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Baltimore Kombucha Company Aims to Make the Drink ‘More Approachable’

Baltimore Kombucha Company Aims to Make the Drink ‘More Approachable’


Mobtown Fermentation has expanded to 150 stores in two years.

If you’ve never tasted Kombucha, it’s a fermented tea with a sharp, almost vinegar-like flavor — which can sound intimidating for the first-time drinker. One company, Mobtown Fermentation, is looking to make the beverage “more approachable to the general consumer” by changing the shape of the bottle and creating a smoother taste with its product, Wild Kombucha.

For the product, the company uses a “more familiar glass bottle,” which resembles most bottled beers with a dark glass color and tall neck, Sergio Malarin, co-founder of Mobtown Fermentation, told FoodNavigator-USA.

As for the taste, Wild Kombucha is made from a green tea as opposed to more common black tea varieties, which the company says gives it a “lighter, less vinegary flavor.”

The company also says it doesn’t add sugar to the product during its second round of fermentation, instead adding a little orange juice to help soften the flavor.

Malarin says that while Wild Kombucha is a “small fish” now, he doesn’t think it will be for long. In the past two years, he says, the company has grown at a steady rate, having doubled each year.


Behind the Backbar at Washington, D.C.’s A Rake’s Bar

“No tequila. No Scotch. No pisco. No Cognac,” says Corey Polyoka, the bar director and partner for the newly opened A Rake’s Bar in Washington, D.C. These are just some of the bottles he does without in the name making hyper-local cocktails.

“We’ve really moved the bar in line with the sourcing that was happening in the kitchen,” Polyoka explains. Although the bar is new, this is a journey that he and partner, chef Spike Gjerde, started at Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore over a decade ago. While at Woodberry they adopted this approach gradually, at A Rake’s Bar, which is located inside the new LINE DC hotel, they’ve adhered to local-only ethos from conception.

“That means providing cocktails sourced entirely from the mid-Atlantic and incorporating agriculture into the drink,” says Polyoka, who’s gone so far as to omit many basic cocktail ingredients from the backbar. Instead of refined sugar, for example, Polyoka sweetens drinks with honey, maple syrup or sorghum. Rather than use citrus for acidity, he might rely on on verjus—high-acid grape juice sourced from local vineyards—or on anywhere from 15 to 20 different vinegars, kombucha and other fermentables he’s even called on staghorn, a species of wild sumac noted for its citrusy flavor, which he infuses into bitters “to add a little brightness.” From a spirits standpoint, of course, this also means bottles sourced exclusively from the mid-Atlantic region.

Currently, the spirits list spans between 75 and 100 offerings, which defies the current trend for expansive spirits libraries. “For us, it’s not about having 300 or 500 whiskies,” says Polyoka. “It’s about really looking at the ones that are in the region—and then also going a little bit further and looking at those that are paying attention to how they source.” In other words, a locally distilled whiskey is “a great first step,” but the bar team also wants to select producers that use local grain to make whiskey, whenever possible.

In general, the backbar emphasizes three categories, starting with East Coast rum, which accounts for about 25 percent of the collection. (Some of them are even made from locally sourced raw materials, like High Wire Distilling’s Lowcountry Agricole Rum, which is distilled from pressed South Carolina sugarcane.) Bourbon accounts for another 25 to 30 percent of the collection, with a number of bottlings made in Virginia, and rye whiskey accounts for an additional 15 to 20 percent. “Because we’re in the mid-Atlantic—the actual place where rye was from and made—we’re trying to focus on ryes that are made here, not in Kentucky,” Polyoka notes.

While gin, vodka and vermouth fill out much of the remaining collection, Polyoka is most excited about the local producers making a variety of liqueurs, including amari and aperitivo bitters. “For a long time at Woodberry, I had none of that. They were all made in Europe, some on the West Coast,” says Polyoka, citing in particular a local Curaçao produced by a small Charlottesville, Virginia, distillery, which is made from the hardy orange, a wild-growing variety with a bitter skin and sour juice.

Unlike most bars, you won’t see these bottles arranged on a decorative backbar—instead, they’re secreted out of view and stored in wine racks. The backbar is this incredible 105-year-old milk glass window that’s 20 feet tall,” says Polyoka, who’s decorated it instead with a selection of drinkware, including custom julep cups and antique glassware blown in West Virginia. Even the spirits list itself is bespoke, having been printed and bound by an artisan bookbinder in Baltimore.

