Credit: Darrow Montgomery

“You’ve got to be a crazy motherfucker to open a sherry bar,” Derek Brown said this summer, when he and his business partner Angie Salame opened sherry and ham bar Mockingbird Hill in Shaw. Brown, also of The Passenger and Columbia Room, wants to make sherry cool again—and convince drinkers that the fortified Spanish wine has a lot more variety and nuance than the sickly sweet stuff your grandmother drank. This year, Brown was one of a number of bar owners around the city hoping to educate drinkers about lesser-known or underappreciated spirits by opening establishments with large collections devoted to them. Libertine in Adams Morgan offers more than 30 varieties of absinthe, Ambar on Barracks Row has the city’s largest collection of rakia (made from distilled fermented fruit), while El Centro D.F.’s new Georgetown location boasts more than 225 tequilas and 45 mezcals. Vodka never seemed so boring.