City Paper is not for tourists
Brain freezes will abound at Electric Cool-Aid, opening Monday, July 20 in a zhuzhed up lot in Shaw. The outdoor bar from Angela DelBrocco and brothers Ben and Jesse Schwartz features six frozen drink machines, and those looking for a jolt can order frozen Red Bull with an alcohol of their choice.
Find the frozen drink garden with splashy murals at 512 Rhode Island Ave. NW, where Mr. P’s Ribs and Fish barbecue bus once parked. Its owner, Fate Pittman, died in 2015. DelBrocco says her team initially planned to use the bus as a bar, but that’s on hold until the city eases its restrictions that prohibit customers from walking up and placing orders. During Phase 2 of reopening restaurant and bar patrons must be served at tables.
The trio of owners named the bar after Tom Wolfe‘s 1968 book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, which chronicled the cross-country, drug-fueled journey of Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters. Their vehicle of choice was a colorful school bus. “We thought of that fun psychedelic school bus and how it matched our fun and laid back groovy atmosphere,” DelBrocco says. They swapped “Kool” with “cool” to draw attention to their focus on frozen drinks.
Three of the frozen drinks come with alcohol mixed in—Irish coffee, Dole Whip colada, and frosé—while the other three are spirit free. Customers can choose to add alcohol to an orange-flavored base, a ginger and lime-flavored mule base, and the frozen Red Bull. Those with alcohol cost $11 while the non-alcoholic frozen drinks cost $7. There’s also an option to pay $3 for what DelBrocco calls “sample slurps.”
In addition to frozen drinks, Electric Cool-Aid will serve a variety of canned beverages including beer, hard seltzer, wine, and cocktails. Those who don’t want to take a seat on premises will be able to order drinks for take out.
Electric Cool-Aid is partnering with local food trucks and restaurants. Find Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken there on opening night, as well as on Thursdays and Fridays. Swizzler, known for its hot dogs and hamburgers, will be there on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The other days will feature “a rotating cast of characters” that’s still being determined. Good Humor ice cream treats will also be sold.
Ben Schwartz most recently bartended at Ivy & Coney and Espita. His brother, Jesse, worked for Drink Company, as did DelBrocco, whose resume also includes stops at Nellie’s Sports Bar and Ghibellina. Opening a bar during a pandemic presented challenges beyond not being able to utilize Mr. P’s bus. The trip had to saw long beer hall tables in half so that they only sit six people, the current party size limit in Phase 2 of the District’s reopening plan.
With tables spaced six feet apart, DelBrocco says they can seat a maximum of about 120 people, but they don’t expect to fill up right away. While not pictured above, the tables are equipped with umbrellas for shade. The bar will be open Mondays through Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.; 3 p.m. to midnight on Fridays; noon to midnight on Saturdays; and noon to 10:30 p.m. on Sundays.
“We live a block away,” says DelBrocco. “We see this as an extension of our backyard. That’s how we want it to feel. You’re at a friend’s party. It’s casual.”
Electric Cool-Aid, 512 Rhode Island Ave. NW; electriccool-aid.com