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Hummingbird to Mars - Closed ... or ... Is It?


porcupine
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"It only makes sense to stop talking about the dynamics of an article written about a bar and start talking about the bar itself", I was told, as part of a request* to start a thread on Hummingbird to Mars.

So, for those of you who haven't been following the other thread, or don't read the blogs or the Post, Hummingbird to Mars is a speakeasy-type operation run by three of our city's most talented bartenders: Derek Brown, Justin Guthrie, and Owen Thomson. I don't have an official mission statement from them, and I'm not going to source info from the blogosphere, so I'll just give my impressions.

The guys have worked hard to establish an ambience that allows for appreciation of craft bartending. It's comfortable furnished, softly lit, but not a hush-hush quiet altar to alcohol. They offer classic, original, and borrowed cocktails.

I had my doubts when I heard about it. I have a strong knee-jerk reaction to anything that comes across as elitist; indeed there are several well-regarded restaurants that I don't go to because they have an "either you're in or you're out" vibe. But on the other hand, I've seen highly-regarded bars loose some of what makes them special when the clientele changes and customers start demanding Red Bull and vodka drinks from a bartender who would rather take five minutes to make something unique.

Although H2M has a bit of a clubby atmosphere (and some may find that off-putting), it doesn't feel trendy or falsely upscale. I love it because I love good cocktails, and I love quiet (but not dead), comfortable, uncrowded places where civilized (but not formal) clientele know how to comport themselves.

It's not just the drinks, but the total experience that makes Hummingbird to Mars a special place.

Hummingbird to Mars

edited to add: *by a hummingbird or two

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I'm going to add what I had in my last post about this, without any comments one way or the other about the article.

--begin quote--

Personally, as someone else already put it in here, when I went to H2M I saw it as a sign of the dedication and commitment of the people behind it, using their time off to bring something cool to the area. Unfortunately, it's clear not everyone felt that way; there was one online review I saw that also gave away the location and basically "boo hoo, it was slow and crowded".

Perhaps if they have move again it'll be less crowded, and maybe this is part of the learning experience: what do y'all (looks at Justin and Derek and Owen) want to do with it?

Is it supposed to be a cool hangout with good drinks full of people and basically an open secret of where it is and how to get in, or some place quiet and dedicated to a smaller crowd that has been "vetted", basically, by someone who says "you can trust these people not to broadcast this and to appreciate the drinks"?

--end quote--

I know one thing that occurred to me was when I learned of it, it was in a "hush hush, don't tell" sort of way. I didn't expect to see anything online about it, or at most, passing or inside references to it. I was surprised to see it mentioned blatantly on a blog and elsewhere, and it sounded like Derek was overwhelmed with how many reservations they had gotten when we went there the night before Labor Day.

(I know what I look for in a bar, but that's just me. And to be honest, the bar that's perfect for me probably wouldn't be extremely if at all profitable...since, you know, I hate people so much. :lol: )

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Look!! Those who love what these guys are doing and the atmosphere that they have created ( I certainly do ) will continue to follow them and enjoy the amazing stuff that they are doing. Personally, if anyone ever asks me for a Red bull and Vodka or a LI Tea will be dispatched very quickly :lol::)

Press is press...good or bad..and these guys will roll with it, learn from it, and continue doing what they are doing. While there is always someone who comes along and spoils the party...the party will go on!

I'm not pointing fingers at anyone or saying anyone did anything wrong....I fully support and believe in what they are doing- MAKING SOME OF THE BEST DRINKS IN TOWN, LIMITING THE CROWD, SHOWING PEOPLE THE PROPER WAY TO ENJOY A DRINK, AND LIMITING THE RIFF-RAFF :P

Is H2M for everyone?.....NO and that is the way it should be.

Goodnight and Godbless

NUTMEGGGGGGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!!!!

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I think porcupine and I were both saying we liked it - if I wasn't clear on that, I should reiterate it - I had a great time when I was there.

The Going Out Gurus today said that it'd closed, however? I had initially thought Justin's comment in the other thread was a joking reference to him not being mentioned in the article.

If any of the backers care to mention: if it is closed (even if it's moving, whatever) was this planned, rushed because of unexpected publicity, a "okay, fine, let's hide again" or something else completely? I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere else yet...

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I appreciate what Derek, Owen & Justin are trying to do with H2M, but I am not convinced of the fairness of reviewing an establishment that isn't accessible to everyone on the website.
I'm not sure what the exact procedure is, but from what I can tell it is in many ways not all that different from a restaurant, except that you need to reserve in advance. And generally speaking, you can't exactly walk off the street into Komi or a few other really popular restaurants. It's a tweaked process, but I don't think it discriminates against anyone.
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Well, yes. But not everyone can get a reservation, correct?

I tried several weeks ago using the only way I knew how (the email address) to "reserve" or just to find out more info and never heard a peep back. So, yes, it seems there is another level of access to negotiate or I just got unlucky.

