Underserved: The Valdez at Barrel

The Valdez 2 (1)
Underserved is a recurring Y&H feature highlighting the best cocktails you're not ordering.

What: The Valdez with Goslings Rum, Campari, Velvet Falernum, and lime

Where: Barrel, 613 Pennsylvania Ave. SE

Price: $12

What You Should Be Drinking

You’ll have to take your uptight pants off to appreciate the name of Barrel’s summer patio sipper, the Valdez. It evolved from a trifecta of tiki cocktails, including one called Corn ‘n’ Oil (made with falernum and blackstrap rum). “I thought of birds and oil, and immediately the Exxon Valdez came to mind,” Bar Manager Parker Girard says. “It’s tasteless, but that’s okay.” The watermelon-hued punch also takes inspiration from a drink called Jungle Bird, which proved Campari could work in a tiki cocktail. “It’s kind of a douchey bartender thing, but it [Campari] really does work here,” Girard says. Campari prevents the drink from being cloyingly sweet from the Velvet Falernum, which is a simple syrup made more interesting with ginger, cloves, and other spices.

Why You Should be Drinking It

The Valdez combines the best parts of both classic cocktails and tiki drinks. “If you look up tiki drinks, they usually have seven or eight ingredients,” Girard says. The concoction, with only four components, captures tiki flavor while staying true to the simplicity of classic cocktails. The result is a tipple that tastes like that time your mom went on a health bender and made grapefruit brûlée for dessert by topping grapefruit halves with brown sugar before baking them. A sip starts sweet and finishes bitter in the best possible way. Guests may be hesitant to order a rum drink in a whiskey bar, but they shouldn’t be. Girard thinks he’s onto something. “Rum is the next progression—the next five years are going to be about opening rum bars. Just look at places like Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago,” he says. Who can argue with always drinking like you’re on vacation? 

Photo by Laura Hayes