Derek Brown is a leading spirits and cocktail expert with four of the country's most respected craft cocktail bars, Mockingbird Hill, Eat the Rich, Southern Efficiency and the twice James Beard Award-nominated Columbia Room, located in Washington, D.C. A native Washingtonian with deep ties to the city — his great-grandfather was once D.C.’s police chief — Derek admits that Washington provides a unique vantage point as the capital city, having mixed drinks for everyone from royalty, ambassadors and senators to fellow Washingtonians, interns and students. He’s concocted cocktails at the White House, clinked glasses with Martha Stewart and was even appointed Chief Spirits Advisor at the National Archives. Derek’s philosophy for crafting memorable drinks goes beyond what’s shaken, stirred and served in a glass. “When I think about cocktails, I think about how they connect to nature, I think about how they connect to history,” he explained to Imbibe magazine, which named him 2015’s Bartender of the Year. “I think about how they connect to the people who made them and the time they were living in.”
Derek’s passion for spirits has taken him across the globe, where he’s learned about the integral role drinking plays in the culture, customs and values of communities worldwide. He’s also written about drinks and drinking for The Atlantic, The Washington Post and Bon Appetit magazine, among other publications.
Derek heads Drink Company, the entity behind his four Washington watering holes, and when he’s not behind the bar, Derek sits on the board of directors for the Tequila Interchange Project and the DC Public Library Foundation. Derek is also a spirits judge at the prestigious San Francisco World's Spirit Competition, on the advisory council for BevCon Charleston and Mixology Chair for Share Our Strength's "Taste of the Nation” event.
His innovative approach to bartending lead The Wall Street Journal to describe Derek’s methodology as “a systematic, almost scientific, strategy for inventing.” Case in point: his signature drink, “The Getaway,” which mixes black molasses rum with artichoke liqueur and fresh lemon juice.
As for his favorite drink? That would be a dram of good whiskey.