5 Must-Try Autumn Cocktails at Bistrot Le Zinc
Walking into Bistrot Le Zinc in Cathedral Heights, one feels instantly transported to Paris. (And appropriately so: the name is a reference to the two-hundred-year-old Paris restaurant Le Petit Zinc). A burgundy banquette stretches along the interior of the Upper Northwest restaurant, and black-and-white photographs hang Tudor-style on ecru walls. Combined with subtle lighting, the space evokes visions of Chartres and the Champs-Élysées. Strains of Serge Gainsbourg and Edith Piaf waft over the stereo system. Waiters in ties and starched white aprons glide around as easily as if they were at the legendary Le Deux Magot.
The only thing that seems to be missing (happily?) is the surly lady with too much make-up selling mints and Gauloises from a wooden box. And then of course, there’s the zinc-topped bar, a fixture of Parisian drinking establishments. “Most of our cocktails are variations on French classics,” says bar manager John West, “revived or inspired from recipes from before Prohibition, some from before World War I.” Our curiosity piqued and our tongue tantalized, we checked out a few, and present our top five below.
Sazerac: “Most people think the Sazerac is from New Orleans, but it was originally a French cocktail,” West explains. The combination of a grape blight and the presence of rye-whiskey-bearing American G.I.’s in France is responsible for the most common current incarnation, but Le Zinc’s recipe uses the original brandy, instead of rye. Along with the liquor comes Peychaud’s bitters, a sugar cube, lemon juice and Pernod absinthe. The overwhelming flavor in this cocktail is the absinthe’s star anise, but the blend of brandy and lemon juice add an intriguing kick.
Le Zinc: This signature sip is served in a vintage crystal glass and consists of Grey Goose, Cointreau, Noilly Pratt sweet vermouth, Peychaud’s bitters and a dash of OJ. The cool citrus and vodka blend lend this tipple the flavor of a sweet-tart ruby red grapefruit, punched up for evening.
Canon de ‘75: This is a variation on the French ‘75, named after the French artillery canon used in WWI (because it’s so strong it feels like being shot in the mouth, albeit in a pleasant way). The original was created at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris in 1915. Here, it's composed of Calvados apple brandy, Citadelle gin and Pernod absinthe. Served up, with a twist, the fruit overtones and complex botanicals make this a perfect fall drink.
St. Denis: A-sit-down-and-solve-a-murder kind of drink, this cocktail is a variation on the classic Obituary. Consisting of Hendrick’s gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur and St. George absinthe, it’s just the ticket for those damp, bone-chilling days that can plague DC in the late fall and winter.
The Harvest Moon: If you do right and make sure to request the beaten egg whites, this is one smooth sip. It’s made with Bernheim wheat whiskey, lemon juice, mango juice, cinnamon-infused syrup and Peychaud’s bitters, and garnished with a Granny Smith apple slice. A bit of the tropics makes the harvest all the more fun.
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