I recently went out to celebrate a friend’s birthday with dinner at Via Tribunali followed by drinks at Tavern Law. Tavern Law is the latest “speakeasy style” bar to open up on Capitol Hill. When I think of a speakeasy, I imagine someplace secret or at the very least subtle. Someplace dark and quiet you could pop into for a cocktail and go unnoticed. In many ways, Tavern Law has none of that: instead of mysterious and quiet, it is bustling, loud and completely accessible. It is a very open space with high ceilings, tall bookshelves lining the walls and an over-sized mahogany bar that curves around the entirety of the main room.

But, wait. What is this strange phone doing on the wall? Pick it up and, if you’re lucky, you might be buzzed into the secret and secluded upstairs bar! Follow a dimly lit wooden stairwell lined with vintage nude photos to find an intimate bar with small tables nestled about. Personalized service and hushed voices are the atmosphere here. The upstairs bar feels like a hidden oasis and makes the downstairs bar seem downright rowdy by comparison.

The cocktail menu at Tavern Law is extensive, with drinks divvied up between fizzes, cups, punches and more. There is a helpful glossary at the back of the menu in case you want to learn the histories of these various types of cocktails. Many of the drinks are classics (for these, the menu lists the dates and locations where the drink was made famous.) Most, however, are original cocktails inspired by the classics. Fresh ingredients and traditional (at times obscure) spirits are used liberally. Tavern Law also has a short food menu, consisting mostly of small bites designed to go perfectly with that hand-crafted cocktail.

I’m easily overwhelmed by lengthy cocktail menus so I decided to order the very first drink that caught my eye: Farewell Romeo. This cocktail features Tequila, Strega, lemon and orange juice. It is shaken with ice, strained into an attractive martini glass and topped off with a spoonful of red wine (in this case, a fruity Tempranillo.) It was a beautiful drink – golden in color with a thin layer of deep red at the top. I feared that the wine might clash with the other ingredients, but it actually provided a nice aftertaste. It was like a super-strong sangria. Delicious!

My second drink was equally tasty despite having a somewhat odd list of ingredients. The Red Rum Daisy consists of rum, muddled red bell pepper, lime, ginger and a splash of grenadine. This drink is sweet, sour, spicy, and vegetal all at once. It was spicy enough that I wondered if they might have thrown some cayenne in there, but the waitress informed me it was only red bell pepper and ginger. This certainly isn’t a drink for everyone, but it was a highlight for me.

So far, Tavern Law seems like a great addition to the neighborhood. Drinks are on the expensive side; quality ingredients and craftsmanship are never cheap. I especially appreciate that Tavern Law has a little something for everyone. If you like an approachable place with lots of people, great cocktails and a fun atmosphere, swing by the main bar. If you are like me, and prefer a quieter hideout in which to enjoy your hand-crafted drink, check out the “speakeasy” upstairs.

1 Comment »

  1. but what happens when we everyone wants to be upstairs?

    Comment by Philip Swanstrom Shaw — September 16, 2009 @ 12:59 pm

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