The Liquor Stores We Rely On:
We write many words about where we buy drinks, and about what bottles we buy. We’ve realized recently that we’ve written very few on the very crucial question of where we find those bottles. Where would we be without a good spirits supplier? In fact we find that we rely on an entire team of stores to insure that we get the bottles we want, when we want them, at a price we’re willing to pay.
Our specific suggestions will be most useful to people who live on Capitol Hill or in Cambridge, MA. But we’ll also be speaking more generally about the types of liquor stores we turn to, and the characteristics we look for in them. We started before our brief vacation break with a description of the All-Purpose, the store that does our heavy lifting. This week, we’re focusing on the stores that play more specialized roles for us.
Accessibility is a key feature of the All-Purpose. Nonetheless, unless you’re very lucky, your All-Purpose is not going to be the very closest, most convenient liquor store. For instance, our All-Purpose is on the way home from the office. That makes it perfectly easy to pick up some supplies on a weekday evening, but what about the weekend? Say we’ve discovered at the last minute that we’re light on a crucial ingredient for a dinner party. Or maybe it’s Saturday afternoon, and we’re feeling a little lazy. Suddenly our All-Purpose feels a little far away. We need a place right around the corner. We need The Local.
In a pinch, and if the need is basic enough, the closest place will do. A good Local offers more than that. Reliable hours aren’t always guaranteed at a corner liquor store, and they’re pretty handy. Long hours are even better. A decent selection on a few key items goes a long way. Most of all, we like a little neighborliness from our Local: friendly chitchat, at least a vague recognition that you’re in the neighborhood, maybe even some regular tastings. Neighborliness isn’t strictly necessary to get the job done, but it’s very nice, giving your emergency purchase something of the feel of borrowing sugar from next door.
Profile of a Local: Chat’s Liquors on Barrack’s Row
Location: Eastern Market, DC
Best Feature: good selection of local spirits
Best Buy: there’s almost always a very good sale on a pretty good whiskey
Weakness: closed Sundays
Chat’s is only three blocks away from our house; so it’s well within striking distance when we suddenly realize that we’re inconveniently short of maraschino for the evening’s punch. Shelf space is limited; so they skimp on the liqueurs; you can only depend on them for the most standard ones. On the other hand, they put a real emphasis on local and craft spirits; their whiskey and rum selections are especially quite decent. The staff are friendly and hospitable. And frequent, informal wine and spirits tastings feel like a nice little treat when you happen to be passing by. They’re closed on Sundays, which must be nice for them, but is not ideal for the place we want to go in case of emergency. Otherwise, we feel lucky that Chat’s is our Local.