Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | January 17, 2009

PX

Pretty much since I moved to DC this past fall and started looking around for good cocktail bars and bartenders, I’ve been planning on making a trip to PX in Alexandria. Last night I finally got to go and I’m sorry that it took me so long.

PX is located above Eammon’s Dublin Chipper, with its entrance lit up by a blue light. Upon entering, we were led upstairs. PX’s layout is smaller than I expected. It has a railroad layout that goes from a sitting room to the bar area (with one small table) to a back room with four couches. My party of four was initially seated in the back room, but it was pretty cold (about zero outside) and we moved into the bar, taking seats at the lone table and away from the windows. The whole space had a very warm, familial atmosphere to it. It was comfortable and though each room was different, they all preserved a high degree of intimacy. The door policy keeps the bar from becoming too crowded, something that I think is critical to enjoying craft cocktails.

Todd Thrasher is the famed bartender of PX, though he wasn’t working last night. Clinton was tending bar and I was thoroughly impressed with the quality of the drinks throughout the night. The two page menu had about 25 drinks on it and my party of four was able to explore about half of it. Because it was so cold last night, I wanted a good warming drink with some weight to it. I started with Eric’s Irish Flip, made with Powers whiskey, cream and nutmeg. It was perfectly done — light and creamy with a good balance between the whiskey and the sweetness of the cream, egg, and sugar. It was exactly what I expected to get from the drink description, something that is always a plus when dealing with dairy in cocktails.

After the flip I wanted to try something unique to PX, so I order a Boris Karloff — made with house elderflower liquour, Plymouth Gin, and Kaffir lime. It came out with a light foam on top, making me think that it was made with egg white. Again it was a very well balanced drink that wasn’t cloying, while being light and refreshing. The house elderflower liquour was much softer than St. Germain and it didn’t dominate over the other ingredients. I think this may be the best drink I tasted at PX, though I don’t think it’s the sort of thing that I would want to drink regularly, so I won’t say that it was my favorite.

My favorite of the drinks that I ordered – and probably of what everyone else ordered as well – was The Elixer. It was made with winter tonic, bourbon, and Domaine de Canton ginger liquour. PX is known for making their homemade tonic and apparently they make seasonal variations to it was well. The winter tonic was heavily flavored with Indian spices, notably cardamon and clove. The cocktail itself had heavy ginger, clove, cardamon, and cinnamon flavors to it. It was complex with a nice spice from the ginger, but nothing was overly dominant. It was sweet but not bitter or boozy. The body was somewhat similar to ginger beer that’s been mixed a bit, but I wouldn’t go too far with the analogy. It was a delightful cocktail and one that I would be happy to drink regularly.

I was fortunate enough to have three companions at PX with different tastes, so I got to try a number of other drinks. The ones that stood out to me were The Smoker’s Delight, The Winner, and the Gin and Tonic. The Smoker’s Delight was an incredibly interesting drink, made with tobacco, honey syrup, a honeycomb, and Basil Hayden’s Bourbon. It was reminiscent of an Old Fashioned, but far more complex. The Winner was made with rum, Domaine de Canton, and jalapeno (I may be missing some ingredients from my notes). I’ve found making drinks with jalapeno to be very challenging and often times see recipes that over do the role of the jalapeno. That wasn’t the case with The Winner – where only enough jalapeno made its way in to give a little heat, on par with what you find in the Domaine de Canton. It was a real hit.

I’d heard about Todd Thrasher’s homemade tonic before coming to PX and honestly didn’t know what to think. While I expected something better than the usual sweetly Schweppes, I didn’t have a sense of what the top end for tonic could be. As a result, the Gin and Tonic blew my socks off. My friend Michael, on taking his first sip, said “Oh God, that’s so tasty!” — which is a pretty accurate expression for how we all reacted when we tried the drink. The PX G&T was light, not sweet like most commerical tonic waters. It had fairly dominant lime flavors, with strong, balanced spice to the tonic. It wasn’t merely quinine and sugar, but a complex drink that has far more in common with a craft cocktail than the highball that most Americans grow up on in clubs and dive bars alike. Without question, if you go to PX you have to try the Gin and Tonic.

I’m really glad I finally made it to PX. I had a great time, loved the space, and interesting, original cocktails. I look forward to going back sooner rather than later, especially now that I know the trip isn’t that far from northwest DC.

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Responses

  1. The Smoker’s Delight really is one of my favorite drinks at PX. I’ve always loved the concept an atmosphere of Thrasher’s joint, but the drinks are generally a tad experimental for my tastes.

    I respect the guy’s work, but 9 times in 10 I would rather a perfectly made classic rather than one of the mad scientists creations.

    With all that said, I’m going to have to stop by and get me an Elixer. I’m a sucker for Indian spices and de Canton.

  2. Just tried the Smoker’s delight last Friday. What a drink! Also, they do put in hours of prep work prior to opening the bar to the clientelle, so their version of classic cocktails (G/T etc.) should blow your mind…


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