Celebrate the cherry blossoms with cocktails at new pop-up bar

WASHINGTON If you’re looking for an alternative spot to catch the cherry blossoms this year, head over to Seventh Street NW in Shaw. We can’t guarantee it will be less crowded than the Tidal Basin, but you’ll have a much easier time dealing with people after a few sake cocktails. 

Derek Brown and his team at Mockingbird Hill and Southern Efficiency are at it again. On the heels of a second successful year transforming the two adjoining spaces into a winter wonderland for a Christmas pop-up bar, the cocktail creatives are celebrating one of D.C.’s most festive times with a cherry blossom pop-up.

“For us, a pop-up bar is like a big cocktail. It’s an opportunity for us to create something really fun and beautiful,” said Brown, president of Drink Company, which operates Mockingbird Hill, Southern Efficiency, Eat the Rich and Columbia Room.

The Cherry Blossom Pop-Up Bar (or Cherry Blossom PUB) encompasses two themes. At Southern Efficiency, pink and white blossom branches creep up the side wall and hang from the ceiling. A mural of the Jefferson Memorial draped in cherry blossoms covers the back wall.

“Somebody from the National Cherry Blossom Festival was telling us how hard it was to find the fake cherry blossoms because we had snatched them all up,” Brown said.

A few feet away, red and white “piranha plants” drop down from green pipes, and boxes marked with question marks light up. A cheerful voice that says, “It’s me! Mario!” comes over the speaker.  

“You’re in what we affectionately refer to as ‘Mario Bar,’” Brown said about the temporarily redecorated Mockingbird Hill. “[On this side of the bar] we wanted to do something that was an homage to Japan and one of its most famous exports: Mario Brothers.”

The creativity and detail that went into the décor, much of which was constructed by family and friends, transfers over to the pop-up’s cocktail menu, both in terms of drink names and ingredients.

Anyone who’s uncovered a mini mushroom will find familiarity in “What doesn’t kill you makes you smaller,” which is made with vodka, mandarin orange, pomelo and apricot liqueur. The neon-green drink “I call Yoshi!” features unfiltered sake, midori, green chartreuse, cucumber melon and lemon.

“All year round, we really try to bring out artisanal ingredients,” Brown said. “We try to bring out craft spirits, and some of the stuff that people have never seen before, whether it’s sake or Japanese whiskies. But in this incarnation, we get to do it in a way that’s kind of fun and clever.” 

A selection of Japanese beers is also available; bites such as gyoza, marinated mushrooms and katsu sando round out the food menu.

It’s safe to say Brown has caught the pop-up bug and the creative license that comes with it. He’s already mulling over ideas for future themes.

“Ultimately, all we want to do is create a fun environment where people have great drinks, so whatever we do, it will certainly reflect that,” he said.

Cherry Blossom PUB, 1843 and 1841 Seventh St. NW is open 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Insider tip: Get there early.

Get everything you need to know about visiting the Cherry Blossoms via WTOP’s Cherry Blossoms page.

Michelle Goldchain

Michelle Goldchain’s reporting has focused primarily on the D.C. area, previously working as Editor of Curbed DC for Vox Media and Audience Growth & Engagement Editor for Washington City Paper. She is the author of "D.C. by Metro: A History & Guide.” She also reports for Artsplained on YouTube.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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