Where to Drink: Red Hen

Posted on May 31, 2016


Where to Drink: The Red Hen

We recently went to the Red Hen for a birthday celebration–ours! May is a fabulous month to be born in, and one of the many things we share in common. This trip to the Red Hen was ever so sweet, and for reasons that start approximately a year and a half ago.

Moving to DC

We’ve mentioned it a time or two, but we moved here from Boston. Now a lot of people come and go through Boston, soaking up the Charles and Fenway, cursing winter, and leaving with another diploma. But for us, Boston was where we spent more than a decade of our lives. We came as 18 year olds eager to see the world and then planted our roots in Beantown. Until that is…I got into a fellowship program that was located not. in. Boston.

We came down for my interview over MLK weekend in January, our 2nd anniversary. We both hadn’t been to DC since we were teenagers and only vaguely remembered some monuments, and immense humidity. The whole trip was kind of a disaster. It was just warm enough that our frozen Boston souls and soles thought we could leave our winter coats behind, but then just cold enough that we spent the entire weekend longing for just one more layer. As we learned, the city is quiet on weekends, but it felt completely dead to us as we wandered around. I was nervous the whole weekend thinking about my interview. Then I had my interview, all 4.5 hours of it in a sterile room, filled with with eager peers in endless shades of black and gray suits (barf). It was our anniversary; so we kept trying to force sentimentality all throughout our trip. Oh it’s so nice to just have endless time to walk (said as we were walking on RHODE ISLAND AVE!), I could see us living here (said while walking through the nicest part of Georgetown, before checking Zillow), Perfect, we can just take the bus to brunch (You should never remark on your anniversary that you’re excited about taking the bus). In hindsight, we went to all the wrong parts of the city, and it’s possible that we even went to places that were fabulous but we ticked away the weekend while our inner-freak-out screamed at us, “Is there where you might live!?!?!”

But then we showed up at the Red Hen, per the recommendation of a friend, and for the first time all weekend we sighed. And, yes, it could have just been the welcomed feeling of pasta in all of its carbohydrated goodness, but we’ll take comfort wherever comfort is. The service was fabulous, the food was delicious, and while I can’t remember the specifics of the cocktails we ordered in January of 2015, I know that we loved them.

In between now and then we’ve discovered all sorts of other lovely things about DC besides the Red Hen restaurant while also discovering that reservations at this restaurant are actually quite hard to come by.

So finally 18 months later, for our birthdays, with family in town, we made it back to the Red Hen. Where it was just as sweet, the food was just as good, and…the drinks were even better than we recall.

What We Ordered

  • Yacht Rock: Rhum Agricole, Crème de Cassis, Falernum, Lemon
  • Pepino Divino:  Gin, Cucumber Shrub, Lavender
  • I Would Not Say Such Things If I Were You: Scotch, Cocchi Torino, Cardamaro, Amontillado, Cider Reduction
  • Everybody Gets Beaujolaised: Rye, Gamay, Aperol, Salted Caramel
  • A Negroni, Perfect: Green Hat Navy Gin, Campari, Cocchi Sweet Vermouth di Torino

What We Thought

The perk of dining with family is that a) you can order all the drinks on the menu and b) you can force them to wait to consume their drinks until photographing has occured. Winning all around.

The Pepino Divino felt like ba artenders’ offering to the dreary rain gods that dominated May in the mid-atlantic to welcome summer. It was so refreshing and just a touch sweet. It was a drink that you wanted to just keep sipping because each sip boded a slightly different flavor profile. The cucumber came through so much stronger than normal, and we’re guessing that it was because of the shrub. It was garnished with rosemary which further added to the herbally aroma.

We loved the smoothness that the falernum brought to the  Yacht Rock, and the creme de cassis (black currant liqueur; so kind of like a ruby port) brought a fruity kick to the drink.

We’re suckers for any cocktail with sherry and/or amaro; so even if we were dining solo we would have ordered the I Would Not Say Such Things if I Were You. The cocchi and cardamaro created a nice spice. The sherry balanced it out, and the rye was rather constrained.

Everybody Gets Beaujolaised was good but not our favorite. The Gamay and Aperol created a pretty wine-y punch, and that combined with the rye made for one dense drink. We’re sure the salted caramel was there, but we couldn’t pinpoint it’s effect.

We did like their rendition of the negroni, though I’m not sure we would say it was perfect. I would choose it over a standard. Red Hen’s negroni is like the Cousin Frankie to the regular negroni, still solidly a negroni but with a much stronger kick (as a result of the overproofed Green Hat Navy Gin) and spice (from the cocchi di torini vs. a regular vermouth).

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