Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Passenger is not...

...named after a shitty art film.
...bubbling with fedora-topped hipsters.
...home to a two-page cocktail menu.
...somewhere where ordering a "gin martini" gets you a dirty/quizzical look.

Yes, you have the 'Pork Slap' beer in cans, 'kimchee' hot dogs, and beef jerky, all nods to several hipster trends. But they seem unforced here, and somehow the fluid soundtrack of what might be called Hipster-Plus music is a relaxed musical background, with Roky Erickson's 'You're Gonna Miss Me' and the Velvet's 'Pale Blue Eyes' in rotation. The bartender, Tom Brown, is a slow-walkin', slow-talkin' kind of guy-evoking the stolid John Wayne character in 'The Quiet Man'. You will rarely see him rush, but he also never languishes, and the gin martini gets a nice stir and an artful twist. He is a reservoir of drinks info, but doesn't seem to dwell on the ephemera that sometimes makes ordering a cocktail in a 'cocktail bar' such a chore. When one orders a gin martini, one doesn't get a questionnaire to fill out-gin? vermouth? olives? Brown makes the drink simply and with purpose-Beefeater, Dolin vermouth, orange bitters. The lemon twist is freshly shaved and spiraled into the glass.

On earlier visits, several Negroni's were all differently, yet precisely prepared for different, yet precise reasons. The $3 beef jerky's not bad, actually, it goes well with the gin. And there are classy Marcona almonds ($3) to munch on while silently nodding post-hipster assent to the next 'nugget' scratching its way out of the sound system. On an early Saturday night, The Passenger, named after the 1977 Iggy Pop song, has the laid-back charisma of the mercurial singer, with its star-in-the-making, Tom Brown, looking like he just might stage-dive at any moment.

The Passenger
1021 7th Street, NW
Washington, D.C.