Lamine N’dour and Chris Arthur sought a creative outlet to help them cope with the turmoil of 2020. Between the pandemic and protesting police killings, D.C. was electric with tension. The legalization of to-go cocktails spurred the two local entrepreneurs to experiment with selling frozen drinks, even if they first tested their future District Daiquiri brand in New York.
Both N’dour and Arthur were familiar with the world of cocktails, having both been bartenders for years in the D.C. area. They participated in the Midnite BBQ pop-up circuit, and N’dour was one of the original co-founders of the venture. Midnite BBQ melded music, barbecue, and cocktails with the hopes of encouraging up-and-coming artists and entrepreneurs to mingle. When the pandemic halted Midnite BBQ events, N’dour, a Brown University graduate, started looking for new business ventures.
He went to Brooklyn with his girlfriend in March 2020 with the hopes of collecting his thoughts and making a new career move. Meanwhile, Arthur was still in D.C., bouncing from one idea to the next, as he too was feeling burnt out. When N’dour heard hospitality businesses could sell various alcoholic beverages to go, it hit him: People would enjoy frozen beverages, especially in the heat of summer, packaged in containers with cool branding.
“I had actually made a successful partnership with a popular Haitian cafe in Brooklyn,” N’dour says. “Unfortunately, it was like it just didn’t get the same love and attention that we knew it could get here.” The pair believed D.C. would be a better market.
The atmosphere in D.C. was so socially charged at the time that the demand for small businesses, especially ones that were Black-owned, became a movement all its own. “District Daiquiri is a brand that the community adopted during COVID,” Arthur says. “We have customers who love to take pics with our cups and materials. Things that have our logo on it.” N’dour adds, “We want District Daiquiri to be synonymous with a cool lounge atmosphere that houses fun adult drinks.”
Though it didn’t have a name yet, the business made its local debut the weekend of Juneteenth in 2020 at the Moechella festival and at DCity Smokehouse. They sold $2,500 in frozen cocktails in just two hours at the event. The drinks seemed to fit right in with the vibe of the weekend.
By the time DCity Smokehouse started serving the drinks alongside their regular menu on a steady basis, District Daiquiri had a name and a growing reputation. Both businesses are Black-owned. Once the partnership proved popular and profitable, N’dour and Arthur set out to bring their pop-up to other locations.
Fans can find District Daiquiri pop-ups at three locations: DCity Smokehouse (203 Florida Ave. NW), The District Sports Bar (900 Florida Ave. NW), and Sol Mexican Grill (1251 H St. NE). Starting next week, District Daiquiri will also pop-up up at Bin 1301 (1301 U St. NW).
You can order them at DCity Smokehouse daily from 2 to 11 p.m., Sol Mexican Grill from 4 to 10 p.m. daily except on Mondays and Wednesdays, and District Sports Bar from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily except for Mondays and Wednesdays. Patrons can take the drinks to go.
District Daiquiri considers Sol Mexican Grill its headquarters. It’s there that the duo has the most control over the business model and space. Customers find that the frozen drinks pair well with the restaurant’s tacos. N’dour says there are plans in the works to renovate the top floor, transforming it into a lounge.
There are four staple flavors available and District Daiquiri sometimes introduces seasonal or holiday specials. The MelonIn features honeydew melon and rum; the Blue Hawaiian swirls piña colada and blue raspberry with rum; Uncle’s Iced Tea is half lemonade and half tea mixed with Uncle Nearest’s whiskey; and Brown Skin Honey is the brand’s take on a strawberry margarita “with a kick.”
Each drink is named after an inspirational aspect of the “Black experience” from the beauty of Black women to influential icons and cultures. N’dour is responsible for the names, while the drinks are Arthur’s recipes. The are five sizes ranging from 16 ounces ($13) to a full gallon ($80.)
On any given day you can catch one or both of the founders at one of their locations lending the staff a helping hand, talking the customers, or quietly observing people enjoy their drinks.
The founders are open to giving District Daiquiri a brick-and-mortar home, but aren’t sure if D.C.’s the place. “I would love to try the concept in California and Atlanta,” Arthur says. “California for the beach vibes and Atlanta because that is one the meccas of Black business right now.” N’dour adds, “The plan is to eventually expand to warmer climates. I think a brick-and-mortar would be the ideal in another state. Here the pop-up idea is better.”
They’re already taking their business on the road. District Daiquiri will serve drinks at the Hieroglyphics’ annual festival in Oakland, California. From there, they will “chase the sun,” making a trek to Miami and possibly Atlanta, to suss out various opportunities. Locally, they’re looking forward to the H Street Festival scheduled for September 18.
“Ultimately, we want District Daiquiri to be a brand synonymous with adult fun,” N’dour says. “Almost like Dave and Buster’s. … When you hear the name, you know what you’re getting. That’s what we want for District Daiquiri.” Arthur adds, “Personally, I would love to partner with other DMV businesses, but I dream big so I’m interested in seeing how things could work in Atlanta, Miami, and California.”
District Daiquiri, multiple locations; districtdaiquiri.com