Trigger Warning

Trigger Warning: This cocktail may produce discomfort in those who have a low tolerance for capsaicin, perceive cilantro as a soapy flavor, suffer from a real or imagined gluten sensitivity, are in a state of shock over the price of limes, or believe that putting beer in a cocktail will lead only to discord. All others may find it refreshing and enjoyable.

1 1/2 oz Novo Fogo barrel aged cachaça
3/4 oz lime juice
3/4 oz habanero syrup
small handful of cilantro leaves
2 oz wheat beer

Combine the cachaça, lime juice, habanero syrup, and cilantro in a shaker. Shake with ice and strain into a flute or cocktail glass. Top with the beer and stir gently to combine.

Habanero syrup:

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
5 habanero peppers, stemmed but not deseeded

Combine sugar and water over heat and stir until dissolved, bringing to a boil. Add peppers and remove from heat, cover, and allow to steep for 20 minutes. Strain and keep refrigerated.

This cocktail was created for Novo Fogo’s Bars on Fire event in Washington, DC, where offense was kept to a minimum.

Bars on Fire at Cafe Saint-Ex

Corrida de Cavalos

I’ve been too wrapped up in book duties to post many cocktails lately, but now that that’s mostly complete I’m back to blogging and tending bar. My next stop takes me back to my old home of Washington, DC where I’ll be guest bartending at Cafe Saint-Ex on Tuesday with Franklin Jones of The Gibson! We have a menu of Novo Fogo cachaça cocktails ready for our Bars on Fire event, happening 5-8 pm. Here’s a preview of one them, the Corrida de Cavalos. It wasn’t made with horse racing in mind, but the use of mint and the timing of the Kentucky Derby is such a nice coincidence that I’ll pretend it was intentional.

2 oz Novo Fogo silver cachaça
1/2 oz lime juice
1/2 oz mint vinegar
1/2 oz rich simple syrup (2:1)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 oz soda
mint sprig garnish, for garnish

Shake cachaça, lime, vinegar, syrup, and bitters with ice and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Top with soda, garnish with fresh mint.

To make the mint vinegar:

1 cup champagne vinegar
leaves from 5-6 mint sprigs

Bring vinegar to a boil, pour over leaves, and allow to infuse overnight or for a couple days. Strain and bottle.

Culture of Competition at AEI

I’m excited to head back to Washington, DC this month to be on a a panel discussion hosted by Tim Carney as part of the American Enterprise Institute’s Culture of Competition project. The details:

Free beer: Liberating libations from ‘Bootleggers and Baptists’

For centuries, the manufacture and sale of beer, wine, and spirits has been a highly profitable and highly regulated enterprise. And where profit and regulation meet, cronyism and rent-seeking frequently follow.

From moonshiners buying off politicians during the Prohibition era to liquor stores trying to ban supermarkets from selling beer today, regulation has been used to keep start-up brewers, winemakers, and distillers from manufacturing alcohol; to preserve inefficient distribution systems; and to restrict choices available to consumers. Frequently, this regulation has been used for “noble social goals” — hence the famous public choice example of “Bootleggers and Baptists.”

Can markets and consumers win? Join us for a discussion of the history and future of federal and state alcohol regulation and competition, followed by a reception with beer, wine, and spirits.

The event takes place at 5:00 pm on Tuesday, May 21. Drinks will follow. Check the site for all the necessary information.

And since I know a lot people in the industry read this site, I’d love to get your feedback as well. How do existing regulations help or hinder competition? What laws would you most like to see changed? Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.

DC wants to ban e-cigs in bars

People in DC bars are “vaping,” or using electronic cigarettes, indoors. A couple members of the DC city council — Yvette M. Alexander and David Grosso — have introduced a bill to include e-cigarettes in the city’s smoking ban:

In an interview, Alexander said e-cigarettes are being “used to usurp the smoking ban.”

“It is smoking, is an inhalant and it’s similar to smoking,” said Alexander, chairwoman of the Health Committee. “We don’t know what the ill effects of this are, and it’s still a bother to some people.”

“Similar to smoking” and “a bother.” Time was city officials at least made a show of finding evidence of harm before imposing bans. E-cigarettes may be annoying to other patrons, but there’s no evidence or reason to believe that secondhand vapor (is that a thing now?) is something to fear. And to point out the obvious, bar and restaurant owners are perfectly free to set their own policies if guests prefer to avoid it.

