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D.C. doesn’t have an overwhelming number of designated expat bars despite the region being home to residents from across the globe. But there are certain spots that immigrants, embassy workers, State Department staffers, and wistful millennials with fond study-abroad memories head to feel some nostalgia. How places evolve to become such respites can take time.
When Saint Petersburg-born Tatiana “Tati” Kolina opened sPACYcLOUd Lounge in Adams Morgan in 2018, Eastern Europeans started trickling in to drink Russian beers and Georgian wine at the combination restaurant and skate shop.
Little by little, Kolina leaned into it. In the upstairs area, sPACYcLOUd swapped out its vegan menu that originally drew inspiration from the Philippines and replaced it with one that’s still vegan but highlights pelmeni dumplings, stuffed cabbage, and mushroom and potato stew.
Now Kolina is going all in by converting the downstairs space into a distinct new bar. sPACy Tea and Cocktail Lounge, opening Dec. 9, is appointed with Eastern European art and will feature live musicians from the region to create what she calls a cultural hub.
Kolina isn’t oblivious to the escalating conflict gripping Eastern Europe. “My goal is to have people uniting and I know that there are lots of wars and disagreements going on over there,” she says. “I hope that sPACYcLOUd can be a place for people to come together and feel like a community.”
Drinks from bartender Luis Aliaga contain spirits from countries like Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. Many of them will be infused with different varieties of tea. Overall, Kolina and general manager Kendrick Jackson are going for a relaxed vibe.
Earlier this year, Casa Kantuta, popped up in the same space and gave D.C. a helping of Bolivian hospitality. Kolina says she admires how the organizers, Carla and Juan Sanchez, brought their community together and showcased their country through art, music, and cocktails. They provided a road map for Kolina who seeks to similarly celebrate Eastern Europe with her new permanent venture.
Aliaga is establishing himself as an expert on Latin spirits in D.C. and was a natural fit to design the drinks for the Bolivian pop-up, but Kolina asked if he was up to exploring beverages from a new part of the world. He signed on and started researching spirits, traditions, and ingredients.
“The first round, we are celebrating six countries: Georgia, Armenia, Belarus, Lithuania, Russia, and Ukraine,” Kolina says. Georgia is close to Kolina’s heart. “When I was little I used to travel there,” she says. “It’s very dear to me. … Lou is so creative. He did research into history and came up with really cool names for the drinks. He’s magical.”
Aliaga, who is also known as Lou Bernard and serves as the beverage director at Roy Boys, makes a “Georgian Sour” with Georgian chacha and a “Belarus Fruit-Tini” with Belarusian vodka. One of the six opening cocktails he’s most proud of is the “Vytis Strudel” containing potato vodka, double-strained applesauce, honey, lemon, rose water, and a cinnamon sugar rim. Apple orchards dot Lithuania’s landscape. The Russian beer and Georgian wine bartenders have been pouring will stick around.
There may be a few snacks downstairs at sPACy Tea and Cocktail Lounge, but those who want a full meal and non-alcoholic beverages will have to go upstairs, Kolina says. The bar will be open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to midnight, Fridays and Saturdays from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Reservations can be made online. Walk-ins are also welcome.
sPACy Tea and Cocktail Lounge, 2309 18th St. NW; (703) 403-4134; spacycloud.com