Hank’s Cocktail Bar re-opens tonight, expanding the ambitions of the mixology lab formerly housed in an old church in Petworth with new digs in Dupont Circle.
Chef and restaurateur Jamie Leeds moved the bar in part to optimize the second-story space above the original Hank’s Oyster Bar and in part to give bar program manager Hunter Douglas a bigger stage.
“He wasn’t getting the exposure that I felt like he deserved,” says Leeds, whose restaurant group brought Douglas over from the Alex speakeasy at the Graham hotel last year.
For Douglas, the most enticing part of the move is the opportunity to root around in the kitchen downstairs. Now that he works above Hank’s Oyster Bar, Douglas can search for ways to reduce food waste and incorporate more savory flavors. The cocktail bar will also serve a small menu of raw bar items and snacks including Old Bay fries, Eastern Shore crab dip, and a kosher hot dog with onion rings.
The expansive drink menu that Douglas oversees includes a “Market Fresh” section that incorporates celery shrub into a Hayman’s Old Tom gin and tonic and pairs jalapeno shrub with Talisker scotch.
The “Food Production” part of the menu features a “She Who Lives in a Shell” cocktail that passes vermouth through a washed oyster shell and adds nori along with Plymouth gin and Sombra mezcal. The “To the Dome” combines Irish whiskey and wasabi pickle brine.
Sustainability will play a big part at the new Hank’s. Douglas proves that with a “Revisionist History” that uses a historic milk clarification technique — a recipe has been uncovered from Benjamin Franklin — that cleans up stale flavors from old coffee, lemons, and tea. Hot milk is added to the cocktail mix, which then separates into curds that adhere to astringent compounds before being strained out.
“We shake it with a Guatemalan rum, and it’s kind of like a fluffy play on a daiquiri,” Douglas says.
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