The rabid nature of modern politics, with its zealous "with us or against us" rhetoric, and increasing complexity that requires studious investments simply to decipher any true agendas, has sadly made patriotism a divisive political sentiment. Perhaps this is the reason for the recent popularity of American history movies referencing past political heroes like Lincoln (ironically pivotal to the most politically divided time in our nation's history)--as repositories of our national pride. Those political heroes, no matter our voting preferences, are the union points where we can agree to feel patriotic.
In some ways, that is part of the appeal of the Hancock Room, a bar themed with decorations, drinks, and images of the founding fathers; it offers a sanctuary to celebrate that collective pride with cocktails and, at least a few moments, asks you to check your politics at the door and agree on one thing: cocktails are delicious.
With a menu founded on spirits that had some historic reference -- brandy, gin, rum, and whiskey -- bar owner John Eric Sanchez built a menu of classics and variations on classics. While the namesake John Hancock ($9, brandy, maraschino, bitters, gum syrup, absinthe), a brandy twist on the Jerry Thomas standard, is bracing liquid courage in a glass, it's the George Washington ($10, Angel's Envy Bourbon, sparkling wine, sugar, Angostura Bitters, orange, port) that led us to deliciousness.
The drink reminded me a little of a Boothby cocktail, where a Manhattan gets softened with a shot of sparkling wine. Instead here, a bourbon old fashioned gets lengthened with sparkling wine and a float of port to create a pleasing twist. Sanchez explained that the drink is "seemingly simple, but balanced, while still having some complexity to it, that can be appreciated by anyone -- even those new to drinking whiskey -- much like George Washington himself."
Sanchez spent a couple of years putting together the wing of Sip Lounge that houses the Hancock Room. Decorated with antique tufted leather sofas and armchairs, crystal chandeliers, banker lamps, and old coffee tables, the room certainly has that old hideaway feel to it. Although there is a framed flag of the 13 U.S. Colonies and a replica of the Oval Office rug with the Great Seal of the United States, the other décor is a more playful with paintings by Jason Heuser that include F.D.R in a mechanical wheelchair suit fighting evil robots, Teddy Roosevelt battling Big Foot, and George Washington mowing down zombies.
The intoxicating taste of freedom and political history never tasted so good.
The George Washington
1 oz. Angel's Envy Bourbon
1 Sugar cube
1 Slice of orange
Start with one sugar cube moistened with two dashes of Angostura bitters and drop an orange slice in a double old-fashioned glass. Using a muddler, mash the sugar and citrus. Add the bourbon, ice, then top off with the sparkling wine and stir. Finish with a float of the port.
The Hancock Room (inside the Sip Bar & Lounge), 787 Broadway (at Powell), 699-6545