My girlfriend and I recently had the good fortune to accompany our husband’s on business to Washington, D.C. While they were working during the day, she and I explored the city. Located just two blocks from The White House is The Willard Hotel. It has a storied history dating back to 1820. Charles Dickens was a guest in 1842. President Franklin Pierce lived there at one time and “Mr. Lincoln’s [temporary] White House” was used to conduct business while renovations were being completed on The White House. Ulysses S. Grant stayed at The Willard four times while in command of The Union forces in the 1870s. President Calvin Coolidge called The Willard home at one time and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Inauguration was hosted there. Mark Twain and Walt Whitman graced the hallowed halls of The Willard Hotel. I could go on and on about this living treasure of American history that has been illuminated by luminaries for almost 200 years.
The first day in town, we strolled down Pennsylvania Avenue hoping to sink into plush high back chairs and indulge in High Tea at Peacock Alley. Unfortunately it was a Monday and High Tea is a Friday to Sunday kind of thing. So we opted for the bar instead. We were a bit early and ran into the bartender, Jim. He was an engaging man who let us bend his ear about our day’s plans. He provided suggestions for sightseeing, one of which was the original Post Office Pavilion. The building is worth the visit as the Clock Tower boasts a stunning 360 degree view of the city. Apparently, Donald Trump has acquired the building with plans to make it a grand hotel and city center for political events.
After a few hours touring the sights, I dragged my girlfriend back to the Round Robin Bar. Very early afternoon is fine for cocktails, right???? There were two other patrons in the bar which validated that we do NOT have a problem. We talked to Jim a bit more and learned that he has been working at the Round Robin Bar for 27 years. Jim Hewes has been written up many times over the years and has a drink to represent each of our 44 presidents (he put his own twist on the Blue Hawaiian to represent our current president). Imagine the people, the political deals and the history that have graced the Mahagony Walls of that bar. Kentucky Senator Henry Clay was visiting Washington, D.C., in the Eighteenth Century when he originated the Southern Mint Julep at the Round Robin Bar. Chocked full of fresh mint, powdered sugar and Maker’s Mark Bourbon, it is not for a weak palette. I tried Jim’s recommendation, The Willard Cocktail. I figured it was a true classic made by the man who created it. He gave me the recipe which you will find below.
1 part Gin
1 part Apricot Brandy
A dash of fresh lime juice
A dash of Rose’s fresh lime juice
A dash of Triple Sec
Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake and pour into a martini glass. Garnish with a cherry, lemon peel and a lime wedge.
If you visit Washington, D.C., you must visit The Willard Hotel, The Round Robin Bar and the affable Jim Hewes. The magic is in the history and all who carry its torch – past, present and future.