How Carlie Steiner Is Changing the DC Cocktail Game

Carlie Steiner
Farrah Skeiky
Farrah Skeiky

What do you see as this year’s biggest changes or developments in DC’s drinks scene?

The biggest development I've seen, and would like to see even more of, is the return of hospitality. I think for a long time, and this could be said of the food scene as well, we as chefs, bartenders, servers, etc., have become so involved with other aspects of our craft that we have forgotten the most important piece of what we do. We are here to provide a service and make people feel comfortable as we welcome them into our bars and restaurants. I take it as far as helping to create wonderful memories for my guests and, if they are willing, educate them as well. We have an opportunity to shape the scene in whatever way we want, but I hope it continues to be shaped towards hospitality.

Tell us about your favorite cocktail or ingredient from 2016, and what you loved most about it.

I started as a classics-only kind of bartender and have only recently, in the past year and a half or so, started using out-of-the-box ingredients as my clients at Stir Bartending Co. have asked for more and more originality. I love using coconut water because with the right spirits, you are able to create a stirred cocktail that is boozy and aromatic, yet approachable and refreshing. I also love using activated charcoal for the most natural way to get such a dark black color. This will be great for the upcoming months!

Which aspect of your career is the most rewarding?

Helping my clients create memories that last a lifetime. On more than one occasion, I have received an email with thanks and appreciation years after a dining experience, or months after an event, expressing how much joy it brings them to think back to that day. That is when I remember that what I am doing is important. I have always found excitement and reward in making others happy, and to be able to do it with food and beverage, well, that’s just a dream.

What excites you about DC’s drinks scene right now?

Bedsides the return of hospitality, I am really looking forward to seeing the continued growth of sherry, vermouth, amaro, and other low-proof spirits and how they play in our cocktails. I am also excited to see the use of gimmicky garnishes diminish as we return to the importance of what’s in the glass.

What do you hope Himitsu will bring to the table once it opens?

Oh man, so much. Mostly, I want Himitsu to bring back fun, and a good combination of approachable yet exciting dishes and cocktails in a warm and comfortable atmosphere. We will be aiming for the most hospitable staff and be playing around with what it means to be front of house and back of house. Chef Kevin Tien and I have decided to each make a cocktail and plate, respectively, and to make sure that our staff is all trained in every position to ensure well-rounded service.

What are you looking forward to in 2017, and what do you think the new year has in store for the DC drinks scene as a whole?

Personally, I am looking forward to watching Himitsu grow. As for the new year, I think we are going to see DC start to be more than just a place on the map, but rather a destination for good cocktails. I think before we know it, people will be traveling to DC just for our cocktails, as they have been for our food in the past few years.

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Lani Furbank is a freelance food and drinks writer who is crushing hard on the bar stars in this year’s winners’ circle. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @lanifurbank or read her blog at