Not Your Grandpappy’s Moonshine

Moonshine is legal, taxed, regulated and out in the light of day.

Guest post by J Palm, co-editor BIDC
Follow & Tweet me @charmedlivingDC

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of imbibing with the co-founders of Richmond-based Belle Isle Craft Spirits and creators of Belle Isle Premium MoonshineWhat the heck is premium moonshine? According to the trio of founders: Brian Marks, Alex Wotring, and Vincent Riggi, it’s an elevation of the stuff brewed in the backwoods of the Appalachians: smoother, more versatile, perfectly sippable on its own and surprisingly blendable with a multitude of mixers. In my own words—it’s nothing like that hard, hair-on-your-chest growing concoction in the Mason jar that your grandpappy and co used to make under the light of the moon.

Belle Isle Moonshine and The Moonshine Book
Belle Isle Moonshine and The Moonshine Book

At a media-only cocktail hour at Dupont’s Circa sponsored by Belle Isle Craft Spirits and their PR agency showcasing the well-distilled moonshine, I partook of 3 out of 4 featured specialty cocktails and was pleasantly surprised to find how smooth, versatile and, at first, virtually undetectable, the spirit is.

My passage through Belle Isle commenced at the lighter end of the spectrum—a peach-basil iced tea that I couldn’t stop drinking, as the marriage of basil to sweet summer peach continually evolved as the red tea-based drink settled. I really had no intention of completing 3 drinks at 4 pm on a Wednesday, but ehh—stuff happens! My surprise at how drinkable this cocktail was (as compared to traditional moonshine) compelled me to ask Alex for a pour of the spirit straight up so I could understand where the liquor was in the mix (so, I guess I actually had 4, after all).

Afterwards, I was ready to move to the middle of the scale. The Lunar Eclipse, a take on a classic Negroni, made me wanna call back home and tell my family down on the Bayou I knew something they didn’t know (moonshine and Campari) even if that wasn’t true, so you know, you gotta try it. The pièce de résistance was the Monk on Moonshine, a barrel aged cocktail (usually for five weeks, I was told, but on this day for one week) of moonshine, sweet vermouth, maraschino liquor, and Green Chartreuse (get the cocktail name now??) that I was happy I waited and primed my palate for as it was a deliciously heavy-handed end to my journey along the Belle Isle spectrum. Manhattan-ish, but different—deeper.

Belle Isle Stocked at Home
Belle Isle Stocked at Home

My first bottle of Belle Isle was gifted, but I can restock and you can pick yours up at ABC stores throughout NoVA from Arlington (Ballston, Clarendon) to Springfield. And, of course, Circa (Dupont, Foggy Bottom, and Clarendon) is stocking the spirit and mixing these great cocktails. Some other restaurants currently serving Belle Isle include: Central-Michel Richard (DC); Lyon Hall, Liberty Tavern (Arlington); PX/Restaurant Eve (Alexandria). For a complete list and to keep up with the growing availability, visit http://www.belleislecraftspirits.com/where-to-buy/ early and often.

I am eagerly awaiting the opening of the Belle Isle distillery in Richmond and can’t wait for a tour. The owners were open about the disappointment of the delays caused by jumping through multiple federal government hoops—not a surprise to us Washingtonians.  But until that day, I’ll be referring to my copy of The Moonshine Book, a thorough compilation of cocktail recipes and moonshine history, complete with excellent photographs published by the Belle Isle team, frequently and meandering my way through the summer accompanied by nostalgic memories of the good ol’ days.

As a southern girl, I grew up sneaking sips of the harsh liquor out of Mason jars and milk jugs. Now, a towering bottle of Belle Isle sits in prime real estate in my tiny Dupont Circle kitchen’s makeshift “bar”. Before the recent rebirth of the moonshine craze, it seems fair to propose that we all used to look down on the unrefined home-brewed spirit, but not anymore. I noted to the founders of Belle Isle, thinking this was so obvious that I only said it after several cocktails, that the nearly 15” tall vessel is now the spirit looking down on all its competitors, an observation they surprisingly accepted as astute. Cheers, guys!

