8.27.2008

Strong Buzz: Hummingbird To Mars

A super secret drinking den serving brilliantly blended cocktails has blossomed in our fair city, and Metrocurean has exclusive permission to fill you in and pass along how to snag a coveted seat.

A few short weeks ago, a trio of top cocktail talents, Owen Thomson of Bourbon, Justin Guthrie of Central, and Derek Brown of Komi, launched Hummingbird to Mars. (The clever name is explained on the site.)

The speakeasy-style operation opens infrequently, but generally takes place on Sunday and Monday nights. Hummingbird has no official home, and the location will likely change from time to time. It's reservation only, and guests are informed of the location after they make reservations.

Once you're in, it's a candle-lit throwback to the Prohibition era — bartenders in old-school vests, 1920s jazz on the sound system and black-and-white movies projected on the wall. And, of course, some of the best cocktails being shaken, stirred and flambéed in DC.

These guys are seriously dedicated to the cocktail craft and the menu reflects that. The list includes classics, concoctions borrowed from friends and fellow bar masters, and original creations. And some of the East Coast's top mixologists drop in for guest bartending appearances, adding their own recipes to the mix.

I've sipped my way through a number of the deliciously nuanced drinks, like the Pimm's Cup 1.5 (Plymouth Gin, Pimm's, lemon juice, allspice dram and salted cucumber) and the Angostura-Scorched Pisco Sour (Macchu Pisco, lemon juice, egg whites and flamed Angostura bitters), borrowed from Jeffrey Morgenthaler.

And I can't wait to get my hands on the Summer Camp, with marshmallow-infused blended scotch, smoked vermouth, whiskey barrel bitters and marshmallows (toasted to order!). "We just introduced this one and it's a huge hit," Brown says. "The marshmallows add glycerin to the Scotch, giving it a smooth mouth feel, along with a touch of vanilla. The smoked vermouth has camp fire-like phenolics."

A few notes: Don't come expecting your drink to arrive in record Red Bull/vodka time. Good things take time. And writers — bloggers included — may be asked to abide by a nondisclosure agreement.

To snag a reservation, shoot an email to reservations AT hummingbirdtomars DOT com.

It'll be worth it.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

so, you've chosen not to abide by the aforementioned nondisclosure agreement? kind of ruins the fun.

Amanda said...

They asked me to write about it to help get the word out.

idrinkurcocktail said...

Never made it out to PX so glad to hear DC has something like this now.

culocho said...

First rule of drink club, you don't talk about drink club. Or something.

It's a great event, glad they found a good little birdy to spread the word.

Anonymous said...

hmm - what part of "Metrocurean has exclusive permission to fill you in and pass along how to snag a coveted seat" are people not understanding here.

I've heard this is very cool. Hope it doesn't get overly crowded, but can understand why they would want you to get an initial word out to spread some buzz.

How expensive are the cocktails?

Anonymous said...

$12

Anonymous said...

What I liked about this event was that it was underground. Now that every person who reads your blog can get a reservation, it ruins the magic.

Anonymous said...

keep in mind that it's only open two nights a week and has a pretty small capacity. it's not guaranteed that everyone that requests a reservation will get one. I'm sure they'll do their best but it's not like they're putting up a neon sign above the front door.

Italian Chef said...

I like the idea of "Floating" around to different locations. I wish I could cook that way. It sure keeps things interesting if not mysterious!

DaRiv said...

the hush-hush attitude is cool, but the cocktails themselves are the main feature. great recipes, great glassware, they even use special ice. And Justin and Owen don't take shortcuts in preparing the drinks. Derek did a great job for table service and not overloading the bar. the speakeasy concept is kinda gimmicky if you ask me but these guys are serious bartenders.

Anonymous said...

Can anybody in the biz explain how a liquor and/or business license might work for such a "roving" establishment? In a city with such Draconian laws (all in the name of public safety, of course), I could see some bureaucrat getting in a tizzy about this.

rummy said...

to anon 12:10, you gotta think about it, if enough people don't find out, they won't make any money, which I assume would make it difficult to keep it going. Unless they're doing it for kicks. And just cause you want a reservation doesn't mean you'll get one.

Confessions of the Anti-Bride said...

Does anyone know of any underground supper clubs? A friend in Chicago is very into them but I feel as though DC is ... lacking. Or else I am just not in the know ...

Anonymous said...

Any tips on dress code for Hummingbird?

Anonymous said...

Overhyped and underwhelming...doesn't hold a candle to PX, Tailor, or even the Tuesday night bar at Bar Pilar. First, the ambience was horrible -- it was stuffed into the upstairs at Bourbon, which is a great bar downstairs, but the upstairs doubles as a dance club on weekends and has a reminiscent feel to the basement rec rooms of my Midwestern youth. Second, the crowd seemed to be there for the gimmicky aspect of going to a speakeasy...and when I say crowd, I mean crowd. The place was packed. Not too mention, they screwed up our reservations and had us stand in the middle of the place, waiting forever. And lastly, the drinks were unbalanced and tepid, derivative of the frou-frouness we've been reading on a lot of cocktail blogs lately. Inspired twists on old classics they were not. The Professor Jerry Thomas would not be proud -- his craftmanship would shudder to think at the exclusionary pretension of this charlatan of a drinking establishment. In all honesty, I might have caught them on a bad night, but hopefully they'll read up on their Wondrich, Felten, and Grimes before the fad runs out.

Anonymous said...

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Drew Armstrong said...

Does anybody know if they serve food/snacks, or it it's advisable to have dinner first?

Amanda said...

No food. Eat first so those drinks don't sneak up on you.

AC said...

so where are they this weekend?