Sarah Rosner has launched some impressive cocktail programs over her 17 years of bartending in DC, including menus at Breadsoda and Radiator inside Logan Circle’s Mason & Rook Hotel. Her latest gig, though, has arguably the highest profile yet.
Back in August, Rosner took the reins as the head bartender at Bourbon Steak, the posh bar inside the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown. She’s the first woman to lead the bar in its 10-year history, and says she’s excited to put her spin on what’s become a drinking destination for creative libations that go far beyond steakhouse clichés like martinis or Manhattans.
While some may see hotel life as hectic, Rosner, who lives in Dupont Circle, says she gets a jolt out of interacting with the diverse and often inquisitive flow of regulars and tourists in the neighborhood.
“You’ll have guests that you won’t see for six months, and then they’ll come back and you’re like home to them,” she says. “People have the time to learn, too. They have the time to sit there and nerd out with you. It’s fun.”
Rosner says so far, change has mostly been gradual and geared toward elevating the little details – like new tools and good ice that she says can set great cocktail programs apart.
She’s also been working with and learning from the restaurant’s sommelier, Winn Roberton, and Executive Chef Drew Adams, on how to incorporate elements from the rest of the restaurant into the bar.
Her biggest fingerprint comes this month with the launch of her first seasonal cocktail menu, which will fuse fall flavors with tropical touches that give a nod to her Hawaiian upbringing. One example is the Tiki in the Mountains (a.k.a. A Hula Skirt and a Kilt Have a Baby). The cocktail is made with a private cask selected in partnership with Virginia Distillery Co. and uses the classic tiki pairing of whiskey, cinnamon and grapefruit.
“This pairing and spirit seemed like the perfect way to put my spin on something uniquely Bourbon Steak.”
Another option will be a play on an Old Fashioned using macadamia nut-infused whiskey, something she says she’s always wanted to serve to guests. The fall menu will also include a few cocktail favorites from years past as part of the spot’s 10-year anniversary.
When she’s not mixing drinks at the Four Seasons, Rosner continues to be an active supporter of the DC bartending industry through participation in organizations like the DC Craft Bartenders Guild. She feels grateful to be able to contribute to the men and women in the community who have helped her throughout her time in the city and allowed each other to be successful.
“We have a great community here. People are finally recognizing us, and we’re finally stepping up to that. We all set the bar high.”
A big part of that national recognition is the rising tide of variety and quality of drinks in the city, whether it’s a dive bar or a steakhouse inside a five-star hotel. The other part though – arguably the more important part – is hospitality and service. That’s something Rosner always keeps at the forefront of her mind, wherever she’s working.
“I hope I can rub off on people,” she says of her new gig. “I feel like people have been getting excited, and guests can really see that when you care, they care. It’s infectious.”
Follow Bourbon Steak on social media at @bourbonsteakdc and learn more about Rosner’s brand-new cocktail menu at www.fourseasons.com/washington/dining/restaurants/bourbon_steak.
Bourbon Steak, Four Seasons Hotel: 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; 202-944-2026; www.fourseasons.com/washington/dining/restaurants/bourbon_steak
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Rosner developed menus for Jack Rose and Marvin.