Cigars for me but not for thee

The city of St. Louis implemented a smoking ban on January 1, 2011. There’s one place, however, where people still smoke with impunity:

The 109-year-old downtown Missouri Athletic Club may wriggle free from the city’s smoking ban.
City officials have prepared an agreement which exempts the private, invitation-only establishment — long frequented by judges, attorneys and politicians — from the municipal no-smoking ordinance.

The club, known as the MAC, has flouted the law since it was enacted Jan. 1, 2011, openly leaving ashtrays in the lounge, hosting hazy boxing matches and allowing men in suits to gather weekly at the bar with tumblers in one hand, cigars in the other.

The city cited and fined the club twice. The citations ended up in municipal court, where attorneys began working out a deal.

On Thursday, city Health Director Pam Walker presented a draft agreement to her advisory commission, the Joint Boards of Health and Hospitals, arguing that the nonprofit MAC is a unique entity, governed neither by rules for private clubs nor by those for businesses.

Hat tip to Michael Siegel, who inducts St. Louis health director Pam Walker into his Colonel Benjamin Church Hypocrisy Hall of Shame for carving out this exemption for local elites.

St. Louis isn’t the first city to engage in this kind of smoking ban favoritism. In Washington, DC, city councilman Jack Evans voted in favor of the District’s smoking ban, then took advantage of his position on the council to create special exemptions for organizations he likes:

The city’s smoke-free law provides an economic hardship waiver for struggling bars and restaurants, Evans said, but it leaves no wiggle room for a single event, like the St. Patrick’s Day gala or Fight Night at the Washington Hilton.

“Once a year, 1,000-plus people go there to drink Irish whiskey, smoke cigars and have dinner,” Evans said of the dinner. “Now they’re not allowed to do that. From my reading of the law there’s no other way to get an exemption but to legislate.”

Evans has continued to seek these one-time exemptions while leaving less connected charities who’d like to host cigar events out of luck.

As I wrote in 2009:

Evans has discovered the pain of having one’s treasured tradition banned by a bunch of meddling bureaucrats. I’d be sympathetic if not for the fact that Evans is one of those meddling bureaucrats. If he doesn’t like the law, he should introduce changes that open up smoking venues to everyone, not just to clubs that happen to have a city councilman in their membership.

Koch vs. Cato

savecato

The other thing that happened while I was on the road this week was not so fun: The Koch brothers filed a lawsuit against the Cato Institute seeking control of the think tank. I was, in fact, visiting Cato the day the news broke. Though Charles Koch was an early funder of the institute, in recent years the Kochs have focused their energies elsewhere while Cato, led by Ed Crane and others, blossomed into a respected, non-partisan think tank.

David Weigel speculates on the likely changes this will mean for Cato if the Kochs’ takeover prevails:

And so, with libertarianism at its modern apex, the Kochs are trying to wrestle the movement’s leading think tank away from the guy who built it up. (Literally. They just completed a renovation.) How would it change? In the past, Charles Koch and his allies have criticized Cato for lacking real, provable results. Since then, David [Koch] has found tremendous success with Americans for Prosperity, which in the Tea Party era evolved into one of the most powerful conservative organizations in electoral politics. (It has spent seven figures so far this year on TV ads against Barack Obama.) Draw your conclusions.

Crane and board chairman Bob Levy corroborate that interpretation.

I was going to write a post about this but Jonathan Adler has beaten me to it. I agree with every word:

Whatever the merits of the Kochs’ claim, I cannot understand how their actions can, in any way, advance the cause of individual liberty to which they’ve devoted substantial sums and personal efforts over the years. Even assuming their legal claim has merit, a legal victory will permanently injure the Cato Institute’s reputation.

Many libertarian-leaning organizations receive money from the Kochs and their foundations and are attacked on this basis. Such attacks can be deflected, as financial support is not the same thing as control. But if the Koch brothers themselves represent the controlling majority of an organization’s board, that organization is, by definition, a Koch-run enterprise. Progressive activists and journalists will have a field day with this. They will forevermore characterize the Cato Institute as “Koch-controlled” — and, as a legal matter, they will be correct. No efforts to re-establish the Institute’s credibility or independence will overcome this fact.

