First Call: Still Summer at the Summit

The Hill's only remaining neighborhood joint.

The Watering Hole: Summit Public House, 601 Summit Ave. E., #102, CAPITOL HILL The Atmosphere: "Public house," as opposed to the more common "pub," is apt for the Summit, in that you can walk right in and make it your home, complete with a killer beer selection. A group of customers have an intense game of Settlers of Catan spread out on one table, but don't seem hindered by passersby or scarce bar space. People settle into the Summit as they would into the grungy couch in their parents' basement, even though virtually every inch of the bar—the seats, the tables, the walls—is stiff and wooden. Though it's on Capitol Hill, the Summit doesn't feel like a Capitol Hill bar. At Summit and Mercer, it's a bit of a hike from most of the area's other watering holes. But that's part of its appeal: It's basically the only neighborhood joint the Hill has left, and even if you move to the Hill for the more boisterous aspects of its nightlife, sometimes you just need your little neighborhood bar. The bartender confirms: "It's just, like, an eight-to-10-block radius of people that just show up." The Barkeep: Garrett Bristow looks barely 21, but has to be at least 23, since he's been working at the Summit for a couple of years. He seamlessly moves from taking drink orders to answering my questions; everyone seems in their element at the Summit, and the bartenders are no exception. Asked how he started working here, he shrugs and says, "A friend of a friend." The Drink: He recommends the Summit Lemonade: well vodka, Triple Sec, San Pellegrino limonata, a splash of soda, and a float of Chambord. "You drink this?" I ask, surprised. He responds, "Sometimes." Bristow confirms that most of the Summit's business is in beer; the owner, he says, is a "real beer guy." "Most bars have a cocktail menu," he adds. But at one point the Summit didn't even have a signature drink, much less a list. Hence, one summer day, the Summit Lemonade was born, a collaborative effort by the bar's softball team. Bristow says it's a good summertime drink, "but obviously year-round." The Verdict: Granted, there's something weird about drinking a lemony summer drink on a cold patio in the dark. It's not quite the sugar bomb you'd expect—somehow, the Chambord anchors the flavor—but it's also definitely not what you'd expect from a bar that doesn't even look as if it serves liquor. On the flip side, it's the most honest-tasting sweet drink I've ever had—maybe partially because it's served in a Roger's Pilsner pint glass, but mostly because it's not designed to hide the taste of liquor (although it does), but to foster good, clean summer drunkenness. However, it doesn't taste as though it's designed for a hangover-free fall morning after, so I switch to a friend's pitcher of beer upon reaching bottom.

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