“The great thing is that now, after 10 years, I never feel like I’m without the region produces everything I need to make a great cocktail,” says Polyoka, pausing. “Except tequila.”


Behind the Backbar at Washington, D.C.’s A Rake’s Bar

“No tequila. No Scotch. No pisco. No Cognac,” says Corey Polyoka, the bar director and partner for the newly opened A Rake’s Bar in Washington, D.C. These are just some of the bottles he does without in the name making hyper-local cocktails.

“We’ve really moved the bar in line with the sourcing that was happening in the kitchen,” Polyoka explains. Although the bar is new, this is a journey that he and partner, chef Spike Gjerde, started at Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore over a decade ago. While at Woodberry they adopted this approach gradually, at A Rake’s Bar, which is located inside the new LINE DC hotel, they’ve adhered to local-only ethos from conception.

“That means providing cocktails sourced entirely from the mid-Atlantic and incorporating agriculture into the drink,” says Polyoka, who’s gone so far as to omit many basic cocktail ingredients from the backbar. Instead of refined sugar, for example, Polyoka sweetens drinks with honey, maple syrup or sorghum. Rather than use citrus for acidity, he might rely on on verjus—high-acid grape juice sourced from local vineyards—or on anywhere from 15 to 20 different vinegars, kombucha and other fermentables he’s even called on staghorn, a species of wild sumac noted for its citrusy flavor, which he infuses into bitters “to add a little brightness.” From a spirits standpoint, of course, this also means bottles sourced exclusively from the mid-Atlantic region.

Currently, the spirits list spans between 75 and 100 offerings, which defies the current trend for expansive spirits libraries. “For us, it’s not about having 300 or 500 whiskies,” says Polyoka. “It’s about really looking at the ones that are in the region—and then also going a little bit further and looking at those that are paying attention to how they source.” In other words, a locally distilled whiskey is “a great first step,” but the bar team also wants to select producers that use local grain to make whiskey, whenever possible.

In general, the backbar emphasizes three categories, starting with East Coast rum, which accounts for about 25 percent of the collection. (Some of them are even made from locally sourced raw materials, like High Wire Distilling’s Lowcountry Agricole Rum, which is distilled from pressed South Carolina sugarcane.) Bourbon accounts for another 25 to 30 percent of the collection, with a number of bottlings made in Virginia, and rye whiskey accounts for an additional 15 to 20 percent. “Because we’re in the mid-Atlantic—the actual place where rye was from and made—we’re trying to focus on ryes that are made here, not in Kentucky,” Polyoka notes.

While gin, vodka and vermouth fill out much of the remaining collection, Polyoka is most excited about the local producers making a variety of liqueurs, including amari and aperitivo bitters. “For a long time at Woodberry, I had none of that. They were all made in Europe, some on the West Coast,” says Polyoka, citing in particular a local Curaçao produced by a small Charlottesville, Virginia, distillery, which is made from the hardy orange, a wild-growing variety with a bitter skin and sour juice.

Unlike most bars, you won’t see these bottles arranged on a decorative backbar—instead, they’re secreted out of view and stored in wine racks. The backbar is this incredible 105-year-old milk glass window that’s 20 feet tall,” says Polyoka, who’s decorated it instead with a selection of drinkware, including custom julep cups and antique glassware blown in West Virginia. Even the spirits list itself is bespoke, having been printed and bound by an artisan bookbinder in Baltimore.

“The great thing is that now, after 10 years, I never feel like I’m without the region produces everything I need to make a great cocktail,” says Polyoka, pausing. “Except tequila.”


Behind the Backbar at Washington, D.C.’s A Rake’s Bar

“No tequila. No Scotch. No pisco. No Cognac,” says Corey Polyoka, the bar director and partner for the newly opened A Rake’s Bar in Washington, D.C. These are just some of the bottles he does without in the name making hyper-local cocktails.

“We’ve really moved the bar in line with the sourcing that was happening in the kitchen,” Polyoka explains. Although the bar is new, this is a journey that he and partner, chef Spike Gjerde, started at Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore over a decade ago. While at Woodberry they adopted this approach gradually, at A Rake’s Bar, which is located inside the new LINE DC hotel, they’ve adhered to local-only ethos from conception.

