The Movers & The Shakers
A visit to Barmini, the cocktail bar and experience from famed Chef José Andrés, had long been on my list. Reservations at the small space, adjacent to Minibar, the sister restaurant, are hard to come by. So, I was thrilled when I was invited in to sample the cocktail flight and was able to book a reservation a casual eight weeks in advance.
Upon entry, you are greeted by a host, who ushers you through the heavy doors to a bright, white, and quiet space. Not your typical loud bar or restaurant, this is a space that pays homage to the cocktails and to the art of the craft: you listen to your bartender, and you speak in a low voice so as not to detract from others’ experiences.
The space is minimalist yet playful: all-white walls, bar, and seating, with white lighting, accented by a few, colorful, Latin American pieces of art and décor. It’s certainly memorable.
It’s an upscale setting that requires a bit of decorum—a perfect experience for a special evening for any sort of pair.
Is this seat taken?
Barmini is a small space with high-ceilings and decor that exudes quirky charm. It was filled with all sorts of people—people who appreciate great cocktails.
We sat at the bar, and were greeted ceremoniously with an amuse bouche and a detailed outline of the evening by our mixologist. He was handsome, as were all the bartenders, which I’d imagine is quite deliberate. “That girl looks like she should be strutting down a runway, not behind the bar,” Christina said, stunned.
I was thrilled to be catching up with Christina, my dear friend from college. We covered tough and light-hearted topics throughout the evening, stifling our giggles and gasps in order to fall in line with the vibes of the space.
We began with a petite amuse bouche in a tall glass, but honestly I was too excited to be there and to see Christina to remember much. Next up, a bright, beautiful, orange confection, the Cross Eye Mary. This rum-based cocktail was made with lime, honey, and absinthe, and topped with a passion fruit espuma, i.e. a oh-so-sweet tropical foam. This cocktail tasted like something Jack Sparrow might drink if he ever took a shower and went to a fancy cocktail bar. It was fruity and frothy, and very sweet without being too much.
Barmini is an experience, and the crafting of the cocktails is a show. The evening was an artistic performance of mixed elixirs, fire, ice, and science. Pay attention, and take notes, as you won’t experience anything like this again.
The second cocktail made use of José’s signature use of nitrogen to craft cocktails and deconstructed cuisine seemingly inspired by a mad scientist and tasting like nothing you’ll ever try again. The Nitro Caipriñha was made with cachacha, lime, sugar, and nitrogen, resulting in a frozen Caipriñha that resembled a boozy slushie. Served in a glamorous vintage coupe, the Caipriñha tasted just like those I’ve sipped on the beaches of Rio, but with a different texture, less sugar, and top notch booze.
After the dry ice, came the fire. To concoct the Cedar & Agave cocktail, the bartender first sets a piece of cedar wood on fire to bring about the flavors, and crafts a cocktail of tequila, Benedictine, agave and orange bitters, topped finally with an edible flower, placed with perfect precision with a pair of tweezers.
We were quite tipsy, and only half way through, and the next two cocktails were both inventive purple cocktails crafted with quite a lot of gusto, clouds of gas, and color-changing elixirs.
The first was the “Divine Wine” with chrysanthemum shochu, orange liquer, butterfly peas, lime, and citrus. While it was purple in color and syrupy in texture, the cocktail was actually incredibly smooth and citrus-y in flavor.
The second cocktail was the Floral Cloud, a lavender concoction served in a large wine glass. Crafted with gin, lemon, créme de violette, and Maraschino, the ingredients are mixed together. Then, comes the cloud of hibiscus, a scientific looking concoction that’s poured out of a beaker. They take the science and the presentation seriously around here.
In addition to the libations, the food was impeccable. We adored the ahi tuna poké, topped with a runny egg and sesame seeds. The tuna was fresh and packed with flavor, served in a classic sweet soy sauce, only made better by the runny egg.
Our minds were blown, however, when the famous truffle grilled cheese was placed in front of us on a graphite slab. The truffle grilled cheese was sprinkled with sea salt and served with honey mustard. It was oh-so-rich in truffle flavor and oil. Between full bites, Christina said, “Never getting sick of truffle oil.” I nodded in agreement, mouth full.
We tried to order a second one, but our sweet waiter didn’t hear us, which we decided was better for our waistlines, but sad for our hearts. Gosh darn-it, that grilled cheese was incredible.
Simply presented, the Carmen Miranda was a Bourbon cocktail served in a low, sake style glass with a singular, large cube of ice. The Bourbon was infused with banana, cinnamon, and nutmeg, which as you might imagine made it absolutely delicious. Served on the rocks, the Bourbon was perfectly blended with a bit of angostura and orange bitters.
The last and final cocktail was not served in a glass, but rather a spoon. The Mojito Sphere, a boozy bite served on the same tasting spoon as the deconstructed liquid olives. I love mojitos, so it would be hard to disappoint me in this regard. But, the presentation, finesse, and flavors of this final sip—or as it happens, slurp—perfectly concluded a memorable, impeccable evening of divine cocktails made from quality ingredients, crafted with innovative chemistry, and presented with memorable finesse.
barmini by José Andrés
501 9th St N.W.,