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Where: Napoleon Bistro & Lounge, 1847 Columbia Road NW
Bartender Response: “I can make an Irish coffee.”
What We Got: An Irish coffee made with coffee, Jameson whiskey, and Bailey’s Irish Cream, and topped with whipped cream.
How It Tasted: Despite the sweetness of the cream, the strong coffee and strong whiskey provided a surprising kick.
Improv Points (1–5): 4. A warm ingredient like coffee is an important step. We’ve certainly been served a lot of whiskey in this city, but this is first time a bar suggested coffee and liquor together at 9 p.m.
Where: Policy, 1904 14th St. NW
Bartender response: “So something strong?”
What we got: Maker’s Mark bourbon, Dolin sweet vermouth, Solerno Blood Orange liqueur, bitters, and a maraschino cherry.
How It Tasted: Close to a Manhattan, but the bartender reduced the vermouth and added Solerno, an orange liqueur. The fruitier flavor made for a less stiff alternative.
Improv Points (1–5): 2. A very good drink, but its lighter flavor is better for summertime. Serving it ice-cold made it a poor antidote to a freezing night.
Where: Tryst, 2459 18th St. NW
Bartender Response: “We’ve got a mulled wine.” We asked for an alternative.
What We Got: Lion’s Share Cider with Swedish Punsch, Johnny Drum bourbon, lime, and hot cider
How It Tasted: Swedish Punsch is a sugar cane-based, grown-up grog that’s also got rum and spices. The cider base was amplified by the lime and made boozier by the bourbon.
Improv Points (1–5): 4. This is one of a couple warm drinks on Tryst’s cocktail menu. Cider is often little more than warmed apple juice and alcohol, but we enjoyed the more complex flavors of Tryst’s variation.