Where you should be drinking: Red Hen
Red Hen is our place for special occasions. We have a soft spot for it, because it’s the place that assured us that DC would treat us well. Our scouting trip to DC happened over our second anniversary, and by sheer luck we made reservations for our anniversary dinner at Red Hen. Little did we know just how lucky we were; we’ve discovered since that you usually have to make reservations much earlier than we did to get a table. And it’s no wonder. It’s the rare place that leaves you in the delightful quandary of being unable to decide whether the food or the drinks are more the highlight of the evening. The food is Italian-influenced New American, or New-American-influenced Italian–it’s partway between Italian and New American, and all the way scrumptious. The drinks menu is short and carefully curated, with an eye to seasonality and creativity. The names can be a little over the top, but the drinks are solid, employing unusual ingredients in pleasing ways.
Just like we did last year, we visited Red Hen for one of our birthdays. Like we said, it’s our place for special occasions.
What We Ordered
Midnight in Paris: apricot eau de vie, pale sherry, Cocchi Americano, white verjus, hopped-grapefruit bitters
In the Heat of the Night: Illegal mezcal, red pepper shrub, lemon, grapefruit
What We Thought
It’s always a good sign when we eagerly pass our drinks back and forth, and this was definitely one of those nights: ‘Oh, you need to sip this,’ ‘Can I have that one for a while?’
Midnight in Paris uses a staggering array of flavors: fruity, dry, aromatic, sour (the verjus is a sour grape juice), bitter. Somehow, though, they took all of those different flavors and created a harmonious, smooth, complexly and softly sweet cocktail. It was the kind of drink that goes easily with dinner.
In the Heat of the Night was a little more of a standout. The red pepper shrub was strongly peppery and surprisingly spicy, with all of the flavor of a strong hot sauce but none of the pain. It blended wonderfully with the smoky mezcal and the sour lemon to create a kick that made you want to ask for more.
We can’t wait to see what’s on the menu next birthday.