Shoomaker’s Was the Home of the Rickey. Was It Also D.C.’s First Dive Bar?
Last week, Y&H spent a pleasant, bleary-eyed evening on the patio at the Gibson with Derek Brown, the mixologist of a thousand quips, as he explained the D.C. Craft Bartenders Guild's long-term campaign to get the Rickey declared as the District's official cocktail. Sort of like how the Louisiana House of Representatives recently proclaimed the Sazerac as New Orleans' official tipple.
Or maybe he said that he'd just like to slip me a mickey? I don't know. I can barely read my notes after that third cocktail. There seems to be something scribbled here about the Rickey, a waitress who looks hotter than liquid magma, and the oversized douchetard in a pink Polo shirt who needs to have that smirk wiped right off his goddamn face...
No wait, sorry. Here it is on the more legible pages in my notepad. The Rickey. Official drink. Long-term campaign. "Our first goal," Brown told me, "is to get people to know what [the drink] is."
Well, here's an easy way to learn: Go to Bourbon tonight for the culmination of the Guild's second annual Rickey Month. The winner of the people's choice award will be revealed tonight at the Adams Morgan watering hole. Several judges, including chef Katsuya Fukushima of ThinkFoodGroup and Fritz Hahn of the Post, will also pick their favorite Rickey from a group of 15 competing mixologists. The event runs from 6:30 to 11 p.m. Amanda McClements, another judge for the evening, has the details.
Y&H fully supports this campaign to name the Rickey as D.C.'s official cocktail — and not just because the thing is easy enough for Y&H to make. I also support the campaign because of the cocktail's colorful history. It was invented circa 1883 at a downtown joint called Shoomaker's, which may have been D.C.'s first dive bar.
Brown tells me that, based on his research, "Shoomaker's was nothing to look at." Which is sort of like saying that Michael Jackson had a little facial surgery. This weekend, Brown forwarded me some photographed pages of Elbert Hubbard's 1909 book on Shoomaker's. Hubbard, in his sly dry prose, gives us a sense of what kind of magnetic hellhole Shoomaker's really was:
"Cobwebs festooned the ceiling; the mirror was encrusted with long-defunct flies; dust and dirt toned all the pictures. The works of art at Shoomaker's, I am sorry to say, often border on the risque."
Hubbard later explains why Shoomaker's was such a pit:
"To clean up the place would be to kill its prestige and dissipate its patronage. What is the psychology of this success? Simply this: Man likes to play at make-believe. Also, we like a change. The men who come here mostly live in palaces. They are rich and powerful. They bear big burdens. Here they relax and are free from the vigils of butler, wife, daughters, or decent neighbors."
Hey, that sounds like one juicy rationalization to get drunk in filth! Let's follow up on that tonight at Bourbon, which presumably will be a little tidier.