For someone intent on pursuing a career in nonprofits, Britt Fox has a particularly lengthy resume in the hospitality industry. She’s helmed the bar at some of Washington D.C.’s most notable distilleries, restaurants and cocktail bars, from the recently shuttered Columbia Room to Silver Lyan, the first US outpost of the Lyan dynasty of bars where Fox currently works as a bartender. “D.C. has a really beautiful and tight-knit hospitality community,” she offers by way of explanation. “It kind of sucked me in and I haven’t made my way back to the nonprofit world.”
Her breadth of experience—falling for natural wine and grower Cognacs at Primrose, deep diving into local spirits at Republic Restoratives Distillery—has contributed to a vast pool of knowledge to tap when creating original cocktails. But at the heart of it all is a deep respect and fascination with spirits. “I draw a lot of inspiration from spirits—the people and places where these things come from,” explains Fox.
At the core of her Applesmoke, for example, a Baltimore-made pechuga-style apple brandy informs the entire composition of the drink. Though it only contributes a half ounce to the recipe, the spirit—distilled with country ham, persimmon, paw paw and black walnuts—stars alongside rye, maple syrup and apple butter in a funky, Mid-Atlantic take on a whiskey sour. In A Stone’s Throw, meanwhile, what Fox describes as “fiddly” amounts of Benedictine, dry Curaçao and stone fruit-infused Lillet Blanc work in tandem to bolster the spirituous backbone of the drink: VSOP Cognac. “I care the most about spirits,” explains Fox, “it’s always where my passion has been and so, if I’m being honest, it all still starts with a spirit that I’m super excited about.”
What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
Anything you’re not changing you’re choosing. (Thanks to Iain Griffiths for that stern admonition.) It’s a lesson in intentionality and agency that’s helped me feel more empowered as I move through the world.
Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
I get this one pretty frequently these days: Espresso Martini with cream.
Best drink you’ve ever had:
A recent fave is the Al Pastor Margarita at Service Bar. They had it on the menu for a couple summers in a row and it checks all the boxes. Fruity and refreshing, with delicious flavors of charred pineapple. The perfect way to beat some muggy D.C. heat!
Your favorite classic cocktail:
A Martinez! It’s a perfect example of a cocktail being more than the sum of its parts.
Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
Sichuan chile–infused whiskey. I looked at the leftovers of some crispy Sichuan chicken (after the chicken was gone) and thought, What a waste to throw away all this gorgeous chile flavor, and infused it into a bottle of rye. The end result was what some coworkers have described as a biological weapon. Ask me about it at Silver Lyan; we have about half a bottle kicking around if you’re feeling curious and brave.
The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
I’ve come to really dislike lengthy drink ingredient lists. Reading through each barspoon-full of the creative process can really take the magic out of the drinking experience.