Serious Eats: Drinks
Bartender's Choice: What to Order At Firefly in Washington, DC
Anyone who's been to Firefly in Dupont Circle has been greeted by the large tree just inside the entrance. The tree establishes a storybook feel that's only been enhanced by Firefly's recent renovation. With more reclaimed wood, a kitchen façade made to look like a cottage, and warm, overhead lighting designed to emulate the soft glow of a firefly, dining at Firefly feels even more like being deep in a thick forest than before. And the new bar manager, Jon Harris (formerly of The Gibson), has taken cues from the wilderness/fairy tale aesthetic in crafting the newly launched bar program.
Take the Malum Malum, for example, made with sherry, scotch, Midori, and lime. Harris explains that the name "refers to the allegorical role of the apple as an instrument of evil in myths, the Bible and Grimm's fairy tales. Malum (short 'a') meaning 'evil' and Malum (long 'a') meaning apple in Latin. The drink is deceptive," says Harris, "because it looks like an apple-tini and tastes of fresh apples, but contains no apple ingredients. And with a touch of absinthe, it has a sinister edge." True to its roots, this drink's bright, poison-green color evokes as much sweetness as menace.
The cocktail menu is filled with these whimsical creations, as well as a healthy selection of classics. One of the mainstays at Firefly that remains on the menu, an iteration of the Champagne Cocktail that's "basically an Old Fashioned, with Champagne as the base spirit instead of whisky," Harris says. He serves it by pouring the Champagne down the shaft of a bar spoon into the flute, a method that helps contain the CO2 so the sparkling wine doesn't go flat.
Harris employs a variety of housemade bitters, sodas, and syrups—but not your standard flavors. His saffron bitters, currently a component of the Lola (a combination of rum, Champagne, citron syrup, and the saffron bitters), is an aromatic, spicy balancing-act of cinnamon and camomile, evocative of Moroccan cooking. In the past he's offered the fantastically named "opium den" bitters, made with poppy, orris root, and sesame seeds. He says it "tastes like an opium den in Hong Kong smells."
For those who don't imbibe, Harris has thoughtfully created three non-alcoholic renditions of classic drinks. Including a $5 'gin & tonic', 'Cosmo', and 'beer', the alcoholic components are replaced by syrups and bitters to evoke the traditional flavors.
We asked Harris for his drink recommendations—which cocktail should you order when you go to Firefly? Check out his top picks—all $12.50—in the slideshow above.