can pose inside one and snap a corpse selfie for social media.
The theme of the third bar as well as the back room – an ode to David Bowie – may be head-scratching to some, but it actually makes perfect sense. Not only did the musician release a song in 1980 dubbed “Scary Monsters,” but his elaborate stage outfits and personas rivaled that of any costume. There is a Ziggy Stardust mural on the back wall, neon glass spider light on the ceiling, and album covers on the back bar. “Why not? Who doesn’t like David Bowie?” Brown asks. Indeed.
Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! mixes Campari, Aperol, vermouth and Twizzler soda, garnished with a red Twizzler; Do You Like Scary Movies has vodka, Cointreau, Aperol, Americano vermouth, orange, bitters and blood orange soda, topped with candy in the shape of bones; and the David S. Pumpkins (named for the annoyingly cheesy Halloween attraction character played by Tom Hanks on Saturday Night Live) uses aged rum, Jamaican rum, Cognac, sherry, allspice dram, coconut and pineapple, garnished with love-it-or-hate-it candy corn.
On the boozier side, We All Float Down Here is a seasonal Manhattan variant with peated Scotch, Lot 40 Rye Whiskey, sweet vermouth, cream sherry, creme de cacao and bitters. An ode to Pennywise, the title character in Stephen King’s It, it’s served in a coupe glass with a stem adorned with a bright red foam clown nose. You’ll need all that liquid courage to banish thoughts of that shape-shifting clown that lives down in the sewer.
Guests at PUB Dread are encouraged to come dressed in their favorite costume, and
Salame Aspiazu loves to see how creative people get. “For us, Halloween is the perfect foil to create a pop-up space,” Brown says. “We’ve gone all out with this one and, from the decor to the drinks, I think Halloween heads are going to rejoice.”
Ready to get your scare on? Mix up these drinks from PUB Dread, and if you are in the D.C. area, check out the bar, open now through October 31.
We All Float Down Here
Recipe courtesy of Drink Company
Inspiration for this smoky, boozy seasonal sip is the creepy shapeshifter title character that preys on the fears of children in the Stephen King book, mini-series and movie. Complex grain, smoke and fruit notes from the dual base whiskies are underscored by bitter chocolate and baking spice, the Drink Company bar team notes. “If you are looking for a Manhattan variation this fall, this is IT!”
- 1 oz. peated Scotch
- ¾ oz. Rye whiskey
- 1 ¼ oz. Sweet vermouth
- ¼ oz. Cream sherry
- ¼ oz. Creme de cacao
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
- Foam clown nose to garnish
Add all ingredients to a cocktail glass, add ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with a foam clown nose on the stem of the glass.
Recipe courtesy of Drink Company
“Tequila and pineapple go together like peas and carrots, or in the case of Halloween, like caramel and nougat,” Brown says. Bitter and citrus balance the fizz in this drink that represents the change in seasons. “Oh, and it has a ZOMBIE on it!” Enough said.
- 1 oz. Tequila (preferably Highland)
- 1 ½ oz. Charred pineapple syrup (see Note)
- 3 oz. Tonic water
- Pineapple cube on zombie stir stick to garnish
Build the drink in a Collins glass over ice, and garnish with the pineapple cube skewered with a zombie stir sticks.
For the charred pineapple syrup:
Combine 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup cold-pressed pineapple juice and ½ tsp. liquid smoke in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves, then remove from the heat and allow it to cool before serving. Store the syrup in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, http://www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @kmagyarics.