“That means providing cocktails sourced entirely from the mid-Atlantic and incorporating agriculture into the drink,” says Polyoka, who’s gone so far as to omit many basic cocktail ingredients from the backbar. Instead of refined sugar, for example, Polyoka sweetens drinks with honey, maple syrup or sorghum. Rather than use citrus for acidity, he might rely on on verjus—high-acid grape juice sourced from local vineyards—or on anywhere from 15 to 20 different vinegars, kombucha and other fermentables he’s even called on staghorn, a species of wild sumac noted for its citrusy flavor, which he infuses into bitters “to add a little brightness.” From a spirits standpoint, of course, this also means bottles sourced exclusively from the mid-Atlantic region.

Currently, the spirits list spans between 75 and 100 offerings, which defies the current trend for expansive spirits libraries. “For us, it’s not about having 300 or 500 whiskies,” says Polyoka. “It’s about really looking at the ones that are in the region—and then also going a little bit further and looking at those that are paying attention to how they source.” In other words, a locally distilled whiskey is “a great first step,” but the bar team also wants to select producers that use local grain to make whiskey, whenever possible.

In general, the backbar emphasizes three categories, starting with East Coast rum, which accounts for about 25 percent of the collection. (Some of them are even made from locally sourced raw materials, like High Wire Distilling’s Lowcountry Agricole Rum, which is distilled from pressed South Carolina sugarcane.) Bourbon accounts for another 25 to 30 percent of the collection, with a number of bottlings made in Virginia, and rye whiskey accounts for an additional 15 to 20 percent. “Because we’re in the mid-Atlantic—the actual place where rye was from and made—we’re trying to focus on ryes that are made here, not in Kentucky,” Polyoka notes.

While gin, vodka and vermouth fill out much of the remaining collection, Polyoka is most excited about the local producers making a variety of liqueurs, including amari and aperitivo bitters. “For a long time at Woodberry, I had none of that. They were all made in Europe, some on the West Coast,” says Polyoka, citing in particular a local Curaçao produced by a small Charlottesville, Virginia, distillery, which is made from the hardy orange, a wild-growing variety with a bitter skin and sour juice.

Unlike most bars, you won’t see these bottles arranged on a decorative backbar—instead, they’re secreted out of view and stored in wine racks. The backbar is this incredible 105-year-old milk glass window that’s 20 feet tall,” says Polyoka, who’s decorated it instead with a selection of drinkware, including custom julep cups and antique glassware blown in West Virginia. Even the spirits list itself is bespoke, having been printed and bound by an artisan bookbinder in Baltimore.

“The great thing is that now, after 10 years, I never feel like I’m without the region produces everything I need to make a great cocktail,” says Polyoka, pausing. “Except tequila.”


Behind the Backbar at Washington, D.C.’s A Rake’s Bar

“No tequila. No Scotch. No pisco. No Cognac,” says Corey Polyoka, the bar director and partner for the newly opened A Rake’s Bar in Washington, D.C. These are just some of the bottles he does without in the name making hyper-local cocktails.

“We’ve really moved the bar in line with the sourcing that was happening in the kitchen,” Polyoka explains. Although the bar is new, this is a journey that he and partner, chef Spike Gjerde, started at Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore over a decade ago. While at Woodberry they adopted this approach gradually, at A Rake’s Bar, which is located inside the new LINE DC hotel, they’ve adhered to local-only ethos from conception.

“That means providing cocktails sourced entirely from the mid-Atlantic and incorporating agriculture into the drink,” says Polyoka, who’s gone so far as to omit many basic cocktail ingredients from the backbar. Instead of refined sugar, for example, Polyoka sweetens drinks with honey, maple syrup or sorghum. Rather than use citrus for acidity, he might rely on on verjus—high-acid grape juice sourced from local vineyards—or on anywhere from 15 to 20 different vinegars, kombucha and other fermentables he’s even called on staghorn, a species of wild sumac noted for its citrusy flavor, which he infuses into bitters “to add a little brightness.” From a spirits standpoint, of course, this also means bottles sourced exclusively from the mid-Atlantic region.

Currently, the spirits list spans between 75 and 100 offerings, which defies the current trend for expansive spirits libraries. “For us, it’s not about having 300 or 500 whiskies,” says Polyoka. “It’s about really looking at the ones that are in the region—and then also going a little bit further and looking at those that are paying attention to how they source.” In other words, a locally distilled whiskey is “a great first step,” but the bar team also wants to select producers that use local grain to make whiskey, whenever possible.

