kelly magyarics

washington, d.c.-based wine, spirits, travel & lifestyle writer / wine educator


War and Peace Meets the Martini

I dined a few weeks ago at the recently opened DC location of Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak, where the poach-first-in-butter-and-shallots-then-sear method of preparing steaks will leave any carnivore in red meat bliss...

Perhaps just as enticing to me was the presence of their bar book (not the one pictured above, but similar). While it's hardly uncommon to see thick leather-bound wine lists in restaurants (especially high-end steak houses...), the drinks menu is typically relegated to one or two pages. Not at Bourbon Steak. Classic cocktails, inspired takes on them and brand new cocktails are arranged by type of drink (for instance, you can get a classic martini; the drink that inspired it--the Martinez; as well as a smoky and seawater martini.)

Being a cocktail writer (and lover), I was giddy with excitement at all these choices. (I finally opted for the Scottish Mule--a Moscow Mule variation with Hendricks gin, cucumber slices and ginger beer, which was quite tasty, and prepared my stomach for the onslaught of food that was to come.) However, I can't help but wonder if too many choices may be overwhelming for some guests, making them close the menu, throw up their hands and order a glass of wine.

I asked Noah Ellis, Beverage Director for the Mina Group, about the philosophy of their bar books. He said that they tend to vary a bit from location to location (DC, for example, has a lot of what he calls "strong brown drinks", while Miami's list favors juice-based drinks.) He also told me that the book is not meant to compete with other similar DC restaurants, but with noteworthy, stand out bars like The Gibson and Bar Pilar.

The most popular drinks so far at DC's Bourbon Steak have been the Corpse Reviver #2, the Martini, the Vesper and any in the sours category. Some guests even go through the list and pick out the drinks they plan on having during the next several visits (I'm in awe, especially right now, of anyone with the financial means to plan several trips to this pricey spot...)

Stop by and order one or two of their well-made drinks. Oh, and while you are there, try the steak.