Morris American Bar Debuts Feb. 1 with $12 Cocktails and a Surprising Setting

The sister bar to The Sheppard is from industry veteran David Strauss.

 BY: LAURA HAYES

 JAN 24, 2018 2 PM

Photography: Laura Hayes

Bar man David Strauss was most recently attached his name to The Sheppard in Dupont Circle. The speakeasy is as dark and brooding as they come, so it's surprising that his first full-scale solo project is decorated in shades of light blue with flowery accents. Morris American Bar is set to debut Feb.1 at 1020 7th St. NW, near the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, serving nothing more than a list of $12 cocktails. 

"Cocktails and food just don't pair," Strauss says. "I don't believe they ever [were] intended to—it's really aperitif, intermezzo, and digestif ... Cocktails are my focus, my profession, my passion. I don't want to do a half-assed food program when there's something we do exceptionally well. One of the things that drives great cocktails bars is being near really great restaurants. We'll be the place you come before and after."

There are ten cocktails on the menu, as well as a bartender's choice option where patrons can tell their bartender what spirits and flavor profiles they enjoy. The drinks will change monthly and will feature seasonal ingredients and hand-cut ice. The "Forrest Hills" is on the opening menu and includes gin, apple brandy, lemon, pistachio orgeat, orange flower water, and egg white.  

While on the surface it appears Strauss is keeping things simple, the longtime bartender who worked under the late Sasha Petraske at Philadelphia's Ranstead Room is obsessed with precision and speed.

"I teach my bartenders to build drinks in a specific order of operations built around getting all styles of drinks out the table at the same time, at the right temperature, and at the right dilution," Strauss says. "Everything has to arrive in five minutes because they do it the exact same way every time." Morris bartenders are well acquainted with Strauss's stop-watch and temperature reader. 

Standing is not permitted at the 52-seat, split-level bar designed by SWATCHROOM. Guests must be seated either at the bar, in funky corner nooks, or on the mezzanine where there are ample green-leather booths that each have a power outlet where customers can charge their devices. A wood-burning fireplace is suspended from the ceiling but it doesn't work.

Strauss has also worked at Founding Farmers, barmini, Le Diplomate, and Petworth Citizen. He created Morris American Bar in partnership with Vinoda Basnayake, who is also behind Heist, The Sheppard, and Ivy Room. 

Morris American Bar will be open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 6 p.m. to midnight; Fridays and Saturdays from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.; and Sundays from 6 p.m. to midnight. Reservations are not accepted and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

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