[...] Even if one assumes that the Kochs have better ideas for how Cato should direct its resources, know more about how to advance individual liberty, and are correct that the Institute is too “ subject to the personal preferences of individual officers or directors,” any benefit from whatever changes they could make will be outweighed to the permanent damage to Cato’s reputation caused by turning it into a de facto Koch subsidiary. In short, they will have destroyed the Cato Institute to save it.

In the past I’ve defended the Koch brothers from charges that their political activities are motivated by narrow self-interest. Funding scholarships for libertarian college students or sending them to week-long academic seminars are hardly profit-maximizing uses of their money. Though they are famously secretive, the only sensible interpretation of their actions over the past few decades is that they sincerely believe in broadly libertarian ideas and want to see them succeed in the long-run. Their investment in think tanks, journalism, and other non-profits are groping attempts to discover how best to bring that about.

However this takeover attempt seems in no way compatible with the greater good of libertarian ideas. Whatever the legal merits of the Kochs’ claim, the best outcome for the cause of individual liberty is that Cato continues to operate as an independent, non-partisan, respected think tank with a diversity of funders. There is currently no other libertarian organization fulfilling that role in such a high-profile way. In acquiring the asset the Kochs would inevitably decrease its value. This view is, from what I can tell, widely shared among libertarians who have posted about the matter. Perhaps there is something we don’t know, but given how many people involved in institutional libertarianism have benefited at least indirectly from the Kochs’ donations, that dissent should be telling.

I’m left wondering about the internal institutions surrounding the Koch brothers. They are known for their advocacy of Market-Based Management, but do they receive enough criticism within their non-profit work from the bottom-up? Having become accustomed to holding the purse strings, are they open to negative feedback? Do they have advisers who have the security to be able to tell them to back off? If personal animosity is blinding them to the greater good of the causes they’ve spent decades supporting, is there anyone to tell them that?

I don’t know. But the Charles Koch Foundation can be contacted and if you care about the independence of the Cato Institute I’d encourage you to send them a note:

Charles Koch Institute
Email: email@charleskochinstitute.org
1515 N. Courthouse Rd.
Suite 200
Arlington, VA 22201
Phone: 703-875-1600
Fax: 703-875-1601

There is also a Save the Cato Institute Facebook group, from which the image above is borrowed.

Disclosures: I interned for the Cato Institute in 2003 and later worked in their press office for about a year. I’ve also benefited in various ways from various Koch-funded entities, particularly the Institute for Humane Studies. I no longer benefit in any direct way from either and have great respect and affection for both.

While I was away…

I’m back from a week on the road (Chicago, New Orleans, Baltimore, and DC) and while I was gone some fun stuff happened, the most fun being this FOX 12 news segment about the Bone Luge. Stephanie Kralevich came into Metrovino to find out what this Bone Luge craze is all about. See also cameo appearances by Metrovino’s owner Todd Steele and local curmudgeon John the Bastard.

In other Bone Luge news, e*starLA gives it a try and declares it delicious, Ludivine continues to spread the love to the uninitiated in Oklahoma City, and JBird in New York will give you the tequila for free with your order of marrow.

In this month’s Los Angeles Times Magazine, Camper English writes about bars making smoky cocktails. The Smokejumper from Metrovino made the list. Fittingly, that’s a drink I came up with while at a friend’s place in LA.

Finally, the Washingtonian wrote up our Bols event in DC, where we hosted the launch of our Stillwater Ales collaboration at the amazing Jack Rose. The Kopstootje should continue to be available next week at one my favorite DC restaurants, Brasserie Beck, where they also made my day by putting the Harvey Weissbanger on the cocktail menu.

DC food and drink highlights

The Columbia Room offers the best service I have ever experienced in a bar. Tucked behind The Passenger, this reservations-only bar seats only a few people in a cozy escape from the busy nightlife out front. A flat rate brings Champagne, a small plate from the kitchen, and two expertly crafted cocktails from Derek Brown. This is very much in the Japanese style of bartending: You’re greeted with a hot towel, the ice is hand-carved, and the drinks are made one at a time in a cobbler shaker. Everything I had here was excellent, standouts being the Hibiki whiskey sour and duck prosciutto.

