The Columbia Room
It's a cocktail lovers dream.
Tucked away behind an indistinct door inside the popular Washington bar The Passenger, a cocktail lovers paradise awaits – the Columbia Room. I recently enjoyed my inaugural experience at the speakeasy, and now regret missing out on this delightful spot until now.
Reservations at the 10-seat bar are required. Guests can opt for the drink tasting menu, or cocktails a la carte. The tasting menu offers three delights: an opening cocktail that greets you on arrival, one pre-selected concoction paired with an amuse-bouche and a third prepared with whatever liquor or flavor you may have a hankering for.
My evening began with head bartender Katie Nelson’s concoction of black tea, fresh orange juice and Pedro Ximenez Sherry (“PX”), topped with a single strawberry, mint leaf and orange peel. Served in a punch glass, Nelson likened the unique cocktail blend to "Southern tea meeting the South of Spain". The drink was lovely, and I thoroughly enjoyed the addition of PX, especially after my recent Sherry initiation.
Next up was an exotic martini featuring vermouth, gin, Cocchi Americano and coriander bitters. My drinking partner and I both savored the well-balanced amalgamation along with a delicious fresh herb salad, a side of radishes and butter (a popular combination in France according to Nelson), pickled onions and carrots.
For my final drink, Nelson invited me to name my poison. I chose rum, and the result was a combination of Cruzan Black Strap Rum, Cynar (an Italian liqueur featuring artichoke as one of the main ingredients), lemon juice and simple syrup. The drink was delicious – tart, with a hint of molasses and perfect for a balmy night. Coincidentally, the drink is called "The Getaway".
My partner in crime fancied spice and was proffered a mixture of mezcal, Mexican mole bitters (which are amazing), egg whites, lemon juice and agave nectar. I stole a few sips of the cocktail and was impressed by the heat produced by the Mexican mole bitters.
Between the coriander bitters, the Mexican mole bitters and the Cynar, I left the Columbia Room armed with three new favorites that I can’t wait to add to my home bar – not to mention the four drinks that I look forward to re-creating at the first appropriate moment. As for the Columbia Room, I am already planning my return!