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Underserved is a recurring Y&H feature highlighting the best cocktails you’re not ordering.
What: Bolivianita with Rujero Singani brandy, lime, celery, and white grape
Where: Bourbon Steak, 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
What You Should Be Drinking New lead bartender Torrence Swain likes to build drinks that tug at his past. His most recent jolt of nostalgic inspiration came from two unlikely sips: celery soda and Rujero Singani, a Bolivian brandy that tastes like pisco or a light-bodied tequila. “I grew up drinking Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda, so when I was tasting the spirit, I thought it would be awesome to create Dr. Brown’s as a cocktail,” Swain says. Muscatel of Alexandria grapes used to produce the Bolivian brandy grow at a high elevation on the Rujero River, where they intertwine with peppercorn trees. “When you drink it, you definitely get a white pepper aftertaste, a lot of citrus and floral notes,” Swain says. These savory notes inspired him to make celery syrup boosted by salt and turmeric. White grape juice, lime, and club soda round out Bolivianita, named for a two-toned stone from Bolivia.
Why You Should Be Drinking It Imbibers don’t order the Bolivianita because of the celery, according to Swain, but even the staunchest celery hater (raises hand) could drink this cocktail dry. What you taste instead of a stalky vegetable is the funky brandy, a pleasant brininess from the celery syrup, and a lot of lime. This tricks your taste buds into thinking you’re sipping a margarita/mojito lovechild, thanks to the carbonation and sprig of mint garnish. It’s the definition of refreshing, which is why Swain recommends ordering it as an intermezzo to reset your palate between courses. If you can’t get past the celery but want to experience the peppery Bolivian brandy, there’s one other drink on the menu that showcases it. The Singroni, made photo-worthy by a garnish of white flowers and a blood orange and peppercorn ice cube, puts Singani front and center.
Photo by Laura Hayes