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  • Writer's pictureCraig Stoltz

Drinking with Alice: It's a trip

I drank at the 45th best bar in North America not long ago. I know this because Perrier announced its annual list of 50 and Allegory cocktail bar in Washington, DC, made it, if just barely.

The drinks are very well-conceived and -delivered, but clearly the deliriously high-concept infrastructure put it over the top.

Hard to put this simply: The drinks tell the story, less or more, of Alice in Wonderland filtered through the experience of Ruby Bridges, a girl who integrated an elementary school in Louisiana in the 1960s. Like Alice, the menu has 12 chapters with original drinks, each telling one part of Ruby's narrative.

A massive, unsettling mural spans one wall. The water pitchers are open-mouthed frogs. The drinks represent in part the cultural diversity of the staff.

Allegory cocktail bar in Washington DC mural
At the Allegory cocktail bar in DC, a mural tells the story of Ruby Bridges, who has not been drinking

I had to spend about 10 minutes soaking it all in before I even could figure out what to say to the hard-working barkeep.

Ultimately I chose Chapter 8, because I'd never had a cocktail with curry in it. Is there a reference to curry in Alice? Did Ruby's mom cook with it? Beats me.

It arrived with a flaming lime half turning Chartreuse into vapor.

The drink was challenging and delicious and slightly odd, which frankly seems right on-brand. The curry somehow worked beautifully.

Then, Chapter 4, a re-imagined Margarita. Lovely, similarly odd and original, but not as margarita-like as I expected. Must have been the lacto-huckleberry.

How these drinks are connected to the narrative the menu conveys remains something of a mystery to me. To be fair, I was drinking.


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