Bartender: Phil Anova

Where: Mandu, 453 K St. NW

Mystery Ingredient: Ground sumac

Bartender Response: “I thought it was kind of cool. I’ve never worked with it before; I’ve only had it on lamb,” he said.

What We Got: Anova steeped the sumac as if it was a tea to create a “sumac water.” A lemon wedge spritzed in reinforced the spice’s tartness. He then added the liquid to a mixture of Pimm’s, Campari, and simple syrup.

How It Tasted: The sumac’s distinctive smell hit me first: citrusy, with some savory funkiness. But in Anova’s hands, a spice that’s often used on grilled meats seemed totally at home in a spring cocktail. Pimm’s mellowed out the sumac water, and the whole thing was a little bit sweet and a little bit bitter. It’s the kind of drink you’d want to order again, immediately.

Improv Points (1 to 5): 5. Steeping the sumac was a neat idea, and the cocktail toed the line between savory and sweet in an interesting way. “I wanted to make the sumac stand out,” Anova said. Consider it done.


1 ounce Pimm’s

1/2 ounce Campari

A splash of simple syrup to taste

1.5 ounces sumac water*

Lemon twist

Combine the above ingredients in a lowball glass with one big ice cube. Garnish with a lemon twist.

*To make sumac water, add one tablespoon sumac in two cups hot water. Steep for five minutes. Strain liquid through a coffee filter. Spritz lemon juice from one lemon wedge into the sumac water.

Got an idea for the next mystery ingredient? Share it in the comments.