Sometimes, keeping things bottled up is a good thing.
A trend on the rise in the ever-evolving beverage scene is the bottled cocktail. D.C.'s scene has received press recently for having at least a half-dozen bars offering bottled cocktails.
Still, I appreciate the art of the drink: Watching a bartender mix magic before my eyes. We can probably agree that having a bottle slid down the bar, while all sorts of Western sexy, doesn't satisfy like the first glimpse of a made-in-the-moment masterpiece.
Bottled cocktails offer a different sort of draw: a consistent, perfectly blended and crafted drink that a bartender had time to toil over. So lead bartender Nick Jones at Pabu in Harbor East has won me over with this bottled business — and with their take on a pretty infamous character of the bottled beverage world with the Bourbon Lemonade.
Jones first had the idea when the staff at Pabu began kicking around the idea of an '80s-themed party. Ah yes, the '80s: the decade of the wine cooler. "I remember Lynchburg Lemonades from Jack Daniel's and tried to re-create that … it's fairly simple," he says. But Jones notes that his cocktail isn't the same as the stuff in the mass-produced, processed Daniel's beverage: "We are using all-fresh ingredients and making our own lemonade with fresh-squeezed juice, simple syrup, and water," he says. Guests are still receiving a hand-crafted cocktail, made with fresh ingredients. It's win-win. Or, as Jones says, "It's just fun to have a different vehicle to deliver a great cocktail to guests.
Though not on the menu full time, Jones has added the bottled Bourbon Lemonade to his specialty menu. He's testing the recipe and hoping to change the landscape of the cocktail menu come fall. So far, the bottled drink has been a hit, Jones said. In fact, if you happen to hit up Pabu in the coming weeks, you might even be surprised to find a house-made Zima added to the menu. Zima?! Hello, 1995. Apparently, it's still big in Japan ... so big, Jones is using Japanese ingredients to mimic the brand.
Bottled beverages are a fun novelty, absolutely. But Pabu is proving that they are also a creative way to get your craft cocktail on. And making wine coolers, well, cool again.
How to Make the Bourbon Lemonade
2 parts fresh-squeezed lemonade
2 parts water
Simple syrup to taste
1 part bourbon (Pabu uses Jim Beam)
Add ingredients to 16-oz. bottle; finish with club soda; cap.
Where to Get the Bourbon Lemonade
725 Aliceanna St., Harbor East
$9 per bottle; limited availability