Where You Should Be Drinking: Denson in DC’s Penn Quarter

Posted on Feb 16, 2017


Where You Should Be Drinking: Denson in the Penn Quarter

It seems like everyone has become aware the past couple of years that we’re at this moment of Peak Media. There is so much to read, there are so many movies to watch, and there is especially so much TV that no one can possibly keep up with everything. You have to pick your spots.

For us, for most of the year, we cope by entirely ignoring movies. Summer blockbusters come and go without us noticing. We’re for the most part oblivious to the big franchises. The absolute perfect movie for us could be released in October and we wouldn’t even know, because we’re simply not paying attention.

During awards season, though, we turn our movies on. As soon  as the buzzy speculation about Oscar nominations starts, usually a few weeks before the Golden Globes, we start keeping an eye on the showtimes. Our goal, which we’re sometimes better at and sometimes worse, is to watch all of the films nominated for more than one major award. I don’t know about you, but we’ve really enjoyed–maybe not quite the right word–this year’s Oscar movies. All of them have done such a good job of that thing a movie can do that a TV show really can’t, completely drawing us into a different world and a different story. A few of our quick notes from awards season:

  • In a crop of very sad movies, Jackie actually struck as the saddest. (We know that Jackie didn’t end up meeting our criteria, with only one major award nomination. It was one of our earlier viewings, before the nomination consensus had solidified. We don’t regret it, though. It was captivating and thought-provoking).
  • Mahershala Ali and Janelle Monae were great in Hidden Figures and amazing in Moonlight. Kudos to them for being in two of the year’s best movies. Also, though, maybe we could give some other black actors parts too?
  • We’re team La La Land. We know there’s a huge backlash right now, and 20 years from now we might very well look back and think, ‘That won best picture?’ But we don’t care. Two very charming people took us on a wonderful ride, and we love them for it.

The Oscars are coming up quickly now, but we still have a little bit of time before our movie-watching selves turn into pumpkins again. So, we met after work Friday night to catch a show–the above-mentioned Moonlight. We had a little bit of time between work and the showtime; so we dropped into Denson for a round of pre-movie drinks.

It’s a rather small space, with the dark warm feeling of a neighborhood bar. It has something of a yesteryear feel about it, both in the decor and in their friendly but firm insistence that gentlemen remove their hats.

We arrived in the middle of happy hour, and the place was perfectly full and lively. We had just a few minutes of awkward hovering and feeling like we were in everyone’s way before a small, comfortable corner with an oversized drink ledge opened up at the very moment our drinks arrived. Just what you want out of a Friday happy hour.

What We Ordered

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose: mezcal, gin, Lillet Rose, agave, lemon, sparkling rose wine, rosewater

The Gran Oaxacan: mezcal, Gran Classico, Lillet Blanc

What We Thought

They have a small happy hour menu featuring discounted serious cocktails, a rare thing that we always appreciate. Nonetheless, we found our eyes drawn to a couple of drinks from the full price menu.

As we mentioned earlier this week, we’re really on a mezcal roll right now. Not only did we order two mezcal drinks, but we liked them both. In a Rose is a Rose, the sparkling rose and the Lillet Rose created a dominant sharp, clear flavor that was accented by a little smoke here from the mezcal, a little sour there from the lemon, and a little floral bitterness over there from the rosewater. It gave you just want you want from a sparkling rose drink, but with a little extra intrigue.

We were surprised by how much we enjoyed the very smoky, mezcal heavy Gran Oaxacan. I think what we’re discovering is that we like mezcal when it’s complemented by a sweet, white fortified wine. That was the case at Il Buco, and it’s probably what makes the Scotch work for us in Hoots Mon. The Gran Oaxacan was also cask aged, which probably mellowed it out a bit, and definitely gave it a smooth, well-rounded feel.

If you go

The address is 600 F NW, but don’t go to 600F. If you do, you’ll find yourself in the small lobby of a residential building, where a sign says, ‘For Denson, please exit this lobby, go around the corner, and down the stairs.’ I imagine the residents of 600F have had a few too many people knocking on their doors looking for a speakeasy. So, save everyone a little hassle, and head straight for 6th Street. Denson is in the basement one door over from the corner. Look for the light globes.