Some speakeasy-style bars take themselves too seriously; I have been in one and watched the host make a customer search her Blackberry for her password even though her name was on the reservation and the bar was nearly empty. In contrast The Columbia Room takes you seriously. It’s all about creating the best experience possible for the guests, from meticulously taking care of every detail to customizing cocktails to suit their tastes. If you’re in DC this is absolutely worth visiting.

Another great surprise is the new restaurant Eventide in Clarendon. This is the kind of place I wish existed when I was there, standing out from the bro bars that have flourished in the neighborhood. The crowd’s a little more restrained, the food is good, and bar manager Stephen Warner makes some excellent cocktails with spirits that were often unavailable in Virginia before he convinced the state bureaucrats to carry them.

Finally, Churchkey lived up to its promise as a beer destination. With 500 bottles, 50 taps, and 5 casks, one would never run out of beers to try here. Fortunately they offer 4 ounce pours of all their taps and casks, making it easier to experiment without getting hammered. My favorites were one of BrewDog’s Scotch-aged beers on cask and Victory’s Scarlet Fire rauchbier.

Other highlights: It’s always great to see Gina at PS 7′s and James at EatBar, Crisp and Juicy still rules, and I couldn’t get enough Salvadoran food.

DC bound

This morning I’m heading back to DC for the Cato Institute’s first-ever intern reunion, a massive event bringing together veteran interns from the think tank’s long history. This will be my first time back in well over a year. On my last visit I’d only been gone a few months and it felt like coming home. This time the city and my lifestyle there seem more distant, though perhaps I’ll slip right back into once I’m there. I will say this for DC: Despite the political world’s constant careerism and its priorities that are often not my own, I do miss the intellectual engagement the city always had on offer and the camaraderie shared by libertarians living in the belly of the beast. Where else could one pack a bar to the walls by offering drink specials and airing a Milton Friedman documentary?

In any case, the weekend will be fueled with copious food and drink. I already have a reservation at Columbia Room and Sunday brunch plans at my old hangout Eatbar (even if we can’t light up stogies there anymore). The lure of pollo a la brasa is strong. I’d like visit all the places on my old list, though that’s impossible. Eventide and Birch and Barley have opened since I left and I would love to visit them. What else is new that I should seek out?

Congratulations to Grape and Bean

Grape and Bean, a great coffee and wine shop in Alexandria, VA where I worked a couple years ago, is the subject of a new video by Caleb Brown:

The video is part of a contest highlighting free enterprise; vote by liking it here, and if you’re in Old Town drop in to visit David and Sheera at Grape and Bean. (Also, I’m glad to see that the Clover is still brewing good coffee!)

Previously:
Minor rebellion
Grape and Bean opens in Alexandria

Hypocrisy, thy name is DC Councilman Jack Evans

The Washington Post reports that DC city councilman Jack Evans has succeeded in obtaining a waiver from the District’s smoking ban for two groups he personally favors:

Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) has asked his council colleagues to keep tradition alive for the all-male Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and another organization, Fight for Children, which hosts an annual smoke-filled professional boxing fundraiser.

Evans, who is a member of the Irish organization, said the measure was narrowly crafted, making an exception for only two nights a year and protecting workers by allowing venue employees to opt out of working the events.

But the bill has proponents of the District’s 2006 workplace smoking ban in a huff.

Angela Bradbery, co-founder of Smokefree DC, urged Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) in a letter Monday to veto the legislation that she said would force workers to choose between their health and a paycheck; open the door for other organizations to request exemptions; and send a message that “it’s okay to break the law if you’re on the council or a buddy of a council member.” [...]

Despite opposition from the smoke-free camp, he succeeded last week in passing a one-year waiver on a 10 to 3 vote. The bill initially failed to get the necessary nine votes, but Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) and Marion Barry (D-Ward 8 ) switched positions on a second try.

It’s a rare day that I agree with groups like Smokefree DC, but they’re right to oppose the exemptions. Jack Evans attempted to pass one for the Sons of St. Patrick last year as well, at which time I wrote:

Evans has discovered the pain of having one’s treasured tradition banned by a bunch of meddling bureaucrats. I’d be sympathetic if not for the fact that Evans is one of those meddling bureaucrats. If he doesn’t like the law, he should introduce changes that open up smoking venues to everyone, not just to clubs that happen to have a city councilman in their membership.

