Before you dive in, check out Part I of this series on Barrel.
If you read my last #UrbanBourbon post, you know I raved about Barrel. Chef Garrett Fleming (one of three Washingtonians on the upcoming season of Top Chef!) offered an international take on Southern cuisine that was nothing short of superb.
You also know, however, that there was more to discover – an entire second floor to be exact. What’s downstairs in Barrel, you ask? I’ll get to that in a moment.
While Chef Fleming served up perfect plates, bar manager Mike Moore wasn’t far behind with a variety of bourbon to complement the meal.
We started off with cask strength ‘batch one’ by Barrell Bourbon Company. Although it was distilled in Tennessee, it returned to my good graces by being aged in Kentucky (kidding…kinda). It’s got hints of caramel, cinnamon and even apple, helping sweeten this normally stout spirit.
We thankfully wandered back into bluegrass for the remainder of the bourbon tasting, with samples including Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Bourbon, which is much smoother than cask strength and a favorite of mine.
Although Barrel’s whiskey selection is one of the largest on the East Coast, for me that wasn’t even the most exciting aspect of their bar program. Barrel’s best Urban Bourbon feature? They barrel age their cocktails in 10 to 12 in-house barrels, anywhere from six weeks to two months. I sipped on their barrel aged Manhattan, which took on an extra sweet and oaky flavor from the barrel’s sugars, also known as “distiller’s candy.”
After my four-course tasting and bourbon flight, it was time me to discover what lies below. With cocktail in hand, I followed the arrow pointing downstairs and was suddenly taken from Capitol Hill’s whiskey joint to an old school speakeasy.
After eating to your heart’s content on the first floor of Barrel, you can descend to the Elixir Bar for both classic and themed cocktails, with the latter changing monthly. I was lucky enough to visit in October, so the theme was Halloween and the specialty cocktails were fantastically fun.
Where better to celebrate Halloween than a speakeasy with a Scooby-Doo cocktail? Beyond that, where better to celebrate anything than a neighborhood joint with an amazing atmosphere, crafty cocktails and fabulous food? My Urban Bourbon adventure at Barrel may be coming to a close, but this will certainly not be my last visit.
My advice? Say “Ret’s Go, Raggy!” to your friends, hit up Barrel this Halloween and order a round of Old Man Withers. They’ll get it eventually.
Be sure to follow my regular Urban Bourbon adventures on The Hungry Lobbyist, my Instagram (@chinaraeriddle) and my Twitter (@chinaraeriddle). Use #UrbanBourbon to share your DC bourbon adventures with me!