EXPERIMENTAL COCKTAIL CAVE DRAM & GRAIN RETURNS TO ADAMS MORGAN

Dram & Grain, Adams Morgan’s cult cocktail cellar from the whiskey-loving team behind Jack Rose Dining Saloon, makes a triumphant comeback tonight with a fresh lineup of originals and reimagined classics.

Its new location next door to the original takes up the lower level of sibling spot the Imperial, the towering corner restaurant known for its raw bar towers and mid-Atlantic cooking since 2019 (2001 18th Street NW). Unlike the first Dram & Grain, which leaned into modern speakeasy tropes like text message reservations, a cramped wooden look, and unmarked basement door when it opened under Jack Rose in 2014, the updated interaction promises to be less secretive and more fun. That means more seating options, good tunes, and a soaring bar that’s stocked for whatever mood strikes.

“There is an interesting, cerebral menu that has a lot of stories behind it,” says co-owner Stephen King. “But at the same time, we will not shy away from pouring you a vodka tonic or an espresso martini or a shot and a beer.”

To start, Dram & Grain 2.0 is open for service on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 7 p.m. to midnight. Reservations can be made on Resy, and walk-ins are available.

Overseeing the revamped bar is Leighton Bagley, who arrived at The Imperial from Charleston, South Carolina a year ago. He brings with him a list of mixology accolades, including placing in the top 23 of Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender competition in 2024 and 2022.

“I just think D.C. is absolutely insane, I love it here.” says Bagley, of his new home. “The diversity in food and cocktails is just next-level.”

His opening menu dubbed “Grain Experiment” takes tips from the bar’s name. Drinks highlight grains of all sorts, with options ranging from amaranth-infused gin fizz, to a caipirinha made with quinoa cachaca and an Old Fashioned that features sorghum Mexican whiskey and corn liqueur. There’s also farro vodka and buckwheat paired with mezcal.

After a conversation with the Imperial’s chef Chris Reynolds, Bagley found himself diving deep into research, trial, and error.

“After my shift that night, I went down a four-hour rabbit hole on YouTube about ancient grains and different cooking techniques,” he says. “It was fun to figure out how to get buckwheat into something. Even quinoa, being so small, how can I get it to release oils?”

The result of all the efforts of the past months is a series of featured cocktails with wide appeal and drink descriptions that are written without too much detail.

“If people don’t want to talk about it and just want to get cocktails, it’s not thrown in their face,” Bagley says.

Of course, guests are encouraged to engage staff to fill in the blanks on the geekier components of specific ingredients or techniques. Like, for example, how duck fat-washed barley shochu and plum come together to create a new-look Manhattan.

The team decided to give customers somewhat of a break by pricing all featured and classic cocktails at $14 each, which is a few bucks lower than other D.C. bars of its caliber.

“I’ve always felt that cocktails were getting a little over the top, especially just after Covid, with their pricing structure,” says King. “Everyone was trying to compensate for x, y and z.”

Expanded service to Friday and Saturday is expected to roll out in the coming months.

2024-06-12T21:59:00Z dg43tfdfdgfd