2009 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009

Sitting alone on a Friday night in a near-empty hotel lounge, nursing a glass of Jameson as midnight rolled by left me with the mixed emotions of relaxation and depression. On the one hand, it was calm being left alone in this near isolation. A buzzed Zen. No thumping club music, no pointlessly seductive jazz, no overplayed, irritatedly tiring crooning of Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin. Just the ability to finally read that three-month old copy of Esquire Magazine I couldn't seem to get around to cracking open. Then again, there was that haunting, constant knowledge that the fantasy we all have of meeting a beautiful, but also lonely stranger is just a fantasy best left for either movies or those who frequent bars with hookers.

The Jameson and the magazine were finished at almost exactly the same time and I immediately wanted another of each. Instead, I just headed back up to my room, as alone as when I went down, and made myself a tea.

I'd socialize tomorrow.

Bro was here in DC for career-related reasons and I pretty much tagged along as a kind of micro-vacation. Once he finished up doing his thing, we met up with my friend Archi and her beau. Our destination was The Gibson, a Washington DC cocktail lounge buried within the walls of a brownstone. The Gibson, like so many speakeasyesque bars of late, incorporates the hidden-in-plain sight theme. Looking like a long-shuttered pawn shop to the uninformed, The Gibson hides a classy and classic, darkly wooded, dimly lit, moodily subdued setting with a drink menu emphasizing citrus and bitters.

Something about The Gibson that was a positive before ever walking through the door was its no-standing policy. This means that you'll never be elbowed in the ribs while someone with longer eyelashes gets the bartender's attention. It also means that you can wait upwards of an hour to get a seat. They'll take your cell phone number and give you a ten minutes arrival window once they call you for your table. I'd recommend getting a reservation, but they fill up weeks in advance.

My party lucked out and got in without having to wait because another table failed to arrive on time. But we only had an hour and a half to imbibe. And yes, they were indeed quite anal about that hour and a half.

I won't belabor the drinks we had here, or try to break them down too much. Suffice it to say that every one of them was clearly perfect. Some, you might not like if you're not into drinks that are bitters-heavy, but fight that out with your palate. You can't argue that it's the drink's fault.

The three clearest drinks above are the Alameda Mule, a summery drink in a tall glass, stuffed with ice, containing lime vodka, lime juice and ginger beer, the Jackelope, made from bourbon, maple syrup, lemon and orange, and the Satin Sheets, a tequila-based limeade with agave syrup.

For round two, the Sazerac, a rye cocktail with orange bitters and absinthe, and the Rouge LeBlanc, another bitter concoction of sweet and dry vermouths, Campari, Benedictine, absinthe and bitters. The only sweet drink visible above is the Brunswick Sour, made from rum, cane sugar and Merlot.

As the end of our hour and a half neared (despite numerous open tables), the staff grew antsy. They began reminding us of how many minutes we had left, appearing often enough to be a NASA countdown. Fifteen minutes, guys. Ten minutes, guys. Guys, it's almost time. This irritating irritation ended with the hostess standing behind the table like a smiling but nervous guard. Still, I'd still return in a heartbeat, especially if it's her day off.

Cocktails at Gibson average $10-$12 and they have a decent wine list.

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