The woman sitting next to me at the bar looked up quizzically as I ordered my first drink. Was I cursing at the Turkish President? Not technically, but such confusion is understandable when you order one of the creatively named drinks at The Green Zone.
The Green Zone is a two-year-old Middle Eastern cocktail pop-up bar currently appearing every Thursday at Zeba Bar in Columbia Heights. Like it’s Iraqi namesake, this Green Zone is pretty international – the patrons range from locals who have lived, worked, studied or served in the Middle East to expats looking for a taste of home. But though it’s named for a region over 6,000 miles away, The Green Zone is quintessentially DC.
It’s cocktails with a side of politics.
A hefty side of (very liberal) politics. For instance, the week after the Women’s March, free shots were given to anyone who had a photo of themselves with their protest sign.
Which brings me back to my first drink, “Hünkârim? Hayır!!! Tayyip Siktir Git!!!” – for those who checked Google translate, it’s inspired by both Turkish politics and flavors. This includes rakı (the anise-flavored brandy known as arak by Arabic speakers and ouzo by the Greeks), green almond and melon. Once she recovered from her confusion over the name, the woman next to me (originally from Turkey, I soon learned) wanted to know if I liked it, because rakı has a very strong flavor. It was good, the hints of lemon definitely helped tone down the anise, but if you don’t like licorice, this is definitely not the drink for you.
My second drink was the “First Gojeh of Spring,” a suggestion from my new drinking companion. Though I had heard of “gojeh sabz” from Iranian friends, I had never tried a Persian sour plum (as they’re known in English).
And if my drink comes topped with a fruit, it’s basically healthy, right?
The drink itself, a mix of Cotton & Reed rum (from DC’s first rum distillery) and tart green plum shrub was sort of like a margarita. If the tequila was replaced by rum and the sour mix was vinegary instead of well, sour.
As someone who loves sour beers and kombucha, I loved it. And the sour plum was pretty tasty too.
I suggest pulling up a chair at the bar, because not only are you bound to have an interesting discussion, but there are always bowls of delicious olives just waiting to be devoured.
The Green Zone currently pops-up on Thursdays from 5pm to 1am at Zeba Bar (3423 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20010)