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Washington DC has its fair share of swanky hotels and hotel bars. Add in the word Georgetown and the image conjured up is a pretty specific one. While the new Capella hotel on the C&O Canal looks every bit the upscale hospitality experience you might imagine, The Rye Bar offers something to differentiate itself: a serious focus on rye whiskey.
Headed up by Capella food and beverage director Will Rentschler, The Rye Bar has roughly a dozen ryes behind the 26-seat bar at any given time. From rare bottles like a Van Winkle Family Reserve 13 year or a Abraham Bowman 10 year to standbys like a Sazerac Rye 6 year, which Rentschler favors because it's "great in cocktails," Rentschler aims to curate a selection that offers a bit of variety, including popular bottles like (rī)1, which Rentschler describes as "like biting into a loaf of rye bread," and a rare Willet 4-year that he chose for its super-smooth texture.
Classic rye cocktails on the list get subtle twists: the Old(er) Fashioned uses an aged sherry instead of sugar, adding a smooth texture and cutting the rye's bitterness while adding a bit of nutty character. The $22 (that's right, $22) Manhattan, made with Dad's Hat Pennsylvania rye, Dolin sweet vermouth, Byrrh Quinquina, and housemade orange bitters, is aged in a 15 gallon barrel for six weeks to impart a subtle oaky funkiness that's proven to be extremely popular (Rentschler went through his first batch of 250 Manhattans in a week). He describes barrel aging as a way for a mixologist to do something "fun and different; chefs can have fun in the kitchen, but barrel aging is an opportunity to 'cook' a cocktail."
There are also a number of cocktails not traditionally rye based that Rentschler has adopted into the fold by substituting rye. The Ryeding Out the Storm is a Dark and Stormy with rye instead of rum and the Margaryeta is a margarita with a white rye instead of tequila. Cocktail ice is hand chipped from large blocks, or hand pressed into spheres.
The Rye Bar (Capella Hotel)
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