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Veritas Wine Bar & Hogo to Close August 2nd; Old Dominion and The Mighty Pint “Temporarily” Closed

A spate of bar closings have hit DC recently, both the permanent and the ominous “temporary” kind. Both Veritas Wine Bar (Dupont) and Hogo (Shaw/Convention Center) have announced that they will shutter their doors after service on Saturday, August 2nd, while Old Dominion Brewhouse (Shaw/Convention) and The Mighty Pint (Dupont) have temporarily closed, with no return expected (at least for Old Dominion).

Veritas, a snug wine bar next to Russia House in north Dupont, announced it was closing on Facebook earlier this month. The bar, somewhat of a cult favorite among oenophiles in town, has been open since fall 2007. Barred in DC has exclusively reported that a new concept called McClellans Retreat (Civil War themed??), possibly from the same owners (with the same class D license that allows the sale of beer/wine only); the owners’ request for a trade name was approved June 25. Interestingly, the Washington Hilton across the street has a sports bar (likely unknown, even to neighbors) called McClellan’s Sports Bar; no word whether there is any connection.

The closing of the Tom Brown rum/tiki bar Hogo, which just opened in December 2012, has long been in the works (WaPo story from June), and the bar announced on Twitter yesterday its official closing dates, with a week of specials leading up to it say farewell. According to the Post, the neighboring bar The Passenger may close at the end of this year.

As for closings that have not been announced, PoPville and its commentariat have been all over the unannounced closing of the Old Dominion Brewhouse, filled with the yells of Roll Tide during the fall for its Alabama football watch parties but not much else. Although a sign was posted stating that the establishment was temporarily closed until further notice on July 7th, a PoPville reader reported apparently that the bar has been evicted. It does not appear that Old Dominion, which opened in January 2006, will be missed.

Less certain is the fate of the divey-popular-with-22-year-olds spot The Mighty Pint, located in the former Madhatters spot on M Street in Dupont, known for its pints of rail cocktails and Pittsburgh-skewed food and rooting interests. Yesterday, the bar wrote on Facebook: “The Mighty Pint will be CLOSED due to venue maintenance until further notice. Stay tuned and we’ll keep you posted!” The website was updated accordingly to inform visitors of this temporary closure, which suggests that the bar will be coming back. Will update this post as soon as we hear anything.

Liquor Licensing 101- Licenses and Endorsements

Second room first floor bar at The Big Hunt
The Big Hunt has a tavern license with entertainment and summer garden endorsements

In DC, bars and restaurants who want to serve booze must first obtain a liquor license from the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA). This post is a primer on the different types of licenses and special endorsements that are required.

License Types

To sell alcohol for drinking on-site, a bar/restaurant can get a restaurant, tavern, or nightclub license. Although some spots get a “D” license that allows the sale of beer and wine only (Dacha Beer Garden is a notable example), the overwhelming majority have “C” licenses that allow liquor to be sold too. The differences between these kinds of licenses are explained further below.

Restaurant License

Most spots, even places that seem more a place to drink than eat (e.g. Front Page, The Ugly Mug), have a restaurant liquor license. Although this is the most common type of on-premises license, this is not necessarily the most coveted. Why? There are a host of restrictions for restaurant license holders, including:

  • Having a kitchen open until 2 hours before closing
  • Having advertising/signs emphasize food instead of booze or entertainment
  • Have annual gross food sales of $2000 per occupant (based on certificate of occupancy; $1500 for D licensees) OR 45% of gross annual receipts
  • Can’t have dancing, entertainment, or a cover without an entertainment endorsement (discussed later)

To certify their food sales, restaurant license holders must file quarterly statements detailing their sales and expenses; new bars/restaurant often get dinged and fined for failing to do so. Still, much to the chagrin of some neighbors, bars who don’t meet the food requirements rarely actually get their liquor licenses revoked; instead, there’s a grace period and ABRA routinely issues warnings and issues fines.

Restaurant liquor licenses cost $1000 (capacity 0-99), $1300 (100-199), $1950 (200-499) & $2600 (500+) annually.

Tavern License

Tavern license holders (often traditional bars, though they include places like Cava and Bistro D’oc who could easily qualify as restaurants) are hampered by much fewer restrictions. They don’t even have to serve food and they can have a dance floor of 140 square feet or smaller without getting an entertainment endorsement.

