“When you arrive just ring the doorbell and the hostess will escort you in and to your seat.” These were the instructions I received from Barmini’s staff, who invited us in to try their summer Tiki menu on the first night of June.
From the street, Jose Andrés’ craft cocktail bar could be mistaken for any other corporate building that makes up the Penn Quarter neighborhood. Except the doorbell elicits intrigue. Instead of walking into a stuffy law firm lobby, you enter an intimate white-on-white furnished oasis, with eclectic seating (read: a swing), indoor greenery, and a swanky open bar laden with fresh fruit and elixirs. You know you’re in for a treat.
I’m currently crushing on pineapples, so I was elated when the tasting started off with an apéritif in a mini pineapple shot glass (I recently gifted these to a Floridian friend, who is equally obsessed with the fruit). Coincidentally, I noticed several large copper pineapple mixers behind the bar and a fresh pineapple coming out of the wall. Clearly, Barmini shares my obsession with the tropical fruit.
In addition to the eight returning Tiki favorites from last summer, including “Mohan Travels to Peru and gets a Haircut” and the “Ticket to Phuket,” the cocktail lab is offering several new beverages, all available through June 11th.
We started out with the “What-a-Melon! #2.” When the bartender described the drink, with a hint of “feta air” on top, I wasn’t sure what to expect. After the first sip, I quickly learned to trust their unique concoctions, as the feta and melon combo screamed summer and was very refreshing.
I was impressed with the research and thought that went into each cocktail. It was clear that each bartender was passionate about their creation, evident in their description and proud presentation.
“Mohan’s Mistress” was one of my favorite cocktails of the night. Made up of pisco, singanhi, lime, cucumber, and raspberry it was like drinking an alcoholic fruit slushie. It came topped with a raspberry and edible flower. The cocktails were adorned with the freshest tasting berries I’ve had this season, which makes sense because this place literally has fruit coming out of the walls.
When you are about two cocktails in, I would recommend peeping at the snack menu—it’s not to be missed. For a light snack, order the Thai Chicharrones, which are crispy pork skin chips dusted with lime and ginger, served in a takeout box with a refreshing side of Greek yogurt drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Other delicious bites include the perfectly pint sized bahn mi slider, the grilled cheese, and the mini savory waffles—hi, wagyu beef, cheddar, caramelized onion waffle!
The West India Chai Sangaree tasted like Christmas in June. It comprised Chai tea, cognac, cardamom leaves, and lemon, served with “Nature’s straw”—an edible, bamboo-like thick straw. If you like Chai spices, this drink was incredible.
And now for the fire. It’s no surprise that a cocktail menu inspired by ancient Polynesian culture packs excitement and entertainment. Plus, is a cocktail really considered craft if something is not lit on fire? The “Tears from a Thousand Swords,” “Stolen Casket,” and “Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat” will satisfy your inner pyromaniac.
The cinnamon stick was lit on fire in the “Tears from a Thousand Swords,” named after the weapon of choice for the war-torn Caribbean. You can distinctly taste the aged rum, and Benedictine, a french liquor made from herbs and spices. The mint and cinnamon left a smokey lingering note.
The “Stolen Casket” was served in what you’d expect a traditional Tiki cocktail to come in. Unexpectedly, the clove embers were smoked before topping off the dark rum, sherry, and pineapple drink. Still smoking, the burnt clove gave the drink a flavor that was reminiscent of grilled pineapple. Clearly, right up my alley.
To round out the tasting, we tried “The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat.” It was made with banana bourbon, need we say more? Fine, it was also made with vanilla, cognac, lemon, cinnamon and surprise—pineapple! The cinnamon was smoked on top of the three piece shaker, so the drink was lightly infused with the spice.
Between the feta foam, banana bourbon, and smoke shows, if you do nothing else before June 11th, cool off at Barmini. We promise it’s the coolest Tiki bar you’ll go to. And tell Miguel we sent you.
501 9th St NW
Washington, DC 20004