Where We’ve Been Drinking: Zaytinya
We heard about Jose Andres well before we ever arrived in DC; we had more than one friend who gave us a goodbye gift in the form of a gift card to his restaurant group. We took it as a clear sign that a) we should go to one of his many restaurants (I mean, why not?) b) it would be really good.
So for our anniversary, we trekked to Zaytinya for some celebratory fare. The place is such a great mix of cozy and sophisticated; it feels like it could be absolutely perfect for everything from a girls night out, to an important work meeting, to–as was the case for us–an anniversary dinner. The service was incredible, the mezzes were interesting, and their cocktail menu left us debating choices long enough for our kind server to come by not once, or twice, but three different times to ask us if we knew what we wanted to drink. There were a number of great options.
What We Ordered
Zaytinya Martini: olive-oil infused vodka, vermouth blanc, maraschino liqueur
Rakijito: efes green raki, mint, lime juice, soda water
What We Thought
We’re still not certain of the specifics of how you infuse vodka with olive oil, but we’re certain we should learn how as it made an otherwise pretty standard drink recipe absolutely amazing. As we mentioned last week, maraschino liqueur has this mysterious flavor (somehow sweet, sour, and bitter all at once) which blended so impeccably with the vermouth and the also mysterious olive-oil infused vodka. The rakijito was such a fun way to enjoy arak.
Arak is a Middle Eastern distilled spirit. It’s typically made from grapes (but depending on where, it can also be made from dates, sugar, plums, figs and molasses) and then distilled a second-time with anise-seed, which gives it it’s notorious licorice flavor. It turns a milky-cloud white when mixed with water and apparently is known in some places as the “milk of lions.” We’ve only ever had arak on the rocks, so the Rakijito was such a fun way to experience this potent little liquor. The mint, lime, and club soda both smoothed the arak’s strong bite and added a nice touch of freshness.
That said if you don’t like anise-flavor, you sadly will not like arak, and not like this drink (we contemplated for a longtime how it was that people in the Middle East and the Mediterranean absolutely love anise-flavor and so many people in the U.S. just really do not. Nature vs. nurture? It seems in this case like a vote for the latter. We somehow, without the proper nurture, still love the stuff).
Should you go?
Yes, yes you should.