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Logo courtesy of Hex

Gather your coven and follow the smell of incense to Hex. The 35-seat cocktail lounge coming to the second floor of The Passenger in April will have a witch vibe that’s less Halloween store and more like a visit to your quirky aunt’s house. You know, the one who’s always rolling crystals around in her fists to the tune of Santana’s “Black Magic Woman.”

“I’ve always had an interest in all the dark stuff,” says Passenger and Hex General Manager Kit Yarber. The former Left Door bartender and manager touts that he has collectables from Beetlejuice and watched anything witchy from the 90’s with abandon including The Addams Family, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Witches starring Anjelica Huston

At first, bar owner Tom Brown wasn’t on board with Hex for fear Yarber would turn the top floor, that’s hosted everything from a Hogo pop-up to stand-up comedy, into a goth bar. But the pair struck a deal over a faux taxidermy unicorn head with a Rapunzel-like mane. Brown discovered it online but realized that with shipping from the United Kingdom the unicorn would cost more than a grand. Yarber proposed that if Brown committed to Hex, and to giving him carte blanche on the concept, he’d personally shell out for the unicorn. Done.

“It’s going to be unapologetically dark, but not in a kitschy way,” Yarber says. Compared to the lively Passenger downstairs, Hex will be more of a dimly-lit, hushed gathering place for easy conversation and heady drinks.

Since “hex” also connotes the number six, Yarber is drawing up a menu of six categories of cocktails such as Old Fashioneds, sours, and highballs that will each contain six drink choices. If you do the math, that’s 36 cocktails. Two highlights are the “Incantation” with rye, brandy, Amaro Averna, Cocchi di Torino, Punt e Mes, and orange and Angostura bitters, and the “Santa Muerte” with mezcal, IPA syrup, and rhubarb bitters. 

Several cocktails will be named after Zodiac signs, and Yarber is taking a theme-appropriate approach to “bartender’s choice” cocktail. To play, you’ll reach your hand into a black bag and draw a tile with a rune on it. Next you’ll search for the same symbol beside a cocktail on the menu to find out what you’ll be drinking. Yarber also hopes to acquire an absinthe fountain for absinthe service.

When patrons enter Hex, they’ll encounter groupings of twisted wall art, oddities, and funky furniture. Yarber says they plucked almost everything from a single auction. “I don’t know if it was an estate sale for an old coven or what,” he says, pointing to one of his pieces—a drawing of a mummy next to a skeleton of some kind of mythical beast. In the back there will be a space enclosed by ornate tapestries that can be used as a private space. Regularly scheduled tarot readings are also in the cards. 

Yarber says the food menu is being developed. “We’re thinking food that you would dare your friends to eat, like alligator meat, snake meat, and crickets,” he says. Expect some more standard fare too, possibly fondue.

Come April, Hex will be open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Fridays from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m.; and Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. 

Hex, 1539 7th St. NW, second floor