Last night the finicky European and I decided it was time to try the new “hot spot” around the corner, the cocktail lounge Wisdom. Well, it was new to us — but it’s been there since October and has developed a loyal following. I must have been the last to notice Trusty’s new neighbor, a subtle speakeasy, but I’m glad I did.
I’ve lived in HillEast long enough to glaze over with disbelief as I downed my first finely-mixed libation. When there was a crack house across the street from my house, I wouldn’t have imagined that someday I’d live within 200 yards of a martini bar. It’s exciting that the neighborhood can support a spot like this at the far end of the Hill. I should have thought to toast owner Erik Holzherr for bringing his fondness for inventive cocktails to this luxe-feeling spot, complete with flattering lighting and velvet curtains. Holzherr was the winner of the 2009 Artini hosted by the Corcoran.
While FO, the designated walker, sipped a Coke, I followed bartender Dom Kennerson’s recommendation. The French Lavender Martini features lavender-infused Plymouth gin, and Cointreau. It’s a refreshing mix, with the tart zing of gin mellowed by the fruit and aromatic smell. I found myself thinking not of the lavender fields in Provence, but the bushes that line many nearby gardens.
While I was tempted to tip my hat to Absinthe fan Toulouse Lautrec and try the Sophomoric Sazarac (New Orleans standard, made of Old Overholt 80 Rye, St Germaine Elderflower Liquor, Pernod & Absinthe), I chose instead to have an Indian Ocean. When Dom explained the pineapples soaking in white rum behind the bar were also infused with cardomon; the decision was made. I ordered the cocktail version, with a splash of Coke. The flavors were lush and memorable, but I think the soda was a bit flat. Otherwise, it was the most interesting drink I’ve had in some time. On my next visit, I want to try the Firefly sweet tea vodkas.
We had eaten at home, but there are some tasty looking nibbles including Haute dogs (think pastry puff, not rolls) and a sherried crabmeat gratin. The food is provided by the chefs at the Argonaut.
The menu also features wines by the glass and bottle (with a number of well priced ones in the $30s), premium beers including a gluten free amber and organic cider. Cocktails and shots range from $5-$13, and daily happy hours feature some deals that will certainly motivate regulars. There’s also an extensive virgin drinks list, a real prize for Sharee Lawler, who hosted a happy hour/baby shower at the bar. “For a mom-to-be who’s tired of selzer and lime, Wisdom is a godsend,” she said.
Holzherr is a savvy marketer, and a good neighbor. He’s lived in the neighborhood for the last two years, and has organized regular neighborhood watch walks. Sometimes the walks end at the bar. Events include wine & liquor tastings and a regular beer club. The next beer club meeting is next Sunday at 7:30 p.m, and the $20 ticket price pays for tasting of six beers from small European breweries; light appetizers and the company and “wisdom” of beer pro John Brown. Wisdom is also happy to offer its space for events, such as the Cocktails with a Cause auction on July 29. The event, to support the Eating Disorders Coalition, will feature raffle prizes from area restaurants, spas, yoga studios and more, and a live auction; just the thing to go along with your sophisticated sip.
Wisdom is located at 1432 Pennsylvania Ave, SE.