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The Passenger - High-Quality, Low-Key Cocktail Bar near Mount Vernon Square


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Opening soon?

The GOG piece (dated one day after City Paper's) mentions both "mid-November" and "early 2010." I'm having a hard time parsing it to see if the 2010 reference is just for the Columbia Room part of it, though, as the last line says opening "should" happen within the next two weeks, putting it sometime this week given the date of publication.

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Sure enough, the guys were off to a flying start last night, with Jamie McBain (who also steers the ship of shake at Bourbon Steak) pitching in. The Mawby sparkler is a bit funky from a fresh bottle, but it blows off in a couple minutes. And the first Martini of Passenger's public opening got a Tom Brown retro-twist, with Hayman's Old Tom Gin, Dolin dry vermouth, and a dash of Peychaud's bitters. All I got to say is, don't knock it until you try it :(.

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I love this place. Great drinks, fantastic beer, cool music selection, nice people, comfortable environment. Even though they've only been open a few days, the place was slammed by 6pm yesterday. Nibbled on yummy almonds and olives. My friend's chili half smoke was received well. Another place to add into the rotation.

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"No."

When I walked into The Passenger last night, the first thing I saw were Derek and Tom Brown together, working a relatively full bar in an otherwise empty lounge on a cold Monday night. After all the publicity each has gotten, you'd think it would have been anti-climactic; but it wasn't at all - it was like seeing Cal and Billy Ripken take the infield for the first time.

I really wanted a Mojito last night, because I had just read through this fun little thread (you should, too, as it parallels the rise of Todd Thrasher and Derek Brown). So after I shook hands with both bartenders, I took a seat and asked Derek, "Can you make me a mojito?"

"No. But I'll make you something better."

So I sat there and watched him make an incredibly complex drink, a Queen's Park Swizzle ($10). I'm still not sure of all that went into it (it speaks volumes about my cocktail knowledge that I'd never heard of this classic drink before), but it was better than any mojito I've ever had - much more complex and interesting, with savory flavors and spice aromas to counterbalance the sweetness.

A great drink that perhaps doesn't belong in the "Mojitos" thread, but I have to say it was a superb alternative.

It looked something like this.

Cheers,

Rocks.

I too I was at the Passenger last night, having some pre-dinner drinks with my girlfriend. I will say the drink of Mr. Rockwell looked amazing (I think you were the only customer having it, so now, having seen the picture you posted, I can safely assume it was you). So as to not derail this thread, I will simply state our cocktails were great as well.

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Went to the Passenger for my second last visit last night and had another great experience. Relatively quiet on a Monday night and my girlfriend and I were able to get two seats at the bar. Great service from Tom ( i think). Very nice to be able to watch he and his brother in action, a truly learning experience. To start I had a scotch based cocktail with lemon. It was like a peaty lemonade and was delicious. My girlfriend had a Hendricks based gin drink with star anise. I cannot remember if we were told it had a little absinthe as well. For our second drinks I had a bourbon drink very similar to a Manhattan, but thick. I forgot to ask what the components of the drink were, as I was enjoying it immensely. She had what I thought was called a "martina", although when i search online i don’t think the proper cocktail shows up. It was explained that the martina was an ancestor to the modern martini. We also got a great lesson on London dry gins and genever gins. Prior to the second drink, my girlfriend was insistent that we get some food. We tried the beef jerky. It too was great. Peppery and spicy and the perfect complement to my bourbon drink. I will definitely be heading back soon.

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(sorry this won't be deep)

(it's posted via iPhone)

+1 bartenders who don't look at you funny when you order "non-alcoholic green"

+1 free wireless (from next door)

+3 the non-alcoholic green turns out to be a cucumber collins (bitter, balanced, refreshing)

+1 hopping, but not crowded on a Wednesday evening

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It must be noted that bartender Alex is a whirling dervish of drink mixing when the hoards descent upon the place around 9:00 on Fridays and Saturdays. She's a wonder.

Alex also made a cocktail from an idea that I had and she realized it's full potential, and I will go so far as to say it just may rival my namesake cocktail for sheer deliciousness.

