When the new Columbia Room (124 Blagden Alley, NW) opens its doors early next week, guests will enter a warm space evocative of a classic study with thoughtful design elements and stylish surprises at every turn. Today, leading spirits and cocktail expert Derek Brown unveils the first look at the Columbia Room’s newly constructed interior.
From the curved burl wood bar in the eponymous tasting room to the weathered tufted leather armchairs in the 22-seat Spirits Library to the reach-out-and-touch-it malachite print wallpaper in the lavatories, the revamped version of the premier cocktail bar is all understated opulence.
Of particular note is the stunning, large-scale custom Italian tile mosaic that serves as both the centerpiece and insignia for the tasting room. Stately glass cabinets and angular mirrored side tables lend the cozy Spirits Library a polished feel, while retro-inspired seating will fill the outdoor Punch Garden, slated to open this Spring.
The Columbia Room’s seasonal drink and food offerings are as sumptuous as the surroundings, where in the tasting room, ticketed patrons will enjoy three- or five-course pairing menus featuring cocktails crafted from ingredients such as house-made kelp water and walnut-infused port, matched with food such as uni buttered toast and venison carpaccio. Against the backdrop of the vast mosaic mural — sourced from Ravenna, Italy — the tasting room seats 14 in plush nailhead chairs, with each place setting adorned with a heated frankincense-scented hand towel.
In the woodsy, masculine Spirits Library, open shelving and an intimate floorplan allow for guests to see clearly and discourse openly about all that they taste, from the 20 featured menu cocktails to rare spirits, such as pre-1960s Cuban Rum or Napolean-era Cognac. The upcoming Punch Garden offers a panoramic view of the Washington skyline and will be framed by planter boxes containing fresh herbs to be used in the Columbia Room cocktail program.
Columbia Room’s world-class signature cocktails are crafted via innovative techniques, including clarifying liquids in a centrifuge, producing house-made mineral water and filtering spirits through charcoal. The Robert Frost Cocktail, for example — a mix of bourbon, amontillado sherry, white port and orange bitters — is served with a glowing ember of sugar maple charcoal on the side.
“We love our new space, and are obsessive about the drinks we create, but service is top of mind for myself and my team,” says Brown. “One of our mantras is that we’re not serving cocktails — we’re serving people. Columbia Room is about giving guests the opportunity to spend time together to talk and to laugh and to celebrate while enjoying our cocktails and food in a space that is both well-appointed and warm.”