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It’s the time of year when tiki becomes trendy again. Barrel on Capitol Hill is getting in on the flaming pineapple action by bringing back the PoliTiki pop-up in its basement Elixir Bar starting May 11.
Twenty years ago, PoliTiki could be found where Stanton and Greene stands today on Pennsylvania Avenue SE. Barrel owner Matt Weiss and “tavern magnate” Joe Englert were behind the project that lasted about four years before it became Pour House.
“The basement was really kind of over-the-top,” Weiss recalls, mentioning a bamboo bar and Polynesian decor. Local artist Lee Wheeler designed tiki mugs that looked like past presidents including Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, and Abe Lincoln.
“Unfortunately it’s been 20 years, so we’ve lost a bunch of them,” Weiss says. “I have about 12 Reagans. I know you can find some of them on eBay. They were going for $300.”
The same crew brought the “Unpresidented” pop-up bar to the same space in 2017, so you can expect some similar antics. “Barrel has done a lot of cheeky things with politics,” Weiss says. “I thought it would be fun to reboot PoliTiki 2.0. It’s not tiki for tiki’s sake.”
At the reincarnation, you’ll be able to sip tiki drinks from beverage director Parker Girard in more up-to-date tiki mugs featuring likenesses of Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and Steve Bannon. Tiki Farm crafted the mugs over the course of eight months—the order must have been placed before Bannon departed the White House. A limited supply of the three mugs will be available for purchase, individually or as a set of three for $79.99.
The Regal Hawaiian ($13), served in the Obama mug with gin, white rum, pineapple, lemon, orgeat and passionfruit. It’s inspired by the signature cocktail of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
The Suffering Bannon ($11), a frozen drink served in the Bannon mug with bourbon, aged rum, lime, ginger beer, and angostura
The Traitor Don’s Mai Tai ($14), served in the Trump mug with aged rum, Jamaican rum, peach, mint, honey, orgeat, lime, and absinthe.
There will also be a frozen Painkiller cocktail on the menu ($6) and a scorpion bowl filled with gin, rum, brandy, orgeat, orange, and lime that serves 3 to 4 people ($35).
To prepare for the relaunch of PoliTiki, Girard traveled the country, making pit-stops at top tiki bars including New York’s Mother of Pearl, San Francisco’s Smuggler’s Cove, and Chicago’s Three Dots and a Dash.
A small food menu, featuring items like crab rangoon ($12) and crispy jerk chicken ($13), will also be available.
The basement won’t look familiar to those who know it only as Elixir Bar. It’s now outfitted with nautical decor, tiki artifacts, and a mural of a Hawaiian beach scene.
“I know that tiki is popular now,” Weiss says. “But when we opened in 1998, we were a little ahead of our time.”
PoliTiki Pop Up Bar at Barrel, 613 Pennsylvania Ave. SE; (202) 543-3622; barreldc.com