While Washington’s food scene continues to evolve and thrive, our District’s bar scene could use some work. There are plenty of restaurants with great bar programs—but only a few bars, speakeasys, and beer gardens. There used to be one beer garden: Garden District—formerly known as the standard. Now, there are three: the Garden District, Dacha, and Biergarden Haus. There used to be one speakeasy: The Gibson. Now, there are three: The Gibson, Harold Black, and Two Birds, One Stone.
Grumbles aside, I’ll happily partake in wine drinking and cocktailing in what our fair city has to offer. So, I saddled up to the bar last weekend, on All Hallow’s Eve no less, to sample the new fall menu at the Gibson.
The Gibson is every bit as dark, sexy, and posh as I remembered. With black walls, leather booths, the narrow space is lit with candles and dimmed Edison light bulbs. It’s a perfect spot for a date, or a catch-up cocktail with your long-term suitor. On this occasion, I gathered four friends at the bar to sample the Gibson’s menu.
It’s meant to be an experience—the Gibson is a bit pretentious and slightly esoteric, but without being offensive. It’s a great place for an occasion—even if that occasion is merely that you wanted a great cocktail. As I waited, I sipped on a traditional Old Fashioned, and nibbled on cocktail mix and Cerignola olives—my favorite kind. The music selection was on point, with Crimson & Clover playing followed by Amy Winehouse’s Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?
In addition to a traditional Old Fashioned, the Gibson also serves the Caroline, a pineapple, slightly sweeter variation on the Old Fashioned. The cocktail is made with Bourbon, Pineapple syrup, Allspice dram, and Old Fashioned bitters. As its sweeter, it goes down more smoothly—a great option for a whiskey girl who struggles to drink a strong cocktail.
Mezcal is having a moment—and they have a great Mezcal cocktail at the Gibson. The “Why Not?” is made with Mezcal Vida, Pineapple syrup, Yellow Chartreuse, Apple Bitters, and Old Fashioned Bitters, and served with an orange twist in a tall sparkling wine flute. The smokey mezcal shines through on the front, but the cocktail had a sweet finish. This cocktail is one I would highly recommend ordering.
Another notable cocktail is “The Truth”, as it’s probably the most unique cocktail on the menu. The 90 Proof cocktail is made with Laphoraig (a smokey, petey single malt scotch), Green Chartreuse (which comes from a secret monk’s recipe), Amburana Cachaca (the Brazilian liquor used in mojitos), Apple Jack, Campari, and Orange Bitters. That’s a lot of unique liquors in one martini glass, my friends, and the flavor was unlike anything I’ve sampled.
Several cocktails were set on fire and served in martini glasses—people love a good show. If you have to pick one, go for the blood orange tequila cocktail, the “Romeo is Bleeding.” The drink is was made with Tequila, Mezcal Vida, Punt e Mes, Conton, Cocchi Rosa, and Orange Bitters. It’s sweet, but it’s good.
Last but not least, my favorite cocktail was unsurprisingly the one with wine. Served in a white wine glass, the “Domesticated Me” was made with white wine, Cocchi Rosa (a fortified rosé vermouth), and served on ice. It was accented by yellow chartreuse, orange bitters, and an orange slice. It was not unlike an iced sangria, with strong flavors of orange, white wine, and orange bitters. It was delightful and went down easily.