If there is one thing to know about DC in the spring, it’s that cherry blossoms rule all. Droves of tourists from all over the world come to the city to see the famous Japanese blossoms that line the tidal basin and the reflecting pool of the Washington Monument. However, this year has turned out to be a disappointing display especially compared to the brilliant blooms from the last two years.
Has the weather ruined your plans of frolicking in the blossoms this April? Enter: Derrick Brown’s Cherry Blossom Pub.
The Cherry Blossom Pub is a pop up bar located inside of bars Mockingbird Hill and Southern Efficiency located 7th Street NW just next door to the last stop on our tour, Calabash Tea & Tonic. The owner, mixologist Derrick Brown, is a two-time James Beard award nominee and semi-finalist known for his complex and delicious reinventions of classic cocktails and, now, for his insanely successful pop up bars.
The first thing to notice about this pub is the intricate décor. On one side, hand-strung blossoms carpet the ceiling. On the other, Super Mario Bros. theme mushrooms and mystery boxes float above the bar.
The entire staff is dressed in blossom-themed clothing or Mario and Luigi costumes. It seems that even most of the male staff have grown ~artisan facial hair~ to complete the look.
The drink menu consists of 12 cocktails crafted by bartenders to match the themes of the décor, as well as a small selection of beer, wine, and sake. They have a little something for every kind of drinker, which, if you’re anything like me, will likely result in a hangover from an attempt to try everything on the menu. My personal favorites include:
King Koopa Cup (Two James Johnny Smoking Gun whiskey, “popcorn” tea ginger ((a reference to how the tea is roasted, not a popcorn flavor)), lemon). Smooth and satisfying with a subtle smokiness well balanced with the citrus.
Princess Is In Another Castle (Martell VS Cognac, Macchu Pisco, Momo tea, lemon, sparkling water). Tart and strong, but goes down a little too easily. Garnished with a pink polka dot Princess Peach novelty straw.
What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Smaller (vodka, mandarin orange, pomelo, apricot soda). A tall glass of sweet bubbly goodness topped with a gorgeous purple orchid.
Neko Colada (Miso infused Rhum agricole, sweet vermouth, falernum, luxardo amaretto di sarschira, coconut cream, lime, mandarin orange). A complex take on a piña colada with a little more depth, served in an adorable white porcelain lucky cat glass. Heads up: they will ask for your ID as collateral for this cup.
Honorable mentions go the 1000 Paper Cranes, “Prepare for Destiny! Where’s my pizza?,” and I Call Yoshi.
Of course, there are some downsides to the pub. The most obvious is the wait to get in. It opens at 5 pm sharp and people start lining up as early as 4 o’clock on the dot. On a weekend night the line can easily cover two blocks by 4:30 but it’s a little less crowded on a weekday. Expect to wait for an hour to two hours on a Friday or Saturday, or up for 45 minutes on a weekday.
Additionally, over the three nights I visited this week (don’t judge me… I said the drinks were really good!) they were sold out of the Flower Power, a drink meant to serve four. In my previous experiences at pop up bars here, the shared cocktails are always “sold out” or downright not good. In theory this is a great concept, but Brown and his team just haven’t gotten it right yet. Another aspect of the pub that left me with a sour taste in my mouth, or rather not much taste at all, was the food menu.
It is a weird combination of Japanese and Italian cuisines, which seems like a far stretch from the Super Mario Bros theme. If you’re really hankering for a snack to go with your drinks, I recommend the marinated mushrooms or chicken skewers.
All in all, Cherry Blossom Pub is worth a visit for it for the experience. It’s a unique taste of local samplings in a beautiful setting. You’re serviced by a staff that not only aims to please, but to surprise and entertain. You’re surrounded by large crowds, but its people who want to indulge in something only Our city could offer.
1841 7th St NW Washington, DC 20001
5pm – 12:30am Sunday – Thursday, 5pm – 1:30am Friday and Saturday. Ends April 15, 2017.