D.C. bars and restaurants are fighting a constant battle to stand out from their industry peers. Businesses tout experienced staff, unique twists on creating drinks, and even lean on eye-catching glassware and design. Still, similar trends like dimly-lit seating nooks and $15 cocktails get tiring quickly. The newly-opened Morris American Bar (1020 7th St. NW), though, is positioned to offer D.C. a fresh reason to head out for a toast.
The project is the first standalone concept from barman David Strauss, who's worked in programs at Le Diplomate, Barmini, and Dupont Circle speakeasy The Sheppard. Strauss boasts experience learning from the late Sasha Petraske, who's credited as jump-starting the American cocktail revolution at his bars in New York and around the world.
Making the rounds on a recent evening of service, Strauss says he's pleased with the way the airy bar took shape. The design features hues of baby blue pastels along the bar, wicker chairs and green booths, whimsical orb-shaped light fixtures, and a laid-back soundtrack with everything from Beck to jazz standards. Large floor-to-ceiling windows open up to the street, and a small sidewalk patio will roll out once the warm weather returns.
Strauss is also proud of his intricate ice program. He notes that machine ice is typically full of metals and impurities that can affect how a drink tastes. To avoid that, he and the staff at Morris hand cut ice for each drink (four different shapes in total). The ice itself is made from a twice-frozen block of filtered water and kept frozen until the moment it's needed. It's not something most guests are likely to notice, but the cocktails do taste clean with each flavor shining through, so the ice chiseling seems to be worth the trouble.
Cocktails at Morris are priced at a reasonable $12 each. Strauss expects the menu to rotate monthly, and the staff is always happy to mix a drink on a whim to suit a craving or flavor preference. Choices on the opening menu include The Casement (Irish Whiskey, Averna, peach), The Sheppard Cocktail (apple brandy, creme de menthe), and The Professional (bourbon, over-proof rum, Campari). Even the drinks that sound weird still stick the landing, so consider taking a chance out of your comfort zone.
It's early yet, but Morris American Bar seems ready to succeed as a cocktail gathering place that is a little easier on the wallet than some of the city's other cocktail-forward bars. It's a fine place for date night or a drink with friends before or after dinner (there's no food here, so don't come hungry).
Morris American Bar is located at 1020 7th St. NW, near the Washington Convention Center. Hours are Sunday through Thursday 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. (closed Monday) and Fridays and Saturdays from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Travis moved to D.C. in 2007 has written about the city's diverse food scene for a number of outlets over the years, including Eater DC, Washington City Paper, Washingtonian and DCist, where he was formerly the food editor.