The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2015

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june 2015  /  the tasting panel  /  107 more than a little appreciation for the high-quality spirits and well-crafted cocktails available in 2015, compared to Colonial- era swill and bathtub gin.) To spearhead a companion History of the Cocktail Series, the Archives tapped renowned bartender, cocktail and spirits writer Derek Brown to serve as Chief Spirits Adviser. Brown, who owns the award-winning D.C. bars Mockingbird Hill, Eat the Rich, Southern Efficiency and Columbia Room, is a self-described cocktail geek who reveled at the opportunity to dive into a project two to three years in the making that mixes elements of history, religion, business, recreation and hospitality. "Every step of the way, the exhibit tells a story about how drinking is an important part of our culture," notes Brown. His favorite items on display are the aforementioned shaker, which he says connects us all to the American Presidency, and Washington's still ("I love this puppy," he admits). He's surprised at the amount of exhibit space needed to show movements that demonized or banned alcohol, including a petition from the Women's Christian Temperance Movement, black and white photos showing enforcement officers destroying booze during Prohibition and overblown caution- ary posters describing the various detrimental effects imbib- ers would experience depending on the potent potable they consumed. "Different periods of the exhibit show alcohol as a gift from God and as the exact opposite," he points out, adding that, "whether you drink or not, alcohol is part of our culture, and part of celebration." A stroll through the exhibition need not be the end of the experience, though. Brown's ten-part History of the Cocktail Series held at the Archives brings together top bartenders, distillers and writers each month to talk about particular periods in American drinking, from B.C. (before cocktails) to the Platinum Age (the glorious present age of drinks.) Held on Saturday afternoons for around two and a half hours, the seminars include a discussion and (of course) cocktails. Upcoming sessions will have Jim Meehan, Bridget Albert and Ted Haigh talking about the depressing fate of drinks in the post-Prohibition period, and Jeff "Beach Bum" Berry whipping up tiki and exotic cocktails. "It was a great opportunity for me to bring together fifty friends and idols to talk about drinks," says Brown, who created the themes and sourced the panelists and moderators. In addition, D.C. bars participating in the Bar Trail will feature drinks on their menu inspired by (and served at) that month's History of the Cocktail Series, providing yet another opportunity for the exhibit to come alive. Though arguably one of the most admired forces in the drinks world today, incredibly well-versed in many aspects of spirits and cocktails, Brown admits that he is still learning. When asked what made him decide to take on this role, he only half-jokingly responds with, "When your country comes knocking . . . " Through the Spirited Republic, we can look back at our alcohol-fueled (and alcohol-starved) past, but, because of the passion of Brown and his contemporaries, also toast to a bright, spirited, delicious future. Whiskey prescription during Prohibition. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's cocktail shaker, and an early breathalyzer prototype.

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