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Initially invite only; this was only because no one knew it existed. Once word got out, we accepted reservations...from anyone. Occasionally we invite people but more as a friendly reminder like "hey that thing that we do at that place during those days is happening. Would you like to come?" But our reservation policy is that you need one and that we don't accept parties larger than four. That's it.

In fact the policy is in place to maintain quality, more people equal longer drink times and higher noise levels and so on. We are not trying to be elitist, we want people there, just not more than we can properly serve.

We have a list and we are doing our best to honor all of the requests, it's just that we only serve around forty people a night, two nights a week. If you've got 300 people that want to get in, it's going to take almost a month to do that.

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To me, H2M is an homage to a more civilized era in our nation's often-uneasy relationship with alcohol.

Before prohibition (heck, even after prohibition) brown spirits were king and gin was the dominant clear spirit. Bartenders were much more practiced at crafting interesting cocktails because they had to be.

By calling it a "speakeasy", it creates the impression that it is open by word-of-mouth, and that you have to be "in the know" to find it, which I think is kind of cool. Of course, it's a kind of open secret now, but this prevents the tourists and off-the-street crowd from crowding it up.

I'd hardly say that H2M is elitist, but establishments are entitled to have their rules of the house. Just try and get into The Prime Rib without proper attire, for example.

Certainly there are other bars in the city which cater to a particular clientele, and if you don't fit their demographic, you might actually feel uncomfortable there. For example, I understand that there is a bar in northwest D.C. which really caters to restaurant/bar industry employees, and if you aren't a part of that scene, you will almost certainly not feel 100% welcome.

The staff is limited in size, and so you don't want to have customers overwhelming what they can sensibly service. I like that it is relaxed and comfortable and that you can enjoy a decent conversation without raising your voice.

I've enjoyed my visits there, and I've learned a lot about ingredients, flavors, textures and portions.

If someone wants to call it a temple to tippling, well, that wouldn't be far wrong.

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Can I call you Joe?

Now, there you go again. You can't write "I'd hardly say that H2M is elitist" immediately after writing "but this prevents the tourists and off-the-street crowd from crowding it up," gosh darn it.

Ya know, I think a good barometer here, as we try to figure out is this a good person or a bad person, is go to a kid's soccer game on Saturday, and turn to any parent there on the sideline and ask them, "How are you feeling about a Bronx or maybe a Gin Swizzle?"

Even if we're wearin' a hat that says U.S.S. San Diego and Velcro sneakers or a backward baseball cap and polo shirt with the name of software firm above the left nipple or God help us -- and I have made God my personal savior -- a WAKA t-shirt, we're tired of cocktails as usual. And that's why, with all due respect -- and I do respect the hummingbird boys, they're mavericks and ya know, you can see Mars from Washington on a clear night if maybe the lights were out and I'd to talk a little more about energy, and the Washington Monument, it's about that, too, standing tall for America like John McCain or maybe even Bill Clinton. :lol:

But I think Americans are craving something new and different.

One thing that Americans do at this time, also, though, is let's commit ourselves to just every day American people, Joe Six Pack, hockey moms across the nation, I think we need to band together and say never again. Never will we be exploited and taken advantage of again by those Washington insiders who are hidin' their bars from us. The American drinking force is the greatest in this world -- that's a positive. That's encouragement. And they're ready for change. After years of sixpacks and hockey, even those Americans outside the Beltway that some elitists might look down on might be ready for a Pink Lady made with real egg white even if it does kinda, ya know, Joe, remind me of those pantsuits Hillary wears and her government-run socialist health care policy. :)

But I'm so encouraged to know that we both love cocktails, and I think that is a good thing to get to agree on. And it's so important that the American people know of the choices that they have at Happy Hour.

I want to assure you that we're going to fight for the middle-class, average, everyday American family like mine, who needs a drink after following this whole debate.

I've been there. I know what the thirsts are. I know what the challenges are. And, thank God, I know what the joys are, too, of finding that secret door, and having a decent jacket on. We are so blessed. And I've always been proud to be an American, where the cocktail was perfected.

It was Ronald Reagan who said that sobriety is always just one drink away from extinction. We don't pass liquor to our children in the bloodstream; we have to fight for it and protect it, and then hand it to them so that they shall do the same, or we're going to find ourselves spending our sunset years telling our children and our children's children about a time in America, back in the day, when men and women drank free, or for a reasonable price considering what some o' these elitist platinum card places are getting for a swizzle of tequila which is, by the way, Mexican. We will fight to get in, our dollars are just as good as anybody else's, though not as good as their elitist socialist Euros.

In conclusion, let me just say thank you, Joe. And I thank the Don Rockwell community as well. I appreciate this privilege of being able to be here and speak with Americans. :P

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Can I call you Joe?

Now, there you go again. You can't write "I'd hardly say that H2M is elitist" immediately after writing "but this prevents the tourists and off-the-street crowd from crowding it up," gosh darn it.

