A wonderfully sedate and honest neighborhood bar, Union Drinkery is a good spot for relaxation and solid drinks.
Georgia Avenue is growing on me: eclectic and ramshackle, the area retains a bit of genuine DC character, still untouched by commercial blanding. Oh, and Alfie’s is there. So on a nice sunny April afternoon, I found myself strolling up the Ave and clocking into Union Drinkery, a new-ish no-frill neighborhood haunt. The aesthetic at Union is bare-bones, functional, and dark, which I’ve always embraced. There is a subtle friendly and rebellious vibe.
If darkness isn’t quite your bag and you want to enjoy some summer sun, Union Drinkery has you covered with a sprawling patio – replete with foosball table! I mean, if you’re a hip young person who imbibes with other hip young persons, what more could you want on a weekend afternoon?
The drinks are adventurous for a neighborhood place and largely click: I counted three standouts among the list, a nice mix of sterner, savory cocktails and lighter poppy fare. Simple ingredients, mixed well and with some flare.
Moved by the Spring vibe, I started with the standout “Seasonal Cocktail” with grapefruit moonshine, St. Germain, contratto bitter, and lemon. This was ultra smooth, just the right level of lemon zest. Binary and fresh. Then I quaffed the “3216” with Redemption rye, St. Germain, Dolin Blanc, lemon, and ginger beer. This was soft for a rye based drink, with some sparkling herbal complexity lit by the ginger beer’s pepper and herb. Nice for summer.
Next was the “Never Enough Thyme” with silver tequila, yellow chartreuse, thyme syrup, and bubbles. I was excited about this one because I’m a thyme-head, and this standout did not let me down; the chartreuse bites hard up front, but settles down as you go through. The tequila and thyme pop off each other making for a light and electric taste. Loved then one. Then the “Whitney” with spiced gin, suze, and dolin blanc. Powerful, spiced, and decidedly bitter, this was one was bit too dark for my tastes. The suze hits a little too hard, and I’d recommend sipping this one slowly so to better parse the ingredients. Interesting.
Moving on, I ordered the “Local Chacho” with jalapeno rum, heering cherry, and house sour. This was superb, with a perfect lift of citrus and bubbles leading to a great even burn. Loved it. Then I put on the “Gray Hat” with Tito’s vodka, maraschino, creme de violette, and lemon. I have a light aversion to maraschino liqueur and this cocktail fell victim to it – just a little too much, and the rest falls somewhat flat. It does look steely-eyed and beautiful though.
I rounded out my time at Union with the “One Night Stand” with mezcal, Peychaud’s bitters, St. Germain, and grapefruit juice. If you love mezcal you’ll love this, as they certainly don’t skimp on the smoke – I’m somewhat mixed on mezcal and on this drink. It’s fine, but the comedown from the mezcal is a little boring, with only a hint of grapefruit spicing it up. For my finale, I had the “A La Louisiane” with house rye, Benedictine, dolin rouge, Peychaud’s bitters. This drink rages with earthy power and syrup, particularly the Benedictine. A little too savory for my delicate tastes, but if you’d like one hitter to sip slowly and end a long romantic summer evening, this is your go to.