From Jane Alonso. Her passion for food and spirits leads her on frequent excursions into Borderstan’s land of bars and restaurants. Email her at jane[AT]borderstan.com.
Heard of Hogo? If you haven’t, don’t feel like you are out of the loop… this tropical “rum bar” near the Convention Center opened only a few weeks ago in December and hasn’t received too much attention yet. But judging from the mid-week crowd on a cold January night, this one of a kind watering hole is slowly picking up a regular crowd — and for good reason.
Hogo is the brainchild of Passenger owners Tom and Derek Brown, attempting a creative rebirth for the dreary space formerly known as Rupperts right next store to next to their property.
According to the Brown brothers, Hogo is a slang Caribbean term for “high taste” (shortened from the French “haut-gout”) and is often used to describe the “inexplicable taste that you find in traditional aged-rums.”
As you might expect from the name, rum is the theme here – Hogo offers 16 varieties of rum (eight mixed drinks and eight straight shooters) as well as other “cane spirits” such as Cachaca and pisco and an impressive array of tequilas. And the drinks are absolutely delicious – every bit the high quality of mixology I have come to expect from the Derek Brown’s masterful concoctions at Passenger’s speakeasy, the Columbia Room.
I’ll be honest with you – I didn’t take to the atmosphere in Hogo when I initially walked in. The walls are painted black, with murals of skeletons and assorted biker symbols. Together with the ’80s themed rap/rock music (think Beastie Boys), the décor reminded me of a goth high school reunion that I would rather not attend.
I was expecting a tropical themed Tiki bar – am I in the right place?
But then the drinks came from our attentive server and every one was a knockout. The “Blackheart’s Punch,” made of Cruzan Blackstrap Rum, lime, cinnamon syrup and Fever Tree Tonic Water, comes in a Tiki glass.
“Jasper’s Jamaican,” made of Smith and Cross Jamaican Rum, St. Elizabeth Allspice dram, lime and Angostura Bitters, delights with its balance of sour and sweet.
The “Tom’s Rum Punch,” with El Dorado White Rum, Cruzan Blackstrap Rum, Domaine de Canton (French ginger liquor), Velvet Falnerum (a sweet syrup used in Caribbean and tropical drinks) and fresh grated nutmeg, just wowed me with its complexity.
The drink that may best embody the spirit of Hogo is the“Queen’s Royale.” This clever drink is a tropical “high taste” version of a champagne cocktail with honey syrup and citrus notes.
While Hogo’s food offerings are not extensive, it is certainly not your standard bar fare. Hogo touts itself as part of a project called “Temporary Works” that “gives talented chefs a platform to cook bar food with their own twists.” The menu states that the kitchen will be helmed by a “cast of rotating chefs from DC and other nearby cities.”
The current chef in residence is Javier Duran, formerly of Cork and Passenger, where he had a reputation for creating dishes that could stand up to the strong flavors of Derek Brown’s drinks. For Hogo, Duran has created a Hawaiian-inspired menu featuring grilled spam sushi, Kalua pork (served over more shred pork), a burger with a fried egg and pork sausage gravy and a pork belly noodle dish with bok choy and carrots.
Ever in search of a culinary adventure, I tried the spam sushi and yes, it was delicious, even if it did sit in my stomach like a rock afterward.
So, don’t let the depressing décor turn you away – Hogo’s tropical drinks, creative food, and warm service will transport you to a “high taste” spring break experience just over the horizon from our freezing winter temps.
- Where Am I Going: Hogo, 1017 7th Street NW (between New York Avenue and Mount Vernon Place)
- When Am I Going: Tuesday-Thursday from 5 pm to 1:30 pm.; Friday-Saturday 5 pm to 2:30 am.
- Paycheck Pain: Mixed drinks from $9-12; specialty bowls (serving four) priced at $25/bowl. Rum and liquor shooters (1-2 ounces) from $5 to $38.
- Say What? Beyond the quirky rap-themed rock mix, sound is not an issue.
- What am I eating and drinking: Six creative Hawaiian-inspired grazing options, priced between $7 and $13.