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Bartender JP Caceres is still fighting his immigration battle, but two weeks ago he had a victory: A D.C. judge found him not guilty of simple assault and other charges that had landed him an immigration detention center last December. Caceres will still be forced to return to his native Bolivia by May 20, but he is in the process of applying for an O Visa—available to people of extraordinary ability—that would allow him to then return to the U.S. In the meantime, Caceres is as busy as ever creating cocktails. In fact, since news of his deportation fight broke, he’s signed a number of new clients who are eager to have him work for them before he’s forced to leave.
Among those new clients is Thai restaurant Soi 38, opening next week from owners Nat Ongsangkoon and Dia Khanthongthip. The couple already own an Americanized Thai restaurant called Thai Place in Foggy Bottom, where they tried, unsuccessfully, to introduce diners to more authentic Thai food beyond pad Thai and panang curry. At Soi 38, however, they’re be focusing exclusively on the foods they actually cook at at home and experienced in their native Bangkok. The restaurant gets its name from a famous street food district and night market in Bangkok.
Caceres is integrating Thai ingredients into his cocktails. And he’s got every recent drink trend covered: bottled cocktails, draft cocktails, even tea pot punch. The latter beverage, served in a tea pot, incorporates Thai tea—plus whiskey, lemon juice, tamarind syrup, and chili bitters. The menu also features five mocktails. (Take a look at photos of the drinks below.)
Meanwhile, Caceres says he’s recently consulted with The Carolina Kitchen and is working on cocktail menus for MXDC and Lebanese Taverna next. For the long term, he’s in the process of building an artisan ice, syrup, and tonics business that would provide cocktail ingredients to bars, restaurants, and caterers.
Even when Caceres does go back to Bolivia (temporarily or not), he plans to continue his cocktail consultancy from afar. He’s extended the company to fellow bartenders Kevin Rogers and Glendon Hartley, who will help run things in his absence and communicate with him through Skype. Bolivia may hold some opportunities, too, as Caceres awaits the fate of his visa: Some TV producers there have approached him about starring in a cocktail-related show.
Check out photos and descriptions of some of the cocktails at Soi 38 below.
Thai Manhattan with Rittenhouse Rye, Pu’erh tea-infused vermouth, chili, and aromatic bitters ($13):
Pretty Little Lime with Fords Gin, kaffir lime-infused vermouth, orange bitters ($13):
The Emperor’s Punch (serves four) with Monkey Shoulder Whiskey, lemon, housemade tamarind syrup, Thai herbal tea, and chili aromatic bitters ($35):
Menehune’s Pankiller (in two sizes) with Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum, Neisson Agricole Rhum, housemade coconut orgeat syrup, pineapple, orange, and yuzu ($18/$12):
Lemon Lotus with Thai basil and cilantro-infused Tito’s vodka, Patron Citronage, lemon, and housemade strawberry syrup ($12):
Non-alcoholic lemon lemongrass fizz with fresh lemon, housemade lemongrass syrup, and soda water ($5):
Non-alcoholic Lime Ginger Fizz with fresh lime, housemade ginger spiced syrup, lemongrass syrup, and soda water ($5):
Soi 38, 2101 L St. NW; (202) 558-9215; soi38dc.com
Photos by Jessica Sidman