Before Shab Row Bistro and Wine Bar’s mixologist Alex Strange ever crafted a single cocktail — or drank one for that matter — he spent a childhood working as an actor. He was only nine when he made his Broadway debut as Gavroche (“the kid who gets shot in the head at the end”) in Les Miserables. A couple years later, he scored the part of the little boy Edgar in Ragtime, which earned him and the rest of the cast a Tony nomination.
The drink: Original sin
The bartender: Alex Strange, Shab Row Bistro and Wine Bar, Frederick, Md.
Past stomping grounds: Bezu in Potomac, Md.; Aquaknox at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas
Before the bar: Spent his youth on Broadway playing Gavroche in Les Miserables and Edgar in Ragtime, which earned him and the rest of the cast a Tony nomination.
Tat Stats: His latest ink of a skull with crossed martini glasses was inspired by an episode of No Reservations in which Anthony Bourdain created a graffiti artwork of a pirate-chef symbol.
New England has a long-standing love affair with maple syrup, but below the Mason-Dixon Line, it’s all about sorghum syrup. Made by boiling down the juice from sorghum cane stalks, the golden liquid has a sweet, earthy flavor that’s been described as molasses without the bite. Chefs and mixologists are fans because sorghum can sweeten the savory, add depth to desserts or bring a twist to a cocktail. No matter how it’s used, sorghum puts a spotlight on Dixieland cuisine. “The South is shining right now,” says Sou’Wester chef de cuisine Eddie Moran. “It has really great food made with these amazing ingredients that you can’t get anywhere else.”
Before Moran was a Washingtonian, he did a culinary tour of duty through the Southern states. During a sojourn in Little Rock, Ark., he was introduced to sorghum when somebody poured it onto a bowl of hot grits. “It reminded me of growing up in California,” he says, “except we used maple syrup on cereal instead.” When Moran moved to D.C., he decided to play around with the amber liquid to see how he could put a spin on it. The result is a duck breast glazed with a gastrique of sorghum, cabernet vinegar, star anise, clove and peach pieces. The dish, above, is topped with a small salad of fresh local peaches, making it an ode to both the season and the South.
Mandarin Oriental, 1330 Maryland Ave. SW; 202-787-6140. (Smithsonian)