Chris Hassaan Francke, a consultant for the World Bank, first started getting serious about his cocktails with a “speakeasy” in his apartment in the fall of 2013. He’s also half-Iraqi via Lebanon, half-American: “I grew up eating Arabic food, so I thought there must be a way to combine these flavors that I grew up with into cocktails.”
Francke’s initial thought was to start a cocktail bar in Beirut, where he visits two or three times a year. “But that’s an entirely different game,” he says. “That’s an issue of changing the entire drinking culture there.”
Instead, Francke graduated from his apartment to a pop-up serving Middle Eastern-inspired cocktails in D.C. bars. His venture, the Green Zone, has popped up at Black Whiskey, Vendetta, and Room 11 within the past year. And now, it’s making its way to Park View “pop-uppery” EatsPlace. Francke will serve his drinks two nights a week for four weeks, beginning June 23 and 24 at 5 p.m. Kafta Burgers will simultaneously be taking over EatsPlace’s front patio for the next month, grilling up Middle Eastern-inspired burgers.
Francke makes his own bitters and syrups using ingredients like cardamom, allspice, sour cherry pits, rose, and saffron. One of his signature cocktails is the Fuck ISIS punch, which consists of two types of rums, Vimto (a British soft drink that’s popular throughout the Middle East), lemon juice, and homemade bitters.
“My Iraqi family is very secular… ISIS represents everything that is antithetical to me,” Francke says of the name. “All my repeat customers, that’s often the first thing they have. Or if it’s not the first thing they have, they make sure to have one.”
The menu will also include the Rivas Julep (seen above), which gets its name from the Persian word for rhubarb and also includes lime juice, rye, rose water, and mint over crushed ice. One of Francke’s newer creations is an alcoholic twist on a blended mint lemonade, which is popular throughout the Arab world. The mint is blended into the drink giving a green glow, and Francke plans to spike his with vodka and serve it on the rocks. All the cocktails are $11.
The Green Zone will also serve Lebanese red, white, and rosé wines, a Lebanese beer, and arak—a spirit distilled from grapes and flavored with anise. The drinks are accompanied by free little snacks like nuts and pickles, as they would traditionally be in Lebanon.
Francke says his goal is to eventually open up his own bar in D.C., but he still needs to work on a creating a business plan and getting investment. “I’m psychologically ready for it,” he says. “I’ve been wanting to do something like this for years and years and years.”
Take a look at the draft menu (subject to change) below. Follow the Green Zone’s schedule at EatsPlace on its Facebook page.
Photo of the Rivas Julep by Chris Hassaan Francke