Are you wearing Tina Fey glasses, by any chance? :) Is it cold up there staring at Russia all day? :lol:

I think that every city enjoys having places that cater to "locals" and not "tourists", but that hardly prevents tourists from doing some homework and finding these places by themselves. It will happen eventually, given enough time. The concierges at the better hotels in town will tip their guests off.

Don't know 'bout you, but I tend to stay away from places that are wall-to-wall customers, which is why I generally don't go out on Friday or Saturday nights. What was it Casey Stengel said? "Toots Shores is so crowded that nobody goes there anymore." It would be a pity if that happened to H2M.

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I just wanted to say that I had a heck of a time at last night's blowout.

Justin, great drinks as always, and it's worth being miserable at work today.

Everyone else - glad to see everybody.

Now to keep telling myself "it'll be okay" as I mentally try to prep for Tabard Inn tonight...

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I went last week, had a good time and loved the drink selection. True pros who make many of their own mixers and enhanced liquors. One comment: I wished everyone who came dressed in the spirit of the place, at least not wear sneakers and hoodies, but that's my thing. I hope they can revive it. I wrote a piece about it on my blog last week.

http://betterguyx.blogspot.com/2008/10/spe...-rip-or-on.html

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I remain remarkably ignorant about H2M.

But I have a thought: What if the rumors of its demise are a ruse?

Is it possible that this is the speakeasy equivalent of "I buried Paul?"

Sadly, it is no ruse.

Like Lazarus, it might be ressurected at some point, but the logistics have yet to be determined.

In the meantime, I have no concerns about where to go for outstanding cocktails in this city.

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I remain remarkably ignorant about H2M.

But I have a thought: What if the rumors of its demise are a ruse?

Is it possible that this is the speakeasy equivalent of "I buried Paul?"

The H2M that can be told of is not the true H2M;

The bartenders that can be named are not the true bartenders.

It was from the Nameless that the Old Fashioned and the Martinez sprang;

The named is but the mother that rears the ten thousand cocktails,

each after its kind.

Ignorance is bliss, my friend, but H2M's demise is no ruse. Unless I myself am no longer welcome back.

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The H2M that can be told of is not the true H2M;

The bartenders that can be named are not the true bartenders.

It was from the Nameless that the Old Fashioned and the Martinez sprang;

The named is but the mother that rears the ten thousand cocktails,

each after its kind.

Ignorance is bliss, my friend, but H2M's demise is no ruse. Unless I myself am no longer welcome back.

The riddles you pose ache my tiny brain. I need a rickey or a flip now to fully comprehend!

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I notice in this and other books references to "Santa Cruz rum." What should a drink-maker be using in that context?
As far as I know, Santa Cruz rum remains an unknown category. That's according to the source, David Wondrich. But never fear, the chances that some some intrepid blogger will discover it's a mix of equal parts Captain Tattoo, Matsulem Gran Reserve, boiled snake root and Torani Amer are high.
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As far as I know, Santa Cruz rum remains an unknown category. That's according to the source, David Wondrich.

You know Santa Cruz nowadays as St. Croix, part of the US Virgin Islands. But from 1733 until 1917, it was a Danish possession nicknamed the "Isle of Rum and Sugar".

http://books.google.com/books?id=Y-xAAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA226

That would point the finger toward Cruzan, except that they no longer produce rum the same way they did in the 18th C...the video on their website talks about how the modern column still makes a cleaner rum by not capturing the congeners that their pot stills used to.

In this account, Frederick Seward (US Asst Secretary of State during the Lincoln administration) implies that the fame of Santa Cruz and Jamaican rum was principally due to aging up to 24 years. That also seems like it might be germane to reconstructing the character of old Santa Cruz rum.

http://books.google.com/books?id=_NkRAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA131

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Cool, I guess.

I've been a serious cocktail drinker in this town for years and years, back when Adam was at Bar Pilar and Tom was at Cork and Gina was at PS7's, but I've never been hip enough to earn the merest whisper of an invite to the secret places where the cool kids drink.  Seeing that Hummingbird thing just reminds me of that fact.  -_-

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I mean, H2M closed about 10 months after Adam started at Bar Pilar, 8 months after Cork opened, and Gina didn't start at PS7's until 2009.  I lived at the Central's bar back in the day, so of course Justin invited me.  But I don't think of DC bartender's guild as an exclusionary type of group.  And if there are secret cocktail places now where they go, then I have surely fallen out of favor, too.  If anything, it's like everyone wants you to come to their shift??

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3 hours ago, DaRiv18 said:

I mean, H2M closed about 10 months after Adam started at Bar Pilar, 8 months after Cork opened, and Gina didn't start at PS7's until 2009.  I lived at the Central's bar back in the day, so of course Justin invited me.  But I don't think of DC bartender's guild as an exclusionary type of group.  And if there are secret cocktail places now where they go, then I have surely fallen out of favor, too.  If anything, it's like everyone wants you to come to their shift??

Sorry, I thought you posting that photo meant that it was back up and running.  And I've just been pretty down lately generally, so apologies for any snarkiness in my post.

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