Getting Drunk on History

We all know and love Derek Brown for his cocktail staples that have revolutionized drinking in the District. Brown’s James Beard nominated Columbia Room is a staple of D.C.’s drinking scene. And now Brown has teamed up with the National Archives Foundation for a new series titled “History Happy Hour,” which explores the intersection of history and cocktails.

Welcome to Havana

This happy hour focused on cocktails in Cuba. The event not only featured delicious drinks of the country, but also touted an expert panel of bartenders and historians who spoke to the importance of these tasty libations.

For starters, can you think of a better venue than the Archives to host both a fun and informative program? The ornate marble staircase, the hard-working crew of the Columbia Room slinging Cuban distilled rum, and a charcuterie board consisting of various cheeses and chorizos. If this doesn’t instantly make you want to book a plane ticket to Cuba, I don’t know what will.


The Columbia Room’s take on a Cuba Libre, consisting of course of the standard rum (this one distilled in Cuba) & cola, also added in some fresh made lime juice. This not only gave the drink a refreshing kick, but also gave it a beautiful layered color. Of particular note was that the Cuban rum used at the event was more dry than sweet. As I learned while chatting with the bartender, a drier Cuban rum allows the sweet and sour compliments in rum & cokes as well as daiquiris to shine.


The History

With a full belly and a slight rum-induced buzz, we proceeded to the theater to learn more about cocktail history. It was there that Derek Brown and the panelists revealed a special connection between D.C. and Cuba’s most famous concoction – the daiquiri.

It all started when Jennings Stockton Cox invented the daiquiri in 1898 while working in the beach town of Daiquiri. He mixed Bacardi rum, lime juice, and sugar and shook it with water and crushed ice. He named his concoction the “Daiquiri” after the beach he spent many days drinking on. A few years later, a naval medical officer, Lucius Johnson, arrives in Daiquiri beach and takes a sip of Cox’s creation. Johnson loved the drink so much that he took the recipe back to Washington, D.C.. As a result, the daiquiri was introduced to America and became a popular selection at D.C.’s Army Navy Club.

Next Stop: The U.S. of A

The National Archives Foundation and Derek Brown plan on continuing this journey of drinking, eating, and learning. The next Historic Happy Hour is on June 29th. The event will focus on the intersection of American Cocktails and American history. Tickets are on sale now at


Leave a Reply