In 2005, Evans voted for the DC smoking ban that took away the rights of business owners, employees, and patrons to determine tobacco policies by voluntary exchange.

Not even “famous for DC”

Five years I spent in that swamp of a city and this is how I end up in Politico? I knew that photoshoot would come back to haunt me.

“More knowledge than I’d expect”

Friendly reminder to Capitol Hill interns: Especially when you’re in DC, there’s a very good chance your bartender or server is smarter, more educated, and wittier than you. Act accordingly.

Portland-NoVa food meld

Portland’s getting a little more like Northern Virginia and Northern Virginia’s getting a little more like Portland. The good news for Portland is four more Five Guys locations opening up soon. The local burger chain option here is ok, but it’s no match for Five Guys.

The good news for Clarendon is that Boccato Gelato and Espresso is now serving Stumptown coffee. The store had just received its Synesso when I moved away last summer. I haven’t tried their coffee, but the gelato is very good. With Murky closed a place to get well-crafted coffee drinks is a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

[Thanks to Clarendon's coffee-deprived Chad for the Boccato link!]

Signs that you are a tax on society

This is why, as someone who makes his living in the bar and restaurant industry, I despise local politicians:

Restaurants and bars pour big money into their images–the logo on the sign outside, the look inside, the acoustics. Then along comes the government to order nightspots to clutter up their showcase entryways with signs announcing that the establishment doesn’t serve anyone under 21, that pregnant women shouldn’t drink, that the business doesn’t discriminate and that people shouldn’t smoke.

Now, the District’s Alcoholic Beverage Control board wants to add one more sign to the flurry of announcements greeting folks headed out for a good time: Board member Mital Gandhi has proposed that all eateries and bars licensed in the city be required to post a sign saying “Please do not drink and drive. Driving While Intoxicated or Under the Influence is illegal in the District of Columbia.” [...]

Gandhi is frank about the limited impact such signs might have. “Do we think this is going to stop drinking and driving? No,” he says. “It is a marketing technique and we felt it was a win-win situation. No one wants people to drink and drive.”

Interestingly, Gandhi agrees with the restaurant lobby that there is such a thing as sign clutter and message fatigue. “If we had 10 signs, I’d agree with the restaurant association,” the board member says. “Even if we had five signs, I’d agree. But two or three signs are not a problem.”

This, dear reader, gets us into an area I never thought I’d ever need to discuss: Defining a sign. As we’ve seen above, the city does indeed require bars and restaurants to post at least five, um, notices. But whereas [Andrew Kline from the restaurant association] calls them all signs, Gandhi says there’s a huge difference between signs and–quoting now–”placards.”

“Placards are a totally different story,” Gandhi says. “Apples and oranges.” And the big red thing that announces that a particular business’s liquor license is coming up for renewal is a placard, not a sign.

You can’t make this up! Read the whole thing for even more bureaucratic absurdity.

Murky remembrances

murky_syn

I can still remember my first encounter with the coffee shop at 3211 Wilson Blvd. in Arlington, VA, which is surprising since I didn’t actually go into it. I was visiting DC on college spring break — in those days that seemed to me a fun destination — and meeting a friend from the Institute for Humane Studies for dinner in Clarendon to talk about policy jobs in DC. He wasn’t a coffee drinker and so the place barely merited a mention from him as we walked briskly by, yet I felt an almost gravitational attraction to it. It was, I thought, the kind of shop where I could happily spend a lot of time.

It turns out I was very, very wrong for thinking I would enjoy working in public policy, but the coffee shop became more significant to me than I’d ever imagined. Back then it was called Common Grounds and when I returned to DC for my first internship a few months later I immediately sought it out. It became my escape from the depressing realization that I had no real interest in the career I’d been working towards. Nearly every night I’d come home, change out of my business attire, and walk the two miles uphill to relax with coffee and a couple of books. Though I was rarely joined by anyone I knew, I enjoyed the sense of community one feels in a busy cafe even when alone.

