All photos Laura Hayes
All photos Laura Hayes

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Walk into Shaw’s new nameless basement bar when it opens next Wednesday and the soundtrack from an old Western movie might play in your head. The 25-seat cocktail den from long-time property developer and first-time bar owner Stephen Lawrence takes decor notes from saloons and log cabins.

The atmosphere will be, above all else, romantic, thanks to the jazz duo playing Miles Davis covers in the corner and an old fireplace that will generate wood-burning heat in the winter. “It’s an original coal-burning fireplace from 130 years ago that we had to repurpose,” Lawrence says. “We just lit it up for the first time in 80 years.”

Lawrence has owned the building since 2006. He has since turned the upper floors into apartments but waited to open the subterranean bar until the neighborhood developed a bit more. Previously, the spot “was an after hours Ethiopian bar that never really took off from the same owners as Zenebech next door,” he says. The Ethiopian restaurant recently relocated to Adams Morgan, but Lawrence still remembers walking in one day to find Zenebech’s owner butchering a whole lamb that hung from the ceiling. 

Lawrence has a personal connection to many of the bar’s design elements. For example, some of the wood in the space came from the kitchen floor of his grandmother’s house, which he salvaged after the house was torn down. Incarcerated youth, whom his brother works with at a facility in Maryland, turned old rifles into a light installation in the shape of a peace sign. “You don’t really notice it. You discover it,” Lawrence says. “Everything here is about discovery.”

Find Michael Wetterauer and Bryan Tate behind the bar. The cocktail menu consists of 12 drinks, each named  for their lead spirit. The one featuring brandy combines Copper and Kings Butchertown American Brandy, homemade apple cider, rosemary, ginger and lemon. Wetterauer says they’re toying with serving it warm or cold. 

A fun sake cocktail contains four kinds of wine—Junmai Ginjo sake, plum wine, Blanc de Blancs Brut Cuvee, and Copertino Italian red wine—plus lemon and Cynar. Think of it as a more polished version of the firewater you made after raiding your parents’ liquor cabinet. The full cocktail menu is below.

Cocktails, for the most part, cost $12 to $14, with a few $16 outliers. Most are served over ice blocks the bartenders’ carve behind the bar using what Lawrence says is a “hand-made family knife that was once used to chop hogs during barbecues back in North Carolina.”

The drink menu will change monthly based on what fruits and vegetables are available at area farmers markets. A small selection of beer and wine will also be offered. Food will be limited to snacks like nuts, olives, breadsticks, cheese, chocolate, and charcuterie. Lawrence eventually wants to host private events like classes and pairing dinners.

When the bar opens Nov. 22 at 600 T St. NW, it will operate Wednesdays through Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m.

RUM Ron Matusalem Platino Rum, Beet, Lime, Grapefruit, Allspice, Yellow Chartreuse

SAKE ( 4 wine cocktail) Junmai Ginjo Sake, Plum Wine, Blanc de Blancs Brut Cuvee, Copertino Italian Red Wine, Lemon, Cynar

BRANDY Copper and Kings Butchertown American Brandy, Homemade Apple Cider, Rosemary, Ginger, Lemon

RYE High West Campfire Rye, Roosevelt Island Pine Needles, Black Walnut 

BOURBON Noah’s Mill Bourbon, Peach liquer, Chipotle, Lemon

VODKA Hansons of Sonoma grape based vodka, Blackberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Pomegranate, Lillet Rouge, Lime

GIN St. George Dry Rye Reposado Gin, Dillons Unfiltered Gin, Yellow Chartreuse Strawberry, Orgeat, Lemon

MEZCAL Ilegal Joven Mezcal, Bell Pepper, Agave, Basil, Lime

SCOTCH Highland Park 12 Year, Carrot, Cilantro, Jalapeño, Himalayan Sea Salt, Lemon, Egg White

AMARO Averna, Lemon, Ginger

TEQUILA Partida Blanco, Cucumber, Lime, Yellow Chartreuse 

SHOCHU Mizu Shochu, Persimmon, Citrus, Soda