What: Transfigurations, with black lime-infused Dolin Blanc Vermouth, Neisson Rhum Agricole, and dry Curaçao, garnished with grated black lime.
Where: Hazel, 808 V St. NW; (202) 847-4980; hazelrestaurant.com
What You Should Be Drinking: Black limes—which lose their water after drying out in the sun—are prized in Middle Eastern cuisine for their sour, smoky, and earthy flavor. Chef Rob Rubba uses them in both a crudo dish and a cheesecake dessert. When Neighborhood Restaurant Group operations director Peter Koll sought to incorporate a kitchen ingredient into the botanical, aperitif-heavy list, the black lime made sense. “We played around with a few different things like kaffir lime and Thai basil, but ultimately black lime really stood out,” he says. The fruit, purchased in Union Market, is smashed, added to the vermouth, refrigerated, and allowed to steep for about two days—just long enough to add bitterness. It’s then stirred with Neisson Rhum Agricole and dry Curaçao, strained, and garnished with grated black lime. Like other drinks on the cocktail menu, the name is a hat tip to Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Why You Should Be Drinking It: Citrus-forward cocktails can come across as one-note, but not so when they incorporate something as unexpected as the Persian culinary staple. “It’s super clean and really lets the complexity of the black lime show through without the bitterness,” Koll says. Infusing the fruit in delicate blanc vermouth offsets the tartness, and Rhum agricole gives it a vegetal component that matches the limes’ earthiness and fermented funkiness. Dried peels from the laraha, a Valencia orange-like fruit that’s distilled into dry Curaçao liqueur, augment the drink’s citrus taste. “Once people get it, they’re really surprised with how delicate it is and how good it is as a start to their meal,” Koll says. The best pairing might just be that aforementioned black lime-topped hamachi crudo, served with crispy rice, radish, hibiscus, and smoked yogurt.