I call it the "Navy Cross", and it consists of:

Cruzan Blackstrap Navy Tradition Rum

Smith & Cross Navy Strength Rum

John D. Taylor Velvet Falernum

St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram

Lime juice

Pineapple juice.

shaken and served on the rocks.

After two of these, you will have the courage to take on Somali pirates singlehandedly.

I named it Navy Cross because it is a "cross" of two Navy rums, plus it has the Smith and CROSS (get it?). The famous bartender, Don the Beachcomber, used to blend rums, which was my inspiration, and I added lime juice, but my imagination ended there. Alex added the Velvet Falernum, the Allspice Dram and the pineapple juice. Bingo!

My father won the Navy Cross in World War II, so he was my inspiration behind it. I'd like to think that he would approve.

It is REALLY good! A fantastic tiki drink. Ask Alex to make it for you ;)

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From Maddy Beckwith at FreshFarm Market:

The Brown brothers great new bar, The Passenger, holds charity happy hours on Monday nights. They will be serving $5 wines, beer and punch-of-the-day with 10% of all proceeds donated to a charity of the week. And yep, you guessed it, TONIGHT, Monday, February 8, from 5-8 pm, FRESHFARM Markets, will be the recipient!

Come out & drink for a great cause!

The Passenger is located at 1021 7th Street NW, between New York Avenue & L Streets NW, and right across from the MT Vernon Sq/Convenetion Center metro stop on the Green /Yellow line.....

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It must be noted that bartender Alex is a whirling dervish of drink mixing when the hoards descent upon the place around 9:00 on Fridays and Saturdays. She's a wonder.

Alex also made a cocktail from an idea that I had and she realized it's full potential, and I will go so far as to say it just may rival my namesake cocktail for sheer deliciousness.

I call it the "Navy Cross", and it consists of:

Cruzan Blackstrap Navy Tradition Rum

Smith & Cross Navy Strength Rum

John D. Taylor Velvet Falernum

St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram

Lime juice

Pineapple juice.

shaken and served on the rocks.

After two of these, you will have the courage to take on Somali pirates singlehandedly.

I named it Navy Cross because it is a "cross" of two Navy rums, plus it has the Smith and CROSS (get it?). The famous bartender, Don the Beachcomber, used to blend rums, which was my inspiration, and I added lime juice, but my imagination ended there. Alex added the Velvet Falernum, the Allspice Dram and the pineapple juice. Bingo!

My father won the Navy Cross in World War II, so he was my inspiration behind it. I'd like to think that he would approve.

It is REALLY good! A fantastic tiki drink. Ask Alex to make it for you ;)

Alex made me something along these lines with Kraken rum. I believe that she put some bourbon in there too. Very tasty.

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the drinks at both are fabulous...

I am not so sure. The drinks I have had at the Gibson are indeed fabulous, but I am not sure I would say the same about the Passenger (the free pour always leaves too much room for an unbalanced drink, and while what I have had were tasty, they were a little out of sorts). I understand that the Passenger is going for a more casual vibe, but listing a few drinks on the menu would not kill that, and might open the crowd up to ordering something other than vodka tonics, and drafts.

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I am not so sure. The drinks I have had at the Gibson are indeed fabulous, but I am not sure I would say the same about the Passenger (the free pour always leaves too much room for an unbalanced drink, and while what I have had were tasty, they were a little out of sorts). I understand that the Passenger is going for a more casual vibe, but listing a few drinks on the menu would not kill that, and might open the crowd up to ordering something other than vodka tonics, and drafts.

and thus you have nailed the reason I have not gone back to the Passenger after a few initial visits. I am not a cocktail connoisseur but enjoy a good cocktail. I am at a loss as to what to order at the Passenger and have not had the best luck when I've said just make me something with "x". The Gibson and The Tabard Inn both provide a list of cocktails from which I can choose or use as a guide. Why go somewhere I don't feel really wants me.

