Operators capitalize on DC Cocktail Week to bring new customers into restaurants and bars

The annual promotion, organized by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, is taking place this week at over 50 locations throughout Metro D.C. Cocktail and bite pairings are a popular feature.
cocktail and cookie
Bo & Ivy is offering an alcoholic version of the Dole Whip paired with an artisan shortbread cookie from a local baker. /Photo by Patterson Stuart.

With the holiday season getting into full gear this post-Thanksgiving week, the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington figures it’s a fine time to run DC Cocktail Week.

Unlike Restaurant Week promotions, usually held during slow traffic months, DC Cocktail Week comes at a time of year when places are busy with holiday celebrations and revelers. But Judy Elahi, beverage director for 101 Hospitality in the District of Columbia, believes the timing is good.

“It brings out people who don’t normally go out for a cocktail and gives us a chance to showcase our drinks for the holiday crowd,” she said.

Elahi felt that the group’s best venue for the promotion was Michele’s, a year-old upscale restaurant centrally located in Northwest D.C. Michele’s barrel-ages Catoctin Creek rye whisky from nearby Virginia and crafts it into signature cocktails.

This year, Elahi is taking advantage of a new feature of DC Cocktail Week—offering a cocktail and a bite for $17. The cocktail she created is Contagious Happiness, crafted with the barrel-aged rye and mezcal. It’s paired with a crispy pork bite.

Sober-curious guests can choose a non-alcoholic drink with the food pairing for $15. “We always have a nice selection of alcohol-free drinks available or the customer can request a ‘dealer’s choice’ and our bartenders will make something to spec,” she said. But one of the most popular is Storms a Brewin’, a blend of alcohol-free gin and house-made tropical fruit syrup with a spicy salt rim.

The 50 participants in DC Cocktail Week represent a diverse slice of the metro area’s restaurants and bars. There’s José Andrés’ flagship, Jaleo, where the cocktail and bite pairing (a bargain at $10) features Media Combinacion (gin, Cynar and bitters) paired with fried bacon-wrapped dates with apple-mustard sauce. The more casual Duke’s Grocery is doing Tube the Future for $15—a cocktail made with spiced rum, Campari and lemon accompanied by tempura fried cod with pea puree and chips.

The Cocktail Room at Bo & Ivy, a local distillery, is going the sweet route with a boozy version of the Dole Whip—their take on the Disneyland soft serve—paired with an artisan-baked shortbread cookie ($16). The cocktail is shaken up with the distillery's own gin, pineapple and lemon juices, house-made macadamia orgeat and egg white, and the cookie is flavored with toasted macadamia and coconut, filled with pineapple jam and topped with a toasted ginger marshmallow.

A noticeable benefit of the cocktail and a bite feature is that it fosters teamwork between bar and kitchen, said Elahi.

“The bar ordinarily emulates what the culinary team is doing, but they really had to work together to get the cocktail and bite out at the same time. Customers don’t want to wait for their food once the drink arrives,” she said.

On Wednesday, Michele’s adds an extra attraction to DC Cocktail Week: A Happy Hour special. All Catoctin Creek cocktails are priced at $10.

“D.C. as an up-and-coming cocktail city and this gives us a chance to show it off,” Elahi said.

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