Where We’ve Been Drinking: Murray Hill Cocktail Club at Jos. A. Magnus & Co
Just about everyone who hears that we blog about cocktails immediately asks, “So have you been to Magnus?” We always have had to shake our heads in shame, “No.” Until this past week, when we finally made it over. We’re so glad we did. It was glorious, and we’re so excited to tell you all about so many things that it’s practically forced us into Top 5 listicle format:
#1 Location: Like its other boozy buddies, Magnus is located in Ivy City, the beauty of which is you can have a fabulous night out with some amazing cocktails without the insane hustle and bustle that is Northwest DC.
#2 The space: It’s feels beautiful, large, cozy, and sophisticated all at the same time, in a way that is totally impressive given it’s in actuality just one in a big strip of big warehouses. There are some nice prohibition-era decor notes; and immediately upon seeing this room, we wanted to plan a massive dinner party.
#3 The whiskey: Oh man, it really is that good. And what makes it even better is just how cool the story is behind it. Joseph A. Magus, let’s call him Joe, was a pre-Prohibition whiskey maker who just didn’t feel like fighting Prohibition. Sometimes those damn feds and their laws just get the best of you, am I right? He sold everything to bootleggers and that was that … until a few years ago when one of his descendants was cleaning out his mother’s house and discovered a perfectly preserved bottle of whiskey! Some whiskey-drinkers declared it quite good, and then they reversed engineered it; voila, the whiskey you get to sip when you visit Magnus. This story only makes us further convinced that prohibition ruined everything.
#4 The cocktail bar: What makes Magnus stand out is that they’re really committed to their cocktails, making their distillery not just a place you want to go to tour, but where you’d go to spend the evening. We did just that.
#5 The staff: Our favorite (or least favorite thing) at cocktail bars is how the staff respond to your cocktail questions. Cocktail menus are like TV remote controls; they should be so simple to navigate, but instead you spend a decent amount of time staring at small print hoping to decipher something. Ux experts would give them both F-. Bartenders have a tendency to reinforce that, looking annoyed when you ask even the most straightforward of questions. The bartenders at Magnus are the complete opposite, warm and informative, making you feel like you understand the story behind the drink. And, to their credit, this strategy just meant that we had a round or two or more than planned.
What We Ordered
Okawari: rickhouse bourbon, negre vermouth, plum hibiscus bitters
Komorebi: royal seal vodka, yuzu, cherry blossom elderflower liqueur
Kintsugi: vigiliant gin, cherry blossom matcha, green tea mochi
Ikigai: joseph magnus bourbon with atlas ponzi, shishito pickle back
What We Thought
We were obsessed with the cherry blossom inspired menu. The Komorebi was probably the favorite of the evening. It’s just so hard to beat elderflower, but elderflower and cherry blossom!? Shaded the exact pink hue of the blossom and topped with a sprig of seaweed, it looked just like you were standing at the tidal basin. It also had amazing sensory contrast, smelling salty like the sea, but tasting sweet and light.
The Ikagi was a decontructed cocktail gone so so so right. A beer back and a pickle back with craft whiskey. We wanted more of everything.
The Kintsugi was dangerous because it mostly tasted like you were drinking tea. Except you weren’t. We were grateful for the Okawari because it introduced us to black vermouth, a delightful discovery.
Should you go?
Obviously, yes. Go once for the tour and often for the cocktails. And if you have 7k just hanging around (who doesn’t?) you could buy your own barrel. We saw this and immediately checked our bank account just in the off chance we had an extra 7k that we had forgotten about.