Here, drinks are made with unexpected ingredients, ushering in a drink culture only Bronze could create.
Al Thompson has planted the Wild Seed, a drink found at the newly opened bar inside Bronze on H Street called Crane Room. Here, cocktails like the Wild Seed take flight and transport patrons.
Inspired by Afrofuturism — a genre of literature honoring African heritage, science fiction and futurism, cocktails at Crane Room reimagine the possibility of spices and spirits not typically find mixed in a glass.
“The whole idea of this restaurant is that it pays tribute to the literary character Alonzo Bronze,” Thompson says of a character the restaurant owner, Keem Hughley, created. “He traveled the world and throughout time, taking different ingredients as he traveled. With that in mind, I created a cocktail that normally doesn’t go together, like sherry and Cognac.”
Thompson says Afrofuturism is an empowering form because it spotlights Black excellence.
Both the literary genre and his drink reclaim the past, from imperialism and colonialism (the main reason he uses Spanish sherry and French Cognac) to reimagine a brighter and bolder future.
The Wild Seed cocktail gets its name from the namesake book written by Octavia Butler, an Afrofuturist American writer, who published her novel in 1980.
“The book is about shapeshifting,” Thompson says. “The idea is people come from different places and have to change their whole lives to adapt to where they live now. This cocktail honors this theme and pays tribute to Washington’s Ethiopian community.”
The Wild Seed is really an elevated sidecar. The drink mixes manzanilla and Cognac with lemon juice and organic Ethiopian mitmita spice. But what truly sets this drink apart is the finishing touch — a showstopping ingredient and presentation.
Thompson sprinkles a hefty amount of berbere spice on top of the cocktail. Berbere is the mother spice of Ethiopia, a spicy and peppery blend that hits your taste buds on the first sip. There is only one word to describe this drink: luxurious.
The Cognac carries flavors of dried fruits, along with hints of vanilla, oak and caramel, while the manzanilla pushes a crisp, slightly tart flavor balanced nicely with the sweetness of mitmita honey. The acidity of the lemon juice also helps balance the fiery spice of berbere.
“I’m hoping to create a connection from my brain to your glass,” Thompson says. “I am trying to create drinks that feel as if you’re eating Ethiopian food. This is a way to touch people, inspire them and make them see what’s possible.”
Several other cocktails on Thompson’s menu have been inspired by international influences. For instance, berbere mitmita honey is used in the restaurant’s signature drink, The Bronze, which mixes Peruvian pisco with Brazilian cachaça.
“The idea behind Bronze is to create a space with wide arrays of flavors while always looking to Afrofuturism for inspiration,” Thompson says. “Whether it’s a character in a book, a movie or TV show, there are direct influences to tell the story of making the world a more interconnected place.”
And the cocktail bar is aptly named, connecting many ideas within Afrofuturism.
“The idea is that the cranes are the lifeblood of the Bronze people,” Thompson says. “By feeding your crane, you are essentially feeding yourself — caring for yourself. This bar has given me so much personally in creating new and exciting drinks. I am eager to show people what’s next. I always have something up my sleeve.”
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