Tavern licenses are $1300 (0-99), $2080 (100-199) & $3120 (200+) annually.

Nightclub License

DC’s 40 or so nightclub license holders (which include clubs like Midtown, Ultrabar) have very few restrictions and can have entertainment, dancing, or charge a cover without getting permission. Strip clubs and big music spots like DC9 often have nightclub licenses too. New nightclubs are prohibited in many parts of DC.

A nightclub license costs $1950 (0-99), $2600 (100-199), $3250 (200-499) & $4550 (500+) annually.

Types of Endorsements

Bars/restaurants who want to offer entertainment and serve drinks outside (either on patio or rooftop/deck) must obtain additional permission in order to do so.

Entertainment Endorsement

An establishment can apply at any time to get an entertainment endorsement (which can be protested like a normal liquor license). Such an endorsement is required for any bar with a restaurant/tavern liquor license that wants to have live bands, karaoke, comedy shows, poetry readings, burlesque, DJs, dancing (taverns need an endorsement to have a dance floor bigger than 140 square feet), and/or a cover charge. A bar can operate a jukebox, ipod, TV, radio, or play other prerecorded music without an endorsement. Nightclubs don’t need entertainment endorsements.

Entertainment endorsements were recently an issue in the recently-modified Adams Morgan liquor license moratorium. The local neighborhood ANC requested that ABRA prohibit new entertainment endorsements so restaurants could not morph into nightclubs. ABRA refused to impose this prohibition, instead declaring they will continue to scrutinize requests on a case-by-case basis.

Entertainment endorsements are an extra 20% of the liquor license annual fee.

Sidewalk Cafe / Summer Garden Endorsement

To serve alcohol outside, a bar must get a $75 sidewalk cafe (for patios along the sidewalk in public space-DC actually owns many restaurant patio spaces) or summer garden (private space, like a roof deck) endorsement. These endorsements are often opposed by neighbors due to noise issues and often lead to settlement agreements limiting the hours of operation for outside space (for example, on 17th Street in Dupont, patios typically close at 11p on weekdays, and midnight on weekends).

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A list of all DC liquor license holders can be found here, while ABRA has more details on the liquor licensing process. Stay tuned for another post on the application/protest process.

India Gate, New Indian Restaurant, Opens in Dupont

India Gate
India Gate

India Gate Restaurant & Bar, 2020 P St, 202-293-1555,  opens at 10:30a everyday, closes at 11:30p weekdays, midnight on weekends, est. 2014 [Eater, PoPville], owned and operated by a longtime former cook from the DC mainstay Bombay Club, opened last Wednesday in Dupont. This new Indian restaurant, spread over a comfortable bi-level space, most recently occupied by Eola, serves excellent reasonably-priced Indian (halal) food (most entrees $13-17) for lunch and dinner daily until late. A liquor license should be forthcoming any day now, and both delivery and carryout will be offered.

More pictures of the restaurant (dominated by warm yellow and red tones) and part of the menu is below:

IMG_20140716_195924_112
Portion of Menu
IMG_20140716_200149_165
First floor view facing kitchen
IMG_20140716_200152_248
First floor facing P Street
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Second floor space

First #ThurstDay of Summer – July 10th – Local 16

Local 16 Roofdeck
Local 16 Roofdeck

Although we just had a long weekend, we’re due for a #ThurstDay outing. For those uninitiated, Thursday is a grown up Thirsty Thursday; previous ThurstDays have been held since October at several favorite spots in the Dupont/AdMo/U Street/14th Street area including Jack Rose, Bar Charley, GBD, Board Room, Bier Baron, Thomas Foolery The Gibson, BlackJack, Rebellion, and Lauriol Plaza. Join us at Local 16 (16th/U) beginning around 6pm. Local 16, really? one might ask. Yes, really. The bar has a pretty solid $5 happy hour (selected beers, signature cocktails, food, rails) that goes till 8p, which is sadly pretty rare for DC.

Just as important, the weather should be pretty pleasant (upper 70s/low-mid 80s) so it will be a great night to be on its spacious roofdeck.

Hope to see you there, we plan on being there for awhile. As always, feel to bring friends, strangers and/or new Tinder buddies.

