Longtime Neighborhood Restaurant Group bartender Nick Farrellis bottling about 700 cocktails a week. The bottles then get whisked away and delivered to Washingtonians thirsting for something interesting to drink at home.
He was gearing up to open Show of Hands inside The Roost on Capitol Hill when COVID-19 froze forward progress on the multi-concept dining and drinking hub. Instead of waiting for the virus to dictate the roll out of his new bar, Farrell built out a full cocktail menu for delivery. Emergency regulations enable bars to sell booze to-go, so long as customers also purchase food.
Show of Hands seeks to stand out by offering low-alcohol and alcohol-free drinks. “We all love the social aspect of drinking, but we like taking care of ourselves as well,” Farrell told City Paperlast year after he finalized his vision for the bar. “Everybody wants to spend as much time with friends as possible, but what do you do after you’ve had your second Manhattan?”
There are about 20 full-strength, low ABV, and non-alcoholic cocktails and mixers from Show of Hands available through Neighborhood Provisions—NRG’s online marketplace selling everything from ready-to-eat meals to pantry items to beer—that launched during COVID-19. The delivery range includes D.C., Alexandria, and Arlington. Some are available all of the the time. Others are available for brunch or as a part of the group’s rotating “Date Night” package.
Most of the cocktails priced at $15 for two to four servings. Highlights include a low-ABV Capitoline Session White Negroni with a touch of sherry; a Dirty Quarantini with gin, vermouth, olive brine, cheese-stuffed olives, and dill; and a vodka-based Mule with fresh ginger, local cherry blossom amaro, and lime. Some of the drinks utilize Farrell’s house-made limoncello, absinthe, vermouth, seasonal fruit liqueurs, and amari.
City Paperasked Farrell about what it’s like to virtually open a bar during a pandemic.
CP: You’ve managed to open a bar without opening a bar. Why?
Nick Farrell: I wanted to find a way to keep doing the things that I love and get those out to people that still want to have a good time—whether they want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, their cousin’s graduation, or just getting off the couch.
CP: Does it make you nervous that the first impression people form about your bar will be based on the delivery of bottled cocktails?
NF: I think it’s cool. I pride myself on being resourceful and adaptable. The thing that makes me most nervous every day is the lack of feedback. One of the things I miss the most is being able to make a drink and put it in front of someone who sips it and smiles so I know I got them exactly what they want. In that way, it’s definitely scary. I can see the sales. I can see it’s doing well, but I can’t see that smile or have that conversation. I can’t run into the regulars I always used to run into, which is one of the biggest reasons that I dove into this industry. Being able to make people happy. Being able to see them be happy.
CP: What else do you miss about actual bartending?
NF: A little bit of the chaos. The rhythm of a Saturday or Friday night when you always have two or three things to do. The way you triage and organize your movements very efficiently to be able to execute everything you need to. That dance of a busy shift. Having people in front of you. I miss that a lot.
CP: Which of your drinks have been the most popular?
NF: The Dirty Quarantini and the Piña Margarita are the two newest ones. But the classic Manhattan, Pineapple “Chartreuse” Rickey, and True Hurricane are popular.
CP:Where are you working out of?
NF: Bluejacket. It’s our biggest space right now. I do Bluejacket and Evening Star Cafe for some Virginia prep. There’s a lot of space here. I’m here right now. I have some help from another employee. I’m still working a lot, but I get my weekends. I get a full Saturday and Sunday. What do days mean anymore?
CP: I know you said you don’t get much feedback, but what’s the funniest thing you’ve heard from a customer about your drinks?
NF: One guest, who’s a regular, had not read the label on one of the cocktails and was drinking it without adding club soda. It was a Friday afternoon. He had a work Zoom meeting. He texted me and said, “I don’t know what’s going on—I’m feeling a little tipsy in this Zoom meeting. This drink is delicious, but holy god. Oh my gosh I just read the label. I should have been adding club soda. Now I get it.” I ended up getting him drunk in a Zoom meeting. Read the label.
CP: Can people get the bottled Show of Hands cocktails any other way if they don’t live in D.C., Arlington, or Alexandria?
NF: The Bluejacket bottle shop has them for pick up. So do both Rustico locations and the Red Apron Butcher in the Mosaic District.