Bars and restaurants have long hosted efforts that raise awareness of and funds for various causes, a function that always feels more pronounced in D.C. thanks to the city’s company town-status. That’s been even more acute over the past two years, as D.C.’s hospitality industry has stepped up to meet the needs of communities grappling with the effects of the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and racial injustice.
While those issues aren’t going away, neither are the other national and international crises that seemingly crop up every day: war in Ukraine, mass shootings, anti-LGBT legislation and — since last month — the possibility that the Supreme Court would strike down Roe v. Wade, undercutting abortion rights and opening the door to clawbacks of other rights.
It was the news of the Supreme Court’s potential decision that caused bar director Judy Elahi and the team at Michele’s to bring together some of D.C.’s best bar talent for an event on Wednesday night where 100% of proceeds (between $5,500 and $6,000) will be donated to Planned Parenthood to help women in need of family planning support.
“[People in hospitality] already deal with a lot, dealing with guests every single day, and we still have to live our normal lives,” Elahi said. “If we have this platform — unlike the office worker or someone who doesn’t have that — we need to actually use our space and make our voice heard.”
Bartenders Against Bans was a five-hour cocktail party spanning two rooms of Michele’s lofty space at the Eaton hotel where patrons could purchase golden tokens and trade them for drinks and plates of oysters. Sponsors included women- and minority-owned companies including Ten to One Rum, Mocktail Club, Tenth Ward Distilling and Republic Restoratives. On the menu: five cocktails — plus one zero-proof drink — created by all-star mixologists, all of whom are women.
Chantal Tseng — the bartender, sommelier and Sherry Week ambassador who now runs the appropriately named Cocktails for End Times service — created XX in Reverse, a highball featuring Tenth Ward Smoked Corn Whiskey, PX Sherry and ginger beer that was topped with a freshly smoked piece of star anise: a touch of licorice flavor that cut through the smoky, sweet, spicy concoction. Christine Kim, bartender at Service Bar, Bar Amazonia, and Causa (and — according to signage — “panda-in-charge”), punned on Plan B with Plan C, a summer-ready mix of Civic Vodka and Aperol cut by strawberry, yuzu and coriander.
Alex Bookless, the owner of June and beverage director of Shilling Canning Company, put together an ode to Nasty Women with a too-drinkable tiki that balanced Ten to One Dark Rum, Rujero Singani and Don Ciccio Cerasum — the D.C. amaro distiller’s cherry aperitivo — with grenadine and fruit juices. Similarly rum-focused was My Body My Choice by Princess Johnson, mixologist at Michele’s sister bar Allegory, who mixed two rums with the perfect trio of tamarind, coconut and lime. Monniquer Peacock, the winner of Chocolate City’s Best Cocktail Competition, was a little more subtle with her drink name — Power of the P — but offered a drink inspired by a Pink Lady that featured Chapman’s Apple Brandy, bourbon, aquafaba and the spicy kick of sorrel.
For those not imbibing — or simply needing a zero-proof break — Lauren Paylor, the CEO of wellness-minded Focus on Health, crafted the Smash the Patriarchy by topping berry syrups, lemon and hibiscus with Mocktail Club Kapri Sour, a non-alcoholic, ready-to-drink cocktail that is also refreshing on its own.
At the triple point of great company, cocktails and cause, Bartenders Against Bans was the latest example of what the D.C. hospitality industry can do to help out during what often feels like the end times.
“The response has been great, not only from our guests but from the industry as well,” Elahi said.
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