I returned to Virginia following college graduation for lack of any better plan, my new apartment just three blocks from Common Grounds. I applied for a job there following one more failed attempt at enjoying public policy. When I checked in a few weeks later, the manager admitted that they’d lost my application. This turned out to be a moot point, for the shop was about to be sold to Nick Cho of Murky Coffee. For some reason Nick hired me.

murky_tasting

Nick has an intense passion for coffee and he passed that on to me on my first day of training at his existing Capitol Hill location. He gave us new employees twenty bucks and sent us down the street to Starbucks to order whatever we liked. Then we came back to experience the same drinks the Murky way. I’d consumed thousands of coffee beverages and spent countless nights in coffee shops, but I’d never paid close attention to what was in the cups. This all changed when I watched Nick deftly pour perfectly textured milk into espresso, a lovely rosetta forming on the surface of the cappuccino as if by magic. I’d never seen or tasted anything like it. To this day the memory informs my work as a barista and bartender; the best gift I can give new customers is recreating that feeling of astonishment that comes from witnessing a mundane drink transformed into something wonderful.

I spent only eight months working at Murky but I continued as a customer far longer. The friendships and relationships that bloomed there are the reason I stayed in Virginia for as long as I did. Our cast of characters — a Pilates instructor, an opera singer, and a medical consultant, among others — formed a welcome community outside the cocooned world of politics. Every Sunday we gathered for coffee and a late lunch. This ritual was so valuable to me that for the year following when I worked at Open City my only requirement was that I claim the painfully early Sunday morning 5:30 am barista shift; I felt it necessary to get off in time to meet for coffee at Murky, despite spending the entire morning working the same model espresso machine and serving exactly the same blend.

I wrote above that I felt a gravitational pull to the shop. Looking back at the five apartments I lived in during my time in Virginia, I realize I was literally in orbit around it. Murky is in red, my various apartments in blue.

murky_apt

That’s no coincidence. Though I moved frequently and made many compromises, always being within a short walk or bike ride from my favorite coffee shop was an essential amenity.

Many people drifted in and out of our circle of regulars over the years. By the time I packed for Oregon just two of our original crew were left, meeting every Sunday to drink coffee and smoke cigars at the green light pole. Like many things at Murky, the pole was weathered and useless, existing mostly to annoy people trying to park their cars around it. Yet it was charming in its way and was the perfect place to prop up our feet and light a couple stogies in the breeze.

Hanging out at ye old green pole

If I could be there today, that’s exactly what I’d be doing. This Sunday was Murky’s last day open for business. Nick and his staff are opening a new shop, Wrecking Ball Coffee, in downtown DC. The space at 3211 Wilson Blvd. will soon become a bakery, the newest sleek addition to Clarendon’s redevelopment. Murky’s end removes one more of my tethers to the city. The thought of moving back to Arlington is now less tempting.

I could go on, but the important thing for me is saying thanks to Nick and the Murky community. Thanks for teaching me how to taste, for showing me the beauty in craft, and for giving me a place to call home in Virginia. You’ll be missed, and I wish you the best of luck in your new venture.

DC’s anti-bar bias

Washington, DC blog 14th and You has a great post up today about consistent anti-alcohol bias in the city’s local government, this time directed against a popular U St. bar by politicians not even representing that neighborhood:

Thanks to a recent article in the Dupont Current, we learned of Saint-Ex owner John Snellgrove’s attempt to convert the liquor license of his business from a restaurant-class license to a tavern. The reason, according to Snellgrove, is that “keeping a chef on premises until two hours before closing time [as necessitated by the restaurant-class liquor law] makes no financial sense.” So he’s seeking to convert Saint-Ex’s license to that of a “tavern” which would significantly loosen the restrictions on the hours of food service. [...]

… never mind that Saint-Ex doesn’t even reside within [Dupont Circle ANC Commissioner Ramon] Estrada’s ANC — he led the charge for a unanimous vote (with one abstention) by the Dupont ANC to protest them anyway. And yet, the most absurd statement made by Estrada must be this:

“On its face, I cannot accept that you can’t keep your kitchen open until two hours before closing.” To which I say: On its face, I cannot accept advice on running a food-serving establishment from someone who never has.

Go read the whole thing for more frustration with regulators who are standing in the way of a business that’s helped revitalize the U St. corridor.

[Thanks to Kyle for the link!]