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and thus you have nailed the reason I have not gone back to the Passenger after a few initial visits. I am not a cocktail connoisseur but enjoy a good cocktail. I am at a loss as to what to order at the Passenger and have not had the best luck when I've said just make me something with "x". The Gibson and The Tabard Inn both provide a list of cocktails from which I can choose or use as a guide. Why go somewhere I don't feel really wants me.

It is even daunting to people that do know cocktails I can make most of the classics at home, when I go to a cocktail bar I am looking for someone elses take on a classic, or better still something completely new, I just feel that I should not have to guess at what those might be. I wish the Brown brothers the best of luck with their bar, it appears to have developed a strong following in a short period, I hope they can keep it up, however, I find that I am well outside of their target clientele.

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It is even daunting to people that do know cocktails – I can make most of the classics at home, when I go to a cocktail bar I am looking for someone else’s take on a classic, or better still something completely new, I just feel that I should not have to guess at what those might be. I wish the Brown brothers the best of luck with their bar, it appears to have developed a strong following in a short period, I hope they can keep it up, however, I find that I am well outside of their target clientele.

the point of having no menu is to encourage people to trust the bartender to introduce them to new things. Far from being a cocktail snob or an elitist, my mission is to bring good cocktails to a broader audiance. Nothing makes me happier than the times someone comes to the bar and says' I usually drink vodka soda but, I heard you can make me something' . When they find the derivative of an aviation or another drink to be quite good, I know that we have turned one more peson from the darkside ;)

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That is an admirable goal, but how possible is that when you have people 5 deep jostling for position at the bar and the bartenders even have trouble hearing people that are in the stools?

FWIW, I was at The Passenger a couple Tuesdays ago at 8 PM, and had no problem getting a barstool.

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FWIW, I was at The Passenger a couple Tuesdays ago at 8 PM, and had no problem getting a barstool.

After work Saturday I walked over to The Passenger-from opening until about 6:30 there were a couple of seats at the bar. Also, while I understand the free-poured versus jigger argument, you can still get a great cocktail that has been free-poured by a pro, like Tom Brown. It is amazing to me how quickly the cocktail-bar scene has gone from cool/relaxed/retro, to fey/uptight/snobbish. It really has become tedious. The Passenger is a welcome and refreshing exception.

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That is an admirable goal, but how possible is that when you have people 5 deep jostling for position at the bar and the bartenders even have trouble hearing people that are in the stools?

I really REALLY like the music that they play at The Passenger. It's one of the reasons I like going there. However, it IS a little loud. So you have to talk loud to be heard...which makes it harder for other people's conversations and so on. It builds to a deafening crescendo. And that's about the only the reason I don't go to The Passenger more often.

Having said that, I don't agree that it's for cocktail snobs. There is a list (albeit a short one) of specials for those that like to chose. And the best drink I've ever gotten there was when I asked for them to riff on a Manhattan. Wow. Fandamntastic.

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That is an admirable goal, but how possible is that when you have people 5 deep jostling for position at the bar and the bartenders even have trouble hearing people that are in the stools?

Maybe I could say the 5 deep and loud problems you describe are a testament to my goals being met?

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In an eerie, continued confluence between the world of DonRockwell.com and The New Yorker, a story by Jennifer Egan in last week's issue quotes Iggy Pop's "The Passenger" (for what it's worth, she has a better, less annoying story in the current issue of Tin House).

That doesn't take away from the fact that it is criminal, and sad, to make any reference to "The Passenger" that is not to Antonioni's genius work with it's greatest-ever final (well, penultimate) tracking shot--well, second greatest, after the opening tracking shot which it "undoes" while paying homage to from "A Touch of Evil", and my with my dear, dear, beloved and lost Maria Schneider.

Sorry guys, but hipster, insider cultural reference...NOT! Not when only Maria Schneider, light of my life, fire of my loins, my sin, my soul, rightfully deserves transcendent immortality.

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That doesn't take away from the fact that it is criminal, and sad, to make any reference to "The Passenger" that is not to Antonioni's genius work

Have another Pork Slap, Humbert. Is there anything in this town that is safe from the endemic pretentiousness?