In general, the backbar emphasizes three categories, starting with East Coast rum, which accounts for about 25 percent of the collection. (Some of them are even made from locally sourced raw materials, like High Wire Distilling’s Lowcountry Agricole Rum, which is distilled from pressed South Carolina sugarcane.) Bourbon accounts for another 25 to 30 percent of the collection, with a number of bottlings made in Virginia, and rye whiskey accounts for an additional 15 to 20 percent. “Because we’re in the mid-Atlantic—the actual place where rye was from and made—we’re trying to focus on ryes that are made here, not in Kentucky,” Polyoka notes.

While gin, vodka and vermouth fill out much of the remaining collection, Polyoka is most excited about the local producers making a variety of liqueurs, including amari and aperitivo bitters. “For a long time at Woodberry, I had none of that. They were all made in Europe, some on the West Coast,” says Polyoka, citing in particular a local Curaçao produced by a small Charlottesville, Virginia, distillery, which is made from the hardy orange, a wild-growing variety with a bitter skin and sour juice.

Unlike most bars, you won’t see these bottles arranged on a decorative backbar—instead, they’re secreted out of view and stored in wine racks. The backbar is this incredible 105-year-old milk glass window that’s 20 feet tall,” says Polyoka, who’s decorated it instead with a selection of drinkware, including custom julep cups and antique glassware blown in West Virginia. Even the spirits list itself is bespoke, having been printed and bound by an artisan bookbinder in Baltimore.

“The great thing is that now, after 10 years, I never feel like I’m without the region produces everything I need to make a great cocktail,” says Polyoka, pausing. “Except tequila.”


Behind the Backbar at Washington, D.C.’s A Rake’s Bar

“No tequila. No Scotch. No pisco. No Cognac,” says Corey Polyoka, the bar director and partner for the newly opened A Rake’s Bar in Washington, D.C. These are just some of the bottles he does without in the name making hyper-local cocktails.

“We’ve really moved the bar in line with the sourcing that was happening in the kitchen,” Polyoka explains. Although the bar is new, this is a journey that he and partner, chef Spike Gjerde, started at Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore over a decade ago. While at Woodberry they adopted this approach gradually, at A Rake’s Bar, which is located inside the new LINE DC hotel, they’ve adhered to local-only ethos from conception.

“That means providing cocktails sourced entirely from the mid-Atlantic and incorporating agriculture into the drink,” says Polyoka, who’s gone so far as to omit many basic cocktail ingredients from the backbar. Instead of refined sugar, for example, Polyoka sweetens drinks with honey, maple syrup or sorghum. Rather than use citrus for acidity, he might rely on on verjus—high-acid grape juice sourced from local vineyards—or on anywhere from 15 to 20 different vinegars, kombucha and other fermentables he’s even called on staghorn, a species of wild sumac noted for its citrusy flavor, which he infuses into bitters “to add a little brightness.” From a spirits standpoint, of course, this also means bottles sourced exclusively from the mid-Atlantic region.

Currently, the spirits list spans between 75 and 100 offerings, which defies the current trend for expansive spirits libraries. “For us, it’s not about having 300 or 500 whiskies,” says Polyoka. “It’s about really looking at the ones that are in the region—and then also going a little bit further and looking at those that are paying attention to how they source.” In other words, a locally distilled whiskey is “a great first step,” but the bar team also wants to select producers that use local grain to make whiskey, whenever possible.

In general, the backbar emphasizes three categories, starting with East Coast rum, which accounts for about 25 percent of the collection. (Some of them are even made from locally sourced raw materials, like High Wire Distilling’s Lowcountry Agricole Rum, which is distilled from pressed South Carolina sugarcane.) Bourbon accounts for another 25 to 30 percent of the collection, with a number of bottlings made in Virginia, and rye whiskey accounts for an additional 15 to 20 percent. “Because we’re in the mid-Atlantic—the actual place where rye was from and made—we’re trying to focus on ryes that are made here, not in Kentucky,” Polyoka notes.

While gin, vodka and vermouth fill out much of the remaining collection, Polyoka is most excited about the local producers making a variety of liqueurs, including amari and aperitivo bitters. “For a long time at Woodberry, I had none of that. They were all made in Europe, some on the West Coast,” says Polyoka, citing in particular a local Curaçao produced by a small Charlottesville, Virginia, distillery, which is made from the hardy orange, a wild-growing variety with a bitter skin and sour juice.

