Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | July 23, 2009

Brown Project: The Passenger

Just when I was getting worried that the DC craft cocktail scene was slowing its meteoric growth, metrocurean reports that brothers Derek and Tom Brown are working on opening a new bar project in Chinatown.

Specifics have not been nailed down, but if all goes as planned, the location will be north of Chinatown and the bar will open sometime around November.

The joint the brothers are dreaming up includes a main bar dubbed The Passenger that will be Tom’s domain, serving cocktails, inexpensive wine and off-the-beaten-path varietals (think a Riesling from the Midwest to Greek wine to Virginia bubbly).

A second bar — 20 seats, only 30 reservations per night and most likely concealed behind a locked door — is where Derek will interact closely with guests to make custom cocktails. He describes it as primarily an educational lab and a place to develop recipes. “It’s not the Gibson or PX,” he says. “I plan to take notes from small, Japanese bars in Tokyo but let people in on the process of making cocktails.”

At that smaller bar — a sort of “inner sanctum,” says Derek — he’ll only stock a handful or so of commercial liquors. The rest, from bitters to liqueurs to mixers, will be housemade.

Well, I’m stoked. Derek’s work at The Gibson and at one-off events has made him one of my favorite bartenders in DC. Tom’s work at Cork is phenomenal. I’m obviously especially excited for Derek’s smaller bar. One of the things that I most enjoy about drinking with Derek is geeking out with him over cocktails and spirits; this backroom seems like it’s tailor-made for that sort of cocktail experience. The focus on custom, homemade products is just another wrinkle that will add to what sounds like an incredible project.

I haven’t talked with Derek nor Tom about The Passenger, but hopefully it moves forward with speed. Add it to a mix of DC cocktail bars that includes The Gibson, PX, Tabard Inn, PS7s, Bourbon, Bourbon Steak at The Four Seasons, Cork, and others, and you have to consider Washington DC as right there as one of, if not the, best cocktail towns per capita in the country. Seriously – where else can you get this density of high-quality craft venues? I’m almost giddy thinking about what impact another new cocktail bar will have on the growing community of cocktail aficionados in Washington.


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