I have no opinion on the "free" pour vs. measured pour debate.The Passenger is a neighborhood bar with an excellent bartender. The Gibson is a cocktail lounge. Different missions, different methods. I can say that the Old Tom perfect martini served me the last time I was at the Passenger was measured (I like to watch) and delicious.

Stitch, you and I are not the Passenger's target demographic. (I, for one, am far too deaf to hang out there regularly) but the new reservations only space in the back might be worth investigating.

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Have another Pork Slap, Humbert. Is there anything in this town that is safe from the endemic pretentiousness?

I have no opinion on the "free" pour vs. measured pour debate.The Passenger is a neighborhood bar with an excellent bartender. The Gibson is a cocktail lounge. Different missions, different methods. I can say that the Old Tom perfect martini served me the last time I was at the Passenger was measured (I like to watch) and delicious.

Stitch, you and I are not the Passenger's target demographic. (I, for one, am far too deaf to hang out there regularly) but the new reservations only space in the back might be worth investigating.

Join me in putting out daughters in protective custody until they turn 21?

Being far too old to go to spend time in rowdy joints not featuring live music, sporting events or naked women -- not to mention too old to drink more than two cocktails at a sitting -- I find Passenger a perfect happy hour spot.

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I didn't expect my question on Gibson v. Passenger to elicit so much discussion, but I thank you all for the pros and cons--great reading!

We ended up at The Passenger, which I just loved, and which elicited some serious host praise from my visiting brother. I started out with a bro-recommend Derby, which was delicious, and which he said was one of the best he's had, possibly because of the mint-leaf floating on top that provided a yummy aroma that just hiked the goodness way up above the knees.

Bro hadn't gotten the gist of the joint and thought I was being rude when, ordering my second drink, I just told the server, "I like whiskey. No gin, please." But our man said, "No problem," and brought me one of the three best cocktails I've ever had*: the Lion's Tail, which has some sort of all-spice-steeped liquor and some kind of whiskey and some other stuff. (Observant, ain't I?) But the thing is that I don't even LIKE allspice. Or anise, and it had a star anise floating in it! This was just an exceptional, exceptional drink.

Yes, it is loud--even on a Monday, which may have been the result of a couple of seriously screechy tables because it wasn't that full. But the cocktails were impeccable. And I deeply appreciate that they are *reasonably-sized* cocktails, not those six-ounce behemouths that are so insidious nowadays. They're actually small enough that you can have two before a winey dinner and not lose your head. And at The Passenger, you WANT two.

I have no idea how much they cost because my brother was so delighted, he picked up the check. Everybody wins!

*The other two are a sherry cocktail at Absinthe in San Francisco and a lemongrass thing at Cyrus in Healdsburg. The Lion's Tail was right up there with them.

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Hats off to Tom last night when I told him, "I usually drink martinis, but now I'm pregnant." He didn't flinch, and I ended up with a deliciously tart virgin mojito. My husband fell in absolute love with this place, especially after his spicy manhattan. Looks like the keg cooling system was down, but they were still doing a good beer business with those rockin' cans.

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"The Passenger is hosting a Fallout Brunch this Sunday in anticipation of the area being cordoned off for the nuclear summit being held Monday and Tuesday. Starting at 2 p.m., they will have the usual brunch along with "nuclear drink specials, appropriately attired bartenders" and '80s music."

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Does Tom Brown make the best Mai Tai in town, or just the best Mai Tai in town that I've tasted? I've been struggling with the words. And actually, it was Alex who made it under his direction, with Kraken and J. Wray & Nephew overproof rums, velvet falernum, and several other goodies. (I also wouldn't recommend having more than two of them.) We also got an education into orgeat syrup and some of the history of these drinks.

He also was playing around with a cucumber-ginger-gin cocktail that reminded me of eating a California roll! It was good and refreshing.

As the spring turns to summer, and our minds turn to tropical drinks, this will be the place to be for real tropical drinks (especially the rum punch) thoughtfully assembled with good ingredients.

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