Unlike most bars, you won’t see these bottles arranged on a decorative backbar—instead, they’re secreted out of view and stored in wine racks. The backbar is this incredible 105-year-old milk glass window that’s 20 feet tall,” says Polyoka, who’s decorated it instead with a selection of drinkware, including custom julep cups and antique glassware blown in West Virginia. Even the spirits list itself is bespoke, having been printed and bound by an artisan bookbinder in Baltimore.

“The great thing is that now, after 10 years, I never feel like I’m without the region produces everything I need to make a great cocktail,” says Polyoka, pausing. “Except tequila.”


Behind the Backbar at Washington, D.C.’s A Rake’s Bar

“No tequila. No Scotch. No pisco. No Cognac,” says Corey Polyoka, the bar director and partner for the newly opened A Rake’s Bar in Washington, D.C. These are just some of the bottles he does without in the name making hyper-local cocktails.

“We’ve really moved the bar in line with the sourcing that was happening in the kitchen,” Polyoka explains. Although the bar is new, this is a journey that he and partner, chef Spike Gjerde, started at Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore over a decade ago. While at Woodberry they adopted this approach gradually, at A Rake’s Bar, which is located inside the new LINE DC hotel, they’ve adhered to local-only ethos from conception.

“That means providing cocktails sourced entirely from the mid-Atlantic and incorporating agriculture into the drink,” says Polyoka, who’s gone so far as to omit many basic cocktail ingredients from the backbar. Instead of refined sugar, for example, Polyoka sweetens drinks with honey, maple syrup or sorghum. Rather than use citrus for acidity, he might rely on on verjus—high-acid grape juice sourced from local vineyards—or on anywhere from 15 to 20 different vinegars, kombucha and other fermentables he’s even called on staghorn, a species of wild sumac noted for its citrusy flavor, which he infuses into bitters “to add a little brightness.” From a spirits standpoint, of course, this also means bottles sourced exclusively from the mid-Atlantic region.

Currently, the spirits list spans between 75 and 100 offerings, which defies the current trend for expansive spirits libraries. “For us, it’s not about having 300 or 500 whiskies,” says Polyoka. “It’s about really looking at the ones that are in the region—and then also going a little bit further and looking at those that are paying attention to how they source.” In other words, a locally distilled whiskey is “a great first step,” but the bar team also wants to select producers that use local grain to make whiskey, whenever possible.

In general, the backbar emphasizes three categories, starting with East Coast rum, which accounts for about 25 percent of the collection. (Some of them are even made from locally sourced raw materials, like High Wire Distilling’s Lowcountry Agricole Rum, which is distilled from pressed South Carolina sugarcane.) Bourbon accounts for another 25 to 30 percent of the collection, with a number of bottlings made in Virginia, and rye whiskey accounts for an additional 15 to 20 percent. “Because we’re in the mid-Atlantic—the actual place where rye was from and made—we’re trying to focus on ryes that are made here, not in Kentucky,” Polyoka notes.

While gin, vodka and vermouth fill out much of the remaining collection, Polyoka is most excited about the local producers making a variety of liqueurs, including amari and aperitivo bitters. “For a long time at Woodberry, I had none of that. They were all made in Europe, some on the West Coast,” says Polyoka, citing in particular a local Curaçao produced by a small Charlottesville, Virginia, distillery, which is made from the hardy orange, a wild-growing variety with a bitter skin and sour juice.

Unlike most bars, you won’t see these bottles arranged on a decorative backbar—instead, they’re secreted out of view and stored in wine racks. The backbar is this incredible 105-year-old milk glass window that’s 20 feet tall,” says Polyoka, who’s decorated it instead with a selection of drinkware, including custom julep cups and antique glassware blown in West Virginia. Even the spirits list itself is bespoke, having been printed and bound by an artisan bookbinder in Baltimore.

“The great thing is that now, after 10 years, I never feel like I’m without the region produces everything I need to make a great cocktail,” says Polyoka, pausing. “Except tequila.”


Behind the Backbar at Washington, D.C.’s A Rake’s Bar

“No tequila. No Scotch. No pisco. No Cognac,” says Corey Polyoka, the bar director and partner for the newly opened A Rake’s Bar in Washington, D.C. These are just some of the bottles he does without in the name making hyper-local cocktails.

