Spirited Traveller: The politics of tippling in Washington D.C.

Tue Jan 10, 2012 12:50pm EST

(Kara Newman is the author of "Spice & Ice: 60 tongue-tingling cocktails", available <here > . The opinions expressed are her own.)

NEW YORK Jan 10 (Reuters) - As a presidential election year, for many Americans 2012 is all about politics.

This is especially true in Washington, D.C. - a city all about politics, all the time. Even the drinks reference political roots.

Derek Brown, co-owner of The Passenger (passengerdc.com/) and Columbia Room (here) - and self-described "drinking expert" -prescribes an itinerary for visiting tipplers.

The first stop: Dupont Circle, and particularly the Tabard Inn (www.tabardinn.com/bar).

"It's named after the place in Canterbury Tales where travellers would meet up and drink," Brown says. "So it's very appropriate."

In addition to "amazing cocktails" in a "quaint" setting, it's also home to one of the only pictures of America's first president, George Washington, without his famous white powdered wig. ("He looks like Martha Washington," Brown jokes.)

Also in the centre of town, enjoy a Scotch among the suits at the Round Robin Bar (bit.ly/bwvkzH) at the Willard InterContinental hotel.

Point of trivia: Supposedly, the word "lobbyist" was invented here in the early 1870s, when President Ulysses S. Grant complained about "those damned lobbyists." (Some dispute this point, but it still makes for mighty fine drinking conversation.)

And at the JW Marriott (bit.ly/ZGrz5), order a Rickey: It was invented here in 1883, in the former Shoomaker's Bar. Last year it was named D.C.'s official cocktail.

"D.C. is one of the only cities that has an official cocktail," Brown proudly states. "New Orleans has the Sazerac and D.C. has the Rickey."

Next, head over to the 14th and U Street corridor for jazz and "local colour." Here, Brown's pick is The Gibson (thegibsondc.com/), with its unmarked door and high-end speakeasy charm.

Finally, Brown advises heading to the Penn Quarter area for a final dose of cocktailing. In addition to his own popular bar, Passenger, and its tiny Japanese-style 10-seat annex Columbia Room, Brown also recommends Proof (proofdc.com/) across from the National Gallery, and PS7 (www.ps7restaurant.com/).

Both are restaurants rather than standalone bars - and that's a plus. Indeed, Brown cites Proof for "the best spaghetti and meatballs of my life."

Meanwhile, at PS7 keep an eye out for bartender Gina Chersevani, who has received national recognition for her creative cocktails. Look for cutting-edge ingredients such as vinegar-spiked shrubs, pickled long beans and "salted ice."

Food editor Ruth Reichl once quipped that Americans only get to vote for their president once every four years, but can "vote" regarding food choices three times a day, at every meal.

I'd say that extends to cocktail choices too. So I'll invoke an old tongue-in-cheek election saw for D.C.-bound tipplers: "Vote" early - and often.

RECIPE: THE RICKEY

This is Washington D.C.'s official cocktail, named after Democratic lobbyist Colonel Joe Rickey. Although the original version was made with bourbon, a gin-based Rickey is infinitely more refreshing. 2 ounces gin or bourbon 1 lime half Sparkling mineral water Pour gin or bourbon into a highball glass. Squeeze in the juice of the lime half, and drop the spent lime hull into the glass. Add ice, stir, and top up with sparkling mineral water. (Created by Paul Casciato)

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