DC Celebrates Repeal Day in Style

On December 3, 2011 the District of Columbia celebrated the 78th anniversary of Repeal Day. Bartenders from across the city and the nation participated in the event commemorating the day (December 5, 1933) Prohibition ended.  On that day, Utah passed the 21st Amendment reaching the needed three-quarters majority of states to end the national ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages. This was the 4th Repeal Day celebration in Washington and was hosted by the DC Craft Bartender’s Guild. The event was held at the Halcyon House in Georgetown. Built in 1787, the house became a center of Washington social life in the 19th Century.

In the spirit of 1933, the black-tie affair was attended by roughly 300 guests, many clad in Prohibition-period attire. A great number of classic and original cocktails flowed as guests were treated to creations by, according to the DC Craft Bartender’s Guild, “local DC favorites Todd Thrasher, Clinton Terry, Elli Benchimol, Owen Thomson, Chantal Tseng, Duane Sylvestre, Jason Strich, Dan Searing, and Gina Chersevani, to mention a few, along with Phil Greene from the Museum of the American Cocktail, as well as visiting mixologists Adam Seger and Charles Joly [Chicago,] Brad Hensarling [Fort Worth,] and Danny Ronen [San Francisco].”

Brad Hensarling's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" with Absolut Vodka, ginger beer, Aabvorg Aquavit, fresh lemon, brown sugar and lavender water.

Phil Greene of the Museum of the American Cocktail prepared “Death in the Afternoon,” a Hemingway cocktail made with Perrier Jouet Champagne, and Pernod Absinthe.  It will be one of the 50-some cocktails featured in Greene’s forthcoming book, To Have and Have Another – A Hemingway Cocktail Companion.  Other cocktails and punches included “The Golden One” by Todd Thrasher (Dewar’s 12 Year, honey, Riesling, pear, and pear bitters), “El Presidente Persico” by Danny Ronen (El Dorado 12 Year Old Rum, Cocchi Americano, FAIR. Goji Liqueur, Cointreau, Orange), and “Ti Punch” by Ed Hamilton of the Ministry of Rum (Rhum Agricole, lime, cane syrup).

Chantel Tseng's "Darmoney Sucker Punch" with Plymouth Gin, Dolin Rouge, Cointreau, and fresh orange juice served from a claw-foot tub.

Chantal Tseng, Head Mixologist of the Tabard Inn, prepared an elaborate “Darmoney Sucker Punch” in a miniature claw-foot tub.  The drink consisted of Plymouth Gin, Dolin Rouge, Cointreau, and fresh orange juice. Gina Chersevani of PS7s Restaurant celebrated the season with her take on Egg Nog titled “NoggingHam,” consisting of Bulleit Bourbon, Benedictine, banana, cardamom, cinnamon, milk, sugar, butter and ham dust. Brad Hensarling made “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” with Absolut Vodka, ginger beer, Aabvorg Aquavit, fresh lemon, brown sugar and lavender water. Adam Seger provided “The String Puller,” consisting of Plymouth Gin, Hum Botanical Spirit, fresh lime, seltzer, Hedonistic Citrus Bitters and Thyme. And Elli Benchimol of Chef Geoff’s Restaurant provided “Candy Apple,” with Beefeater Gin, fresh lemon, apple cider, hibiscus, four spice syrup and a pickled apple.

Elli Benchimol's "Candy Apple" with Beefeater Gin, fresh lemon, apple cider, hibiscus, four-spice syrup, and pickled apple.

The evening even featured a four-spout Absinthe drip with Pernod, water and a sugar cube, tended to by DC bartenders JP Caceres and Diego Zeballos.

JP Caceres overseeing the Absinthe drip.

The 2011 Repeal Day celebration at the Halcyon House was a grand affair with cocktails and punches featured in its historic, Victorian-style upper-level rooms as well as its modern, lower-level exhibition hall. DC Craft Bartender’s Guild President Dan Searing, along with Derek Brown of the Columbia Room, led an evening toast made with a rare ten-year-old aged Magnum of Chimay.

From Left: Dan Searing, President of the DC Craft Bartender's Guild and Bar Manager at Room 11, with Derek Brown of Passenger/Columbia Room make a celebratory toast.

The Museum of the American Cocktail would like to thank the DC Craft Bartender’s Guild as well as the event’s sponsors Plymouth Gin, Absolut Vodka, Beefeater Gin, Pernod Absinthe, Bulleit Bourbon, Macchu Pisco, Dewar’s Scotch Whiskey, Remy Cognac, and Cointreau as a portion of the proceeds from the evening went to enabling the museum to further educate all on the great history and preservation of cocktail making.

By Matt Keller

Matt Keller lives in Washington, DC is the the author of District Cocktail – A Drinker’s Notes in Capitol City. His imbibing can also be followed on Twitter: @DCcocktails

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