Location: Ping Pong Dim Sum, 900 7th St. NW
Bartender response: “Sure.”
What we got: An elderflower saketini, with elderflower liqueur, sake, gin, and orange bitters, served up.
How it tasted: Gross. Our bartender was too heavy-handed on the elderflower liqueur, which rendered the drink far too fragrant and flowery. There was only a hint of the sake’s acidity, and the gin and orange bitters vanished entirely. We left this one on the table.
Improv points (1-5): 1. We’ll generously give a point for a smart slate of ingredients. This drink could’ve been good were its components poured in proportion. For something supposedly based around rice wine, it only brought to mind cheap perfume.
Location: Toki Underground, 1234 H St. NE
Bartender response: “Yeah, we’ve got a good one.”
What we got: An Osaka 75, with gin, lemon juice, sugar, and sparkling sake.
How it tasted: Sweet and herbaceous, thanks to the gin, with just a little bit of effervescence from the sparkling rice booze. The sake was an accent, not the main feature, so the flavor wasn’t particularly strong.
Improv points (1-5): 1. While accurately meeting the specifics of our request, this drink was more about the gin. The sake was merely a co-star. We were hoping the stuff would feature more prominently.
Location: Ripple, 3417 Connecticut Ave. NW
Bartender response: “A what? A bomb?”
What we got: Two ounces of Tozai sake with fresh lime juice and house-made ginger beer, served on the rocks in an absinthe-rinsed glass, garnished with a lime twist
How it tasted: Tart, slightly fizzy and refreshing with a palpable but not overpowering anise flavor on the back end.
Improv points (1-5): 4. We’ll award one point for the sheer fact that Ripple even serves sake. Who knew? Add another for the Green Fairy pairing—we don’t see that too often. And let’s tack on another two for our bartender clearly coming up with this on the fly and, more importantly, it isn’t terrible.