DC Harvest’s Under the Radar, Inventive Cocktail Program

DC Harvest’s cocktail program has been reinvented by bar manager Matthew Fisk, formerly of Daikaya, Ripple and Proof. Fisk has morphed the H Street spot into one of the more under the radar spots in the District where you can go to find something truly inventive in your glass.

Fisk has what you might either call an obsession to, or a geeky devotion with, the finer points of creating drinks. We’re talking, for instance, about filtering tap water and then reinserting your own minerality levels before using that water to create a house-made bar syrup. That level of dedication plays out in several of DC Harvest’s popular beverages.

Take the Buffalo Told Ya, essentially an Old Fashioned made with what Fisk calls “boosted” Ancient Age bourbon. Here, he takes a case of bourbon, soaks it with charcoal — essentially echoing, albeit post-aging, Tennessee whiskey’s Lincoln County Process — filters it, and then adds a concoction of 15 different herbs and flavorings until he perfected the formula he wanted for whiskey used solely for this cocktail. It’s the most popular drink on the menu, and he runs through a full batch of his “boosted” bourbon each week.

In the DC Harvest Negroni Sbagliato, rather than using Prosecco, Campari and sweet vermouth, Fisk mixes 1 liter of Contratto Bitter and 4 liters of Contratto Aperitif in place of the Campari, and mixes that with equal parts vermouth and sparkling wine. It’s a softer, less bitter cocktail, closer to an Aperol Spritz, as a comparison.

In his Que Hora Son?, a play on the Paloma cocktail, he first clarifies grapefruit juice, filtering it into a flavorful grapefruit water of sorts. Then, he batches that with tequila, honey, salt, Aperol, and a house phosphate soda, before carbonating it with a DIY contraption to serve. You get the grapefruit of the Paloma, in an airy, refreshing beverage, with the type of salty background you would get if the salt rim on your margarita had already started to run off into your drink.

In the Swampoodle Mai Tai, he uses house-made orgeat and falernum syrups, with two types of rum, triple dry, sherry and lime, to craft a an on-point, crisp Tiki drink over crushed ice that’s far removed from the colorful and syrupy-overloads you may be used to having.

The Gin Raspberry Sour Gel is essentially a grown up jello shot, made with high-end ingredients and served to you on a plate as if it were a fancy tasting menu dessert. Pick it up and scarf it down… and order a few more before they run out for the evening.

DC Harvest still retains a local focus with its bar program — one of the rums used in that Mai Tai is from Lyon Distilling, for instance, and Green Hat Gin and assorted other local spirits can be found behind the bar — but Fisk has also branched out beyond the immediate vicinity to provide a more robust collection of ingredients and staples. That’s all in addition to his own tirelessly experimental approach, of course.

Weeknight happy hour, from 5:30 to 7pm, offers an especially good deal, knocking back the price on some of their most popular cocktails, including the Buffalo Told Ya, to just $6, while offering tasty bar bites like a plate of savory bacon and cheese stuffed doughnuts, basically soft fritters with a creole mustard dipping sauce, or lamb sausage sliders on potato buns with tomato jam.

DC Harvest is located on H Street NE between 5th & 6th St. Visit DC-Harvest.com for the full menu and other details.

Author: Jake Emen

I’m Jake, and I’m your host on this journey. I'm the man doing the eating and the talking around here. I’m a writer based outside of Washington, D.C., and I'm also talking whiskey, local events, travel, and other assorted misadventures. Follow me on the Tweet Machine - @ManTalkFood, or send an email to jake [at] mantalkfood.com.

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