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A bar’s liquor shelf is a great place to make friends. Though I spend the most time with my comrades in the vodka section, I’ve been known to occasionally hang in the barrio with Señor Sauza or with George Dickel and Jim Beam in brown-liquor country. The one part of town you’ll seldom catch me in, however, is Rum Row, where pirates still laugh at a college freshman who celebrated the New Year by drinking a half-liter of Captain Morgan and wondering why he was retching at midnight instead of…well, let’s just say my other options were limited. But rum has its place, such as at this evening’s Great Rum Punch Challenge. Now, rum punch made of rum, water, citrus juices, sugar, and spices is a different beast entirely from your modern-day, Technicolor Bacardi product. It was a popular libation in colonial Alexandria, when Gadsby’s Tavern was central to the town’s social and political life. Tonight, the tavern and museum will be pitting seven different concoctions from local distilleries, restaurants, and caterers against one another, with the winner to be determined by vote. Could there be any purer a celebration of democracy, any greater a liberty than getting shitfaced where George Washington drank? Celebrate freedom at 7 p.m. at Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, 134 N. Royal St., Alexandria. $50– $100. For reservations call (703) 838-4242. (Chris Hagan)