The Jack Rose Dining Saloon, a long-awaited single malt and cocktail haven in Adams Morgan, is open, at least partially. The bar is a project of Bill Thomas, Stephen King, and Michael Hartzer, who you may recognize from Bourbon. I’ve been to their roof deck bar the last two nights for food and drink. The main floor dining room and bar is slated to be open within a week or so. With a project this large, it’s not shocking that they’re rolling out in portions.
Before I get into what my experience on the rooftop patio has been, let me give a quick overview of the Jack Rose. Housed in a building that used to be a boxing gym, there are three floors of bar and restaurant space. The main floor will have a formal restaurant, a very, very long bar, and more bottles of single malt whiskey than you can find in the world. The seating space will be just seating – no standing – and it is separated from the bar by a metal rail. The bar is huge, with easily enough space for four or five bartenders to work. Around the walls of the first floor are floor-to-ceiling shelves that will hold literally of thousands of bottle of single malts, bourbons, rums and other spirits. But the emphasis will be primarily on single malt, with a collection that within a year should be the largest of any bar in the world. I’ve talked extensively with the folks behind the Jack Rose about this and their vision for it is truly inspiring.
Downstairs will be a smaller bar, the Prohibition Bar. I only saw it while it was under construction, but it looked like it would be a fun, intimate space.
The real excitement now is the upstairs space. Split into three portions, the Jack Rose’s top floor is open now. The main patio has a covered bar, but open air seating. At the front of the building is a glass-enclosed tasting room that will be available for private events. One nice touch that will surely be a hit with cigar smokers is including a small balcony off of the tasting room, overlooking 18th Street. At the back of the building is an even smaller open air private bar station that can also be used for private events. I don’t know what the actual limits for capacity are, but I would guess around 20-30 in the front space and 15 in the back space.
The main roof patio has a wood burning grill and its own menu. Currently the menu is on the small side, but everything I’ve had, especially their sandwiches, are delicious. The cocktail menu, built by one of DC’s star bartenders, Rachel Sergi, is very summer oriented, with lots of rum, tequila, citrus to keep you cool on in our swampy heat. I’m a huge fan of the Stormy Monday #3, a Dark & Stormy variation featuring Beefeater 24, Goslings, Apricot liqueur, and ginger beer. The Caretaker is a pretty inspired tiki drink, made with rum, curacao, cream of coconut, pineapple juice, and a float of Lemonhart 151. It’s served in a Hurricane glass and is easily the biggest drink on the menu, again key in the DC heat. Once things get rolling more downstairs, the roof will maintain something of a tiki bent to their menu, though it will be possible to order some of their fine single malts as well.
Washingtonian recently had a piece on the Jack Rose and the vision of Bill Thomas and Harvey Fry, the man behind the scotch. I highly recommend reading it. Harvey is a scotch collector who is helping curate, obtain, train, and taste the single malts that will go into the Jack Rose. He’s also providing a substantial amount of his own collection to the bar – hundreds? thousands? He wouldn’t tell Washingtonian… But the simple reality from my conversations with him and Bill is that Harvey is one of the world’s foremost single malt collectors and is working hard to make sure that the Jack Rose becomes the world’s best bar for single malts. And I’ll say this, in the handful of times I’ve hung out and drank scotch with Harvey, I’ve always had a good time and always learned a lot. If you see him (he looks a bit like Santa Claus and always is seen in suspenders), talk to him, learn from him, let him teach you about scotch.
In the Washingtonian piece, Bill gives a great quote which Harvey has also expressed to me as the vision for this bar:
“The way I see it,” Thomas said, “this place, if it succeeds, is going to be here a hundred years from now. That’s the way we’re thinking. This isn’t about right now.”
This sentiment is what it’s all about and it’s why I hope the Jack Rose is a smashing success. This isn’t much of a review. I don’t have any notes on the cocktails I’ve had there. I’m pretty certain I have the ingredients of The Caretaker wrong. And the whole space is not yet open. This is just a preview of what I think will be one of the landmark bars of the DC cocktails scene for a long time to come. I highly encourage you check it out. Fight the weather, the food and drinks on the roof are worth it and soon enough the downstairs spaces will be open as well.
Doug at The Pegu Blog has a great write-up on the Jack Rose too. Go give it a read.