“We’ve really moved the bar in line with the sourcing that was happening in the kitchen,” Polyoka explains. Although the bar is new, this is a journey that he and partner, chef Spike Gjerde, started at Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore over a decade ago. While at Woodberry they adopted this approach gradually, at A Rake’s Bar, which is located inside the new LINE DC hotel, they’ve adhered to local-only ethos from conception.

“That means providing cocktails sourced entirely from the mid-Atlantic and incorporating agriculture into the drink,” says Polyoka, who’s gone so far as to omit many basic cocktail ingredients from the backbar. Instead of refined sugar, for example, Polyoka sweetens drinks with honey, maple syrup or sorghum. Rather than use citrus for acidity, he might rely on on verjus—high-acid grape juice sourced from local vineyards—or on anywhere from 15 to 20 different vinegars, kombucha and other fermentables he’s even called on staghorn, a species of wild sumac noted for its citrusy flavor, which he infuses into bitters “to add a little brightness.” From a spirits standpoint, of course, this also means bottles sourced exclusively from the mid-Atlantic region.

Currently, the spirits list spans between 75 and 100 offerings, which defies the current trend for expansive spirits libraries. “For us, it’s not about having 300 or 500 whiskies,” says Polyoka. “It’s about really looking at the ones that are in the region—and then also going a little bit further and looking at those that are paying attention to how they source.” In other words, a locally distilled whiskey is “a great first step,” but the bar team also wants to select producers that use local grain to make whiskey, whenever possible.

In general, the backbar emphasizes three categories, starting with East Coast rum, which accounts for about 25 percent of the collection. (Some of them are even made from locally sourced raw materials, like High Wire Distilling’s Lowcountry Agricole Rum, which is distilled from pressed South Carolina sugarcane.) Bourbon accounts for another 25 to 30 percent of the collection, with a number of bottlings made in Virginia, and rye whiskey accounts for an additional 15 to 20 percent. “Because we’re in the mid-Atlantic—the actual place where rye was from and made—we’re trying to focus on ryes that are made here, not in Kentucky,” Polyoka notes.

While gin, vodka and vermouth fill out much of the remaining collection, Polyoka is most excited about the local producers making a variety of liqueurs, including amari and aperitivo bitters. “For a long time at Woodberry, I had none of that. They were all made in Europe, some on the West Coast,” says Polyoka, citing in particular a local Curaçao produced by a small Charlottesville, Virginia, distillery, which is made from the hardy orange, a wild-growing variety with a bitter skin and sour juice.

Unlike most bars, you won’t see these bottles arranged on a decorative backbar—instead, they’re secreted out of view and stored in wine racks. The backbar is this incredible 105-year-old milk glass window that’s 20 feet tall,” says Polyoka, who’s decorated it instead with a selection of drinkware, including custom julep cups and antique glassware blown in West Virginia. Even the spirits list itself is bespoke, having been printed and bound by an artisan bookbinder in Baltimore.

“The great thing is that now, after 10 years, I never feel like I’m without the region produces everything I need to make a great cocktail,” says Polyoka, pausing. “Except tequila.”


Behind the Backbar at Washington, D.C.’s A Rake’s Bar

“No tequila. No Scotch. No pisco. No Cognac,” says Corey Polyoka, the bar director and partner for the newly opened A Rake’s Bar in Washington, D.C. These are just some of the bottles he does without in the name making hyper-local cocktails.

“We’ve really moved the bar in line with the sourcing that was happening in the kitchen,” Polyoka explains. Although the bar is new, this is a journey that he and partner, chef Spike Gjerde, started at Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore over a decade ago. While at Woodberry they adopted this approach gradually, at A Rake’s Bar, which is located inside the new LINE DC hotel, they’ve adhered to local-only ethos from conception.

“That means providing cocktails sourced entirely from the mid-Atlantic and incorporating agriculture into the drink,” says Polyoka, who’s gone so far as to omit many basic cocktail ingredients from the backbar. Instead of refined sugar, for example, Polyoka sweetens drinks with honey, maple syrup or sorghum. Rather than use citrus for acidity, he might rely on on verjus—high-acid grape juice sourced from local vineyards—or on anywhere from 15 to 20 different vinegars, kombucha and other fermentables he’s even called on staghorn, a species of wild sumac noted for its citrusy flavor, which he infuses into bitters “to add a little brightness.” From a spirits standpoint, of course, this also means bottles sourced exclusively from the mid-Atlantic region.