 

Rhino Bar’s Liquor License Suspended for Five Days For Serving Booze to Underage Student (On Hold Pending Appeal)

Rhino Bar & Pumphouse (Credit: StationStart.com http://stationstart.com/2010/01/rhino-bar-and-pumphouse/)

Rhino Bar and Pumphouse, one of Georgetown’s last remaining college dive bars, recently had its liquor license suspended for five days for selling beer to an underage Georgetown University student in February 2013. [7/20 UPDATE: Rhino Bar has appealed the decision, so the suspension is on hold] The Red Sox M Street bro (top 4 in country according to one publication) sports bar will be shuttered Tuesday, July 8th through Saturday, July 12th to serve its punishment. D.C.’s Alcohol and Beverage Control Board’s ruling is worth the read, but we’ve summarized the tale, which includes bouncer whispering, a locked back door, a claimed case of mistaken beer identity, and women’s lacrosse. Fun fact from that ruling-in DC you can be arrested for presenting a fake ID to get into a bar, but you can only get a ticket for being underage and drinking in a bar.

On the night of the incident, a DC police officer was stationed at the bar’s entrance as part of the “Cops in Shops” program to help identify and arrest kids using fake IDs to get into bars like Rhino Bar. Two girls bypassed the 20-30 people in line and went straight to the bouncer, who whispered to them; the girls immediately hightailed it down M Street. The cop caught up with them and they admitted that the bouncer warned them not to enter the bar (one had a fake ID and the other had been arrested by the same cop a couple years before for having a fake). The women told the officer that Rhino Bar had let them into the bar before without ID and that most of the kids in the bar were underage.

The officer followed up by entering the establishment and approached two other young women who were drinking; one of them, a member of the Georgetown women’s lacrosse team, didn’t have ID and admitted she was 19. She was drinking a Bud Light according to the police officer–a fact that ended up being the crux of Rhino Bar’s defense. Charles Swann, Rhino Bar’s owner, claimed that Rhino Bar only sold Miller Lite at the time of the incident and that the underage woman must have “jiggered the lock on the back door and entered the kitchen with the beer in hand.” In fact, Rhino Bar’s general manager conducted his own gumshoe work, identified the supposed underage drinker walking down the street, and got the frequent patron to sign an unsworn/undated statement that she did in fact get into the bar through the back door with a beer.

This super-professional investigation did not work. The officer on duty confirmed that the girl who signed the statement was a different person than the one he had identified in the bar drinking with no ID; she had presented her student ID and the officer had confirmed it further by checking the GU women’s lacrosse official website. The Board explained:

The scenario described by [Rhino Bar] concerning the minor’s efforts to enter through a locked door with a beer in her hand stretches credibility … [and] is based solely on his presentation of handwritten undated and unsworn statement by an individual who was not the one identified [by the officer], and accordingly, not related to the violation at issue. In any event, [Rhino Bar] would be liable for underage drinking its establishment regardless of how the patron entered the establishment.

[Rhino Bar] also argues that there is insufficient evidence to show that the establishment served the minor in question because they don’t carry certain beer products. The Board disagrees. Unless [Rhino Bar] routinely allows patrons to enter its premises with open containers of alcohol, the underage female patron caught with an alcoholic beverage had no other source of alcohol other than the establishment.

Luckily for Rhino Bar, a divided Board did not uphold the charge that it failed to take steps reasonably necessary to ascertain the legal drinking age of a minor. Interestingly, the Board said the “mere presence of a minor in presence of an alcoholic beverage inside the establishment [was] not sufficient evidence” to substantiate this charge.  Still, because the Board found that it sold booze to an underage patron for the 2nd time within two years, it fined the bar $3,000 and suspended its liquor license for five days, a heavy hit to bros and DC Red Sox fans everywhere.

Celebrating Independence Day in DC Bars – 2014

DC Fireworks (Source: wikimedia.org)

Not surprisingly, DC goes pretty much all-out for the Fourth of July. We’ve compiled another list of bars (other than those already sold out) having events Friday to celebrate our nation’s birthday.Hat tip  (for many of these) to the typically-excellent roundups from the Washington Post‘s Going Out GurusWashingtonian‘s Best Bites Blog. InTheCapital,

Fireworks View

These roof decks will have (or claim to have) a view of the fireworks on the Mall. Fireworks usually start around 9:10p.

