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If you checked the Cherry Blossom Pop-Up Bar off your list last spring, it’s worth planning a return trip when it reopens from March 1-April 29 in Shaw. Not only will there be more flowers than the floral section at Whole Foods on Mother’s Day morning, but Drink Company will be utilizing three bar spaces instead of two on 7th Street NW. One of them will have ten-foot animatronic Godzilla.
“For anyone that came to the bar last year and experienced our cherry blossom forest, we’re taking that and really blowing it up to even bigger levels,” says special projects director Matt Fox. He and Drink Company CEO Derek Brown call the pop-up a “love letter to D.C.” because it celebrates the city in the springtime and bows deeply to the unique relationship between the U.S. and Japan.
This year the Cherry Blossom PUB is an official partner of the National Cherry Blossom Festival that runs from March 20 through April 15 in acknowledgement of Tokyo’s gift of 3,000 cherry blossom trees to D.C. in 1912.
Drink Company is also teaming up with the Washington City Paper Peeps Diorama Contest. The top ten Easter candy dioramas will be displayed in one of Cherry Blossom PUB’s storefronts from March 22-April 2.
The spaces that used to house Mockingbird Hill and Southern Efficiency will be dedicated to the pale pink flowers that symbolize the fleeting beauty of a life well lived. Adriana Aspiazu constructed a massive canopy with five times more cherry blossoms than 2017.
Patrons shouldn’t miss the back room of Mockingbird Hill, which will be outfitted in hundreds of silk peonies and roses and 1,500 Monarch butterflies affixed to paper lanterns. “We’re taking bets on when the first proposal will happen,” Fox says. “Let me know if you want to buy some squares.”
Southern Efficiency brings the outside inside, according to Fox. The bar contains part of the cherry blossom canopy, plus little touches like shoji rice paper and a tiled roof that creates the effect of discovering a traditional tea house in a Japanese garden.
The former Eat The Rich space is a departure from the other bars’ flowery decor. Fox and his team were inspired by Shinjuku’s Omoide Yokochō (memory lane) that’s preserved to look like 1940’s post-war Tokyo.
Expect lit signage, painted paper lanterns, store fronts, a mural, and other installations that make it feel like you’re walking through a skinny alley. In the back you’ll encounter an enormous Godzilla that Andrew Herndon built. It’s probably pre-programmed to pose for selfies.
Customers can order from the same list of ten cocktails in all three Cherry Blossom PUB areas priced at $13 each. “This menu is approachable, crushable, delicate, and refreshing,” says Paul Taylor, Drink Company’s head of bar concepts. He’s calling upon many Japanese ingredients, techniques, and spirits.
Taylor’s take on a traditional Chu-Hai (soda, shochu, and citrus) gets a boost from toasted rice orgeat and Manzanilla sherry. It’s garnished with a citrus Rice Krispies treat. Then there’s a Cherry Blossom Gin & Tonic that gets its flavor from pickled cherry blossoms, rose water, and orange water.
Another can’t-miss is the “A God, An Alpha Predator, Godzilla” made with Nigori sake, shochu, Blanc Quinquina, and fresh honeydew juice. Customers will find a key designating how sweet each cocktail is ranging from one bee (not too sweet) to three bees (pretty sweet).
There will also be a handful of Japanese bar snacks and a selection of Japanese beer, sake, whisky, and non-alcoholic sodas.
“This is going to be our best one yet,” Brown says. Previous line-drawing PUB themes have included Game of Thrones, PUB Dread, and Christmas Bar. And this April Fools’ Day joke.
When Cherry Blossom PUB opens March 1, the hours will be Sundays-Thursdays from 5:00 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. and Fridays-Saturdays from 5:00 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
Cherry Blossom PUB, 1841 7th St. NW; popupbardc.com