Currently, the spirits list spans between 75 and 100 offerings, which defies the current trend for expansive spirits libraries. “For us, it’s not about having 300 or 500 whiskies,” says Polyoka. “It’s about really looking at the ones that are in the region—and then also going a little bit further and looking at those that are paying attention to how they source.” In other words, a locally distilled whiskey is “a great first step,” but the bar team also wants to select producers that use local grain to make whiskey, whenever possible.

In general, the backbar emphasizes three categories, starting with East Coast rum, which accounts for about 25 percent of the collection. (Some of them are even made from locally sourced raw materials, like High Wire Distilling’s Lowcountry Agricole Rum, which is distilled from pressed South Carolina sugarcane.) Bourbon accounts for another 25 to 30 percent of the collection, with a number of bottlings made in Virginia, and rye whiskey accounts for an additional 15 to 20 percent. “Because we’re in the mid-Atlantic—the actual place where rye was from and made—we’re trying to focus on ryes that are made here, not in Kentucky,” Polyoka notes.

While gin, vodka and vermouth fill out much of the remaining collection, Polyoka is most excited about the local producers making a variety of liqueurs, including amari and aperitivo bitters. “For a long time at Woodberry, I had none of that. They were all made in Europe, some on the West Coast,” says Polyoka, citing in particular a local Curaçao produced by a small Charlottesville, Virginia, distillery, which is made from the hardy orange, a wild-growing variety with a bitter skin and sour juice.

Unlike most bars, you won’t see these bottles arranged on a decorative backbar—instead, they’re secreted out of view and stored in wine racks. The backbar is this incredible 105-year-old milk glass window that’s 20 feet tall,” says Polyoka, who’s decorated it instead with a selection of drinkware, including custom julep cups and antique glassware blown in West Virginia. Even the spirits list itself is bespoke, having been printed and bound by an artisan bookbinder in Baltimore.

“The great thing is that now, after 10 years, I never feel like I’m without the region produces everything I need to make a great cocktail,” says Polyoka, pausing. “Except tequila.”


Behind the Backbar at Washington, D.C.’s A Rake’s Bar

“No tequila. No Scotch. No pisco. No Cognac,” says Corey Polyoka, the bar director and partner for the newly opened A Rake’s Bar in Washington, D.C. These are just some of the bottles he does without in the name making hyper-local cocktails.

“We’ve really moved the bar in line with the sourcing that was happening in the kitchen,” Polyoka explains. Although the bar is new, this is a journey that he and partner, chef Spike Gjerde, started at Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore over a decade ago. While at Woodberry they adopted this approach gradually, at A Rake’s Bar, which is located inside the new LINE DC hotel, they’ve adhered to local-only ethos from conception.

“That means providing cocktails sourced entirely from the mid-Atlantic and incorporating agriculture into the drink,” says Polyoka, who’s gone so far as to omit many basic cocktail ingredients from the backbar. Instead of refined sugar, for example, Polyoka sweetens drinks with honey, maple syrup or sorghum. Rather than use citrus for acidity, he might rely on on verjus—high-acid grape juice sourced from local vineyards—or on anywhere from 15 to 20 different vinegars, kombucha and other fermentables he’s even called on staghorn, a species of wild sumac noted for its citrusy flavor, which he infuses into bitters “to add a little brightness.” From a spirits standpoint, of course, this also means bottles sourced exclusively from the mid-Atlantic region.

Currently, the spirits list spans between 75 and 100 offerings, which defies the current trend for expansive spirits libraries. “For us, it’s not about having 300 or 500 whiskies,” says Polyoka. “It’s about really looking at the ones that are in the region—and then also going a little bit further and looking at those that are paying attention to how they source.” In other words, a locally distilled whiskey is “a great first step,” but the bar team also wants to select producers that use local grain to make whiskey, whenever possible.

In general, the backbar emphasizes three categories, starting with East Coast rum, which accounts for about 25 percent of the collection. (Some of them are even made from locally sourced raw materials, like High Wire Distilling’s Lowcountry Agricole Rum, which is distilled from pressed South Carolina sugarcane.) Bourbon accounts for another 25 to 30 percent of the collection, with a number of bottlings made in Virginia, and rye whiskey accounts for an additional 15 to 20 percent. “Because we’re in the mid-Atlantic—the actual place where rye was from and made—we’re trying to focus on ryes that are made here, not in Kentucky,” Polyoka notes.

