Legendary Whiskey Bars: DC's Jack Rose Dining Saloon

Legendary Whiskey Bars: DC’s Jack Rose Dining Saloon

By Lindsay Brandon / October 14, 2015

A “true DC establishment” crafted by the minds of DC natives and longtime friends Bill Thomas and Stephen King, the Jack Rose Dining Saloon, located in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood, boasts the largest selection of whisk(e)y in the Western Hemisphere: over 2,300 bottles of hand-selected single malt, blended, international and domestic bottles, to be precise. Jack Rose also carries an “incomparable” selection of other spirits and wines from around the world, and serves broad selection of unique hand-crafted cocktails and over 20 beers on draft.

The main bar is grand and masculine, with dark wood pillars reaching to the 20-foot ceilings that echo the rich colors of spirit bottles lining the walls. Should you feel the need for some fresh air, there’s also an upstairs terrace bar equipped with a retractable roof and TVs. There’s also a small tiki bar in the back, and a private balcony room equipped with a wood-burning fireplace. Tucked away downstairs is perhaps one of the hardest seats to get in the city: Dram & Grain, the brainchild of Nick Lowe and Trevor Frye. This 20-person capacity speakeasy takes inspiration and nostalgia from pre-prohibition era cocktails but with a “contemporary and imaginative perspective.” Each seating lasts two hours, plenty of time to walk guests through the cocktail list and ensure that all of your questions are answered during this incredibly personal drinking experience.

rooms-dining-saloonFrye was kind enough to speak with me about the beverage program at Jack Rose and Dram & Grain. He’s worked in the food and restaurant industry since the age of 15, starting out as a dishwasher and working every position in between that and his current role. Though whiskey was always his spirit of choice, he honed in his love for tasting and collecting over the last seven years.

“Here at Jack Rose, we hang our hats on the motto ‘We don’t care how you drink your whiskey, as long as you drink your whiskey,'” said Frye. Still, as one of few people who have tasted through most of the collection, Frye finds that guests get more satisfaction from their experience if the bartender really gets to know them and their palate. Once the bartender ascertains the experience-level of the guest (or at least some favorites), he’ll make sure the guest can find something unique within their preferred price point. Frye also said that he will work with the guest to make sure they’re aware of the full flavor notes of their chosen spirit.

When the beverage director can’t think of anything the bar doesn’t offer that he wishes he could, you know you’re someplace special. The self-proclaimed “jerk that found his way into getting paid to taste whiskey,” Frye says that balance is key in finding your perfect drink. He personally enjoys cask strength, non-chill filtered whiskeys for their transparency in communicating the master distiller’s intent.

Frye’s only trepidation about whiskey lies in the producers taking advantage of the craft whiskey surge in America. “Part of the appeal of whiskey is that it takes time to make. It needs the seasons and years in barrels to really gain all of the complexities I’ve grown to love.” Frye said that after tasting 3,000+ whiskeys, it’s easy to tell when shortcuts are used to expedite the aging process. Who’s getting it right? Willett and Sonoma County Distilling Co. are creating some of the better new whiskies and definitely worth a try.

It’s obvious that Jack Rose put a lot of work into making whiskey as approachable an experience as possible: your experience there truly will be whatever you make of it. For more information about the bar, or to make a reservation, visit their website.

Jack Rose Dining Saloon
Dram & Grain
2007 18th St. NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 607-1572