U Street

  • 1905
    • $20 (door) ($15 advance tix sold out)
    • Best bar roof deck in city will be host to a party serving 3 Stars Brewing Company beers
    • 1 item from grill (burger/sausage/ribs) + 2 sides OR 2 beers
    • $5 3 Stars drafts
    • Doors open at 3p
  • The Brixton
    • Free
    • HH from 1-7p on rooftop ($15 Bud Light buckets, $4 Bud Light/Miller Lite bottles, $5 drafts, $5 rails, Smirnoff/Absolut flavors, $6 wine)
    • Hot dog eating contest at 5p (get there by 4p and RSVP at link)
  • DC 9
    • Free
    • $11 for choice of burgers/brats, 2 sides & slice of watermelon)
    • $4 DC Brau’s
    • Doors open at 2p

H Street

  • H Street Country Club
    • Free
    • Doors open at 11:30a
  • Avery’s Bar and Lounge
    • $10 (door & online)
    • $5 Fireball shots & $6 Jack/Jameson drinks from 5-9p
    • DJ
    • Doors open at 3p
  • Rock and Roll Hotel
    • Free
    • DJs and live music
    • drink specials
    • Doors open at 4p

Columbia Heights

  • Red Derby
    • Free
    • Doors open at 11a
    • Happy hour from 11a-8p ($1 off beer) + $2 hot dogs
    • Roof deck

No View Parties

Chinatown/Penn Quarter

  • City Tap House
    • $10 to enjoy BBQ food
    • BeerBQ Battle between 3 Stars Brewing & Evolution
    • $5 each – 10 drafts of 3 Stars & 10 drafts of Evolution / $5 John Daly drinks all ady
    • cornhole tournament on patio
  • Hill Country Backyard Barbecue (outside National Building Museum)
    • Free
    • doors open at noon
    • live music starts at 5p

Downtown

  • DNV (Donovan House Rooftop)
    • Free
    • Doors open at noon
    • fireworks streaming on big screen
    • boozy popsicles
  • Lincoln
    • $30 all-you-can-eat cookout
    • $5 Jack’s Hard Cider / $6 Port City Pilsner / $4 Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA / $4 Miller Lite / $3 PBR
    • $34 Emancipation Punch bowls
    • HH specials from 2-7p
    • Doors open at 2p
  • Cafe du Parc
    • Free patio party
    • $15 burgers/hot dogs/chicken & veggie wraps w/ cole slaw, chips & water
    • bluegrass musicians
    • Noon-8p, restaurant closes at 10:30p

Adams Morgan

  • Jack Rose
    • Free
    • “AmeriCAN Drink Dependence Day”
    • $4 Snake Dog & Easy IPA cans $5 Flying Dog drafts from noon-5p / $5 cans & $6 drafts from 5p-fireworks end
  • Cashion’s Eat Place
    • $40 All You Can Eat + one Cashion’s cocktail
    • Starts at 2p until food runs out or 6p
    • tons of great food
  • Town Tavern
    • Free
    • food specials
    • $3 domestic bottles / $4 rails / $5 draft pints till 6p
    • $5 donation to Wounded Warrior gets $3 domestic bottles / rails
    • $10 red, white, booze open bar from 9-10p
    • free first beer for military or veterans

H Street

U Street/Logan Circle

  • The Gibson
    • Free Gibson Family Reunion event
    • crab crack & cookout
    • $6 alcoholic popsicles & DJ on back patio
    • $1 veggie burgers + hot dogs
    • Noon-8p
  • Duffy’s Irish Pub
    • Free
    • $20 bottomless Sam Adams Summer & hot dogs from Noon-4p

Georgetown

Dupont Circle

Capitol Hill/Eastern Market

  • Barrel
    • Happy hour starts at 4p
    • $3 Bud and $5 American bourbon & whiskeys
  • Capitol Lounge
    • $25 all-you-can-eat Maryland crabs
    • 3-7p

Columbia Heights

  • The Heights
    • $9 boozy red, white, and blue floats all day
    • regular HH from 3-7p
  • Lou’s City Bar
    • $4 Redd’s & Miller Lite / $5 Blue Moon all day