While gin, vodka and vermouth fill out much of the remaining collection, Polyoka is most excited about the local producers making a variety of liqueurs, including amari and aperitivo bitters. “For a long time at Woodberry, I had none of that. They were all made in Europe, some on the West Coast,” says Polyoka, citing in particular a local Curaçao produced by a small Charlottesville, Virginia, distillery, which is made from the hardy orange, a wild-growing variety with a bitter skin and sour juice.

Unlike most bars, you won’t see these bottles arranged on a decorative backbar—instead, they’re secreted out of view and stored in wine racks. The backbar is this incredible 105-year-old milk glass window that’s 20 feet tall,” says Polyoka, who’s decorated it instead with a selection of drinkware, including custom julep cups and antique glassware blown in West Virginia. Even the spirits list itself is bespoke, having been printed and bound by an artisan bookbinder in Baltimore.

“The great thing is that now, after 10 years, I never feel like I’m without the region produces everything I need to make a great cocktail,” says Polyoka, pausing. “Except tequila.”


Behind the Backbar at Washington, D.C.’s A Rake’s Bar

“No tequila. No Scotch. No pisco. No Cognac,” says Corey Polyoka, the bar director and partner for the newly opened A Rake’s Bar in Washington, D.C. These are just some of the bottles he does without in the name making hyper-local cocktails.

“We’ve really moved the bar in line with the sourcing that was happening in the kitchen,” Polyoka explains. Although the bar is new, this is a journey that he and partner, chef Spike Gjerde, started at Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore over a decade ago. While at Woodberry they adopted this approach gradually, at A Rake’s Bar, which is located inside the new LINE DC hotel, they’ve adhered to local-only ethos from conception.

“That means providing cocktails sourced entirely from the mid-Atlantic and incorporating agriculture into the drink,” says Polyoka, who’s gone so far as to omit many basic cocktail ingredients from the backbar. Instead of refined sugar, for example, Polyoka sweetens drinks with honey, maple syrup or sorghum. Rather than use citrus for acidity, he might rely on on verjus—high-acid grape juice sourced from local vineyards—or on anywhere from 15 to 20 different vinegars, kombucha and other fermentables he’s even called on staghorn, a species of wild sumac noted for its citrusy flavor, which he infuses into bitters “to add a little brightness.” From a spirits standpoint, of course, this also means bottles sourced exclusively from the mid-Atlantic region.

Currently, the spirits list spans between 75 and 100 offerings, which defies the current trend for expansive spirits libraries. “For us, it’s not about having 300 or 500 whiskies,” says Polyoka. “It’s about really looking at the ones that are in the region—and then also going a little bit further and looking at those that are paying attention to how they source.” In other words, a locally distilled whiskey is “a great first step,” but the bar team also wants to select producers that use local grain to make whiskey, whenever possible.

In general, the backbar emphasizes three categories, starting with East Coast rum, which accounts for about 25 percent of the collection. (Some of them are even made from locally sourced raw materials, like High Wire Distilling’s Lowcountry Agricole Rum, which is distilled from pressed South Carolina sugarcane.) Bourbon accounts for another 25 to 30 percent of the collection, with a number of bottlings made in Virginia, and rye whiskey accounts for an additional 15 to 20 percent. “Because we’re in the mid-Atlantic—the actual place where rye was from and made—we’re trying to focus on ryes that are made here, not in Kentucky,” Polyoka notes.

While gin, vodka and vermouth fill out much of the remaining collection, Polyoka is most excited about the local producers making a variety of liqueurs, including amari and aperitivo bitters. “For a long time at Woodberry, I had none of that. They were all made in Europe, some on the West Coast,” says Polyoka, citing in particular a local Curaçao produced by a small Charlottesville, Virginia, distillery, which is made from the hardy orange, a wild-growing variety with a bitter skin and sour juice.

Unlike most bars, you won’t see these bottles arranged on a decorative backbar—instead, they’re secreted out of view and stored in wine racks. The backbar is this incredible 105-year-old milk glass window that’s 20 feet tall,” says Polyoka, who’s decorated it instead with a selection of drinkware, including custom julep cups and antique glassware blown in West Virginia. Even the spirits list itself is bespoke, having been printed and bound by an artisan bookbinder in Baltimore.

“The great thing is that now, after 10 years, I never feel like I’m without the region produces everything I need to make a great cocktail,” says Polyoka, pausing. “Except tequila.”


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