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A Round for Brown

Washington’s own Derek Brown and his bar, the Columbia Room, have been recognized as some of the best in America.

The Tales of the Cocktail conference, which is to spirits and cocktails as the James Beard Foundation Awards are to the food industry and the Oscars are to film, released its nominees for its Annual Spirited Awards last week.

Brown is one of 10 nominees for the Best American Bartender of the Year, and his Columbia Room is one of 10 nominees for the Best American Cocktail Bar.

“This confirms to us that we’re doing a good job,” he says. “This is a group of our peers and [a] group of the top bartenders, and they’re telling us [we’re] doing a good job.

“So that means a lot to us,” he continues. “It’s not that it matters more [than other accolades], but it feels good.”

Brown says he began attending the conference five years ago when he assisted Todd Thrasher, of Virtue Feed & Grain fame, with a “hangover remedy” seminar.

“There is a little bit of lightness to some [of the seminars and workshops],” he says. But there’s also an incredible level of geekiness and knowledge-sharing.

The Columbia Room and its sister bar, the Passenger, will shut their doors July 25-29 so the entire staff can head to New Orleans for the ceremony.

In the past, mixologists and cocktail geeks could take workshops such as “the science of shaking” and “how to carbonate cocktails.”

Attendees this year can learn all about New World vermouths, Russian drinking culture and how to make bitters, among other things.

Brown, the Columbia Room and the Passenger were also nominated for the 2012 James Beard Foundation Awards.

Just for fun, here is the White Fox Manhattan recipe Brown provided Roll Call last summer:

White Fox Manhattan

1.5 ounces Wasmund’s Copper Fox White Rye Spirit (Sperryville, Va.)

0.75 ounce Dolin Blanc Vermouth

0.25 ounce Rothman & Winter Apricot eau de vie

Three drops orange bitters

Three drops Laphroaig
10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Add ice and stir until cold. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. No garnish.