J.P. Fetherston, The Columbia Room [Photo by Rachel Lincoln; www.Lincoln.com]

Take a walk down Blagden Alley in Washington, D.C., and you might think you took a wrong turn. Could there really be a bar among the commercial alleyway’s unmarked brick buildings? Keep going, and liquid rewards await at The Columbia Room, Derek Brown’s temple to superbly crafted cocktails.

The bar originally opened in 2010 as a 10-seat space within a speakeasy, and was reimagined in 2016 when Brown moved it to a 2,400-square-foot building in D.C.’s Shaw district. It’s now comprised of three distinct areas—the Tasting Room, Spirits Library, and Punch Garden—each offering a different experience.

“I think the one thing that really sets our program apart is our service in the Tasting Room,” says head bartender J.P. Fetherston. “We do pre-fixe, progressive tasting menus of cocktails paired with food, and a hefty dose of gregarious, American bartending character.”

The bar’s summer tasting menu featured a cocktail combining pisco, junmai ginjo sake, yuzu, lime juice, sweet pepino melon juice, and sparkling water. “It’s light but has a lovely savory undertone to it,” Fetherston says. “It paired very well with Chef Johnny Spero’s seaweed cracker covered with sea urchin butter and dusted with tomato powder.”

Tasting Room seats are reservation-only, and prices range from $79 to $108, depending on the number of courses. Those who prefer to go à la carte can drop in on the Spirits Library, with its handsome leather sofas and collection of rare and vintage liquors, or head to the verdant Punch Garden patio for artfully mixed punches (prices start at $14).

“We think we achieve a happy balance between respect for classics and a willingness to push boundaries,” Fetherston says. “A guest will see some new and interesting things on our menus, but sometimes a simple, three- or four-ingredient drink is perfect.”

The North Atlantic cocktail at The Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. [Photo by Rachel Lincoln; www.Lincoln.com]

124 Blagden Alley NW

Washington, D.C. 20001

Open at 5 p.m. Tues.-Sat.

(202) 316-9396




1 ounce Bruichladdich Classic Laddie single malt

1.5 ounces Martinez Lacuesta Rojo vermouth

0.5 ounces tomato cordial

2 dashes Tempus Fugit crème de cacao

1 dropper Bittermens Transatlantic Modern Aromatic bitters

6 drops salt tincture


Stir all ingredients together and strain into a chilled “Nick & Nora” coupe. Garnish with a floating oysterplant leaf.