Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Big News From Sova

Hey guys, I know that this is kind of long (and some people don't like menus), but Frank Hankins from Sova has some pretty cool stuff going on over there, and he wrote an open letter about that I'm posting below. By the way, the Formosa rocks.-

Drinking on H St., NE just got a whole lot better.

Several months ago, I decided it was time to ante up and work with a consultant who could come in and overhaul the entire wine bar. Thanks to a number of the constructive comments I received on this site, and to some great customer feedback I received over the last year, that convinced me do it now, as opposed to waiting any longer. I wanted someone who could help create a better list of wines by the glass, but also keep the prices at a moderate price point. I guess you could say, I wanted a better selection of good value wines. In addition, I wanted to take advantage of my full liquor license and add a quality selection of spirits (no rail drinks).

What I initially envisioned, and what we now have today, as of 1 week ago, is beyond what I could have imagined. Thanks to a great customer who’s been in the food business for a number of years in DC, I mentioned my desire to him at the end of last year, and he said that he could recommend two people that I should talk to. He mentioned that they were both very well known in DC, and that it would cost me some money, but that they both could do a very good job of fulfilling what I initially had in mind.

After sending out e-mails to both of these gentlemen, I set up a meeting with the one who replied first and we met at Sova in early January. His name is Derek Brown. Derek has a resume that would make him very desirable for even the finest of restaurants in the city. And as a matter of fact, he’s worked at two of the best restaurants in DC. Derek was the sommelier at Citronelle for two years, and he was also sommelier at Komi for another two years. He’s one of the founders of the DC Craft Bartenders Guild (, and he’s now more famous because he’s the guy who’s behind the creative list of cocktails at one of DC’s hottest bars, The Gibson (at 14th & U Sts).

I was honored to even have Derek consider working with me, seeing as he doesn’t take just any job. He has a reputation to uphold, and he didn’t want to take on another job if he didn’t think it could work. At the time, The Gibson was about to open that weekend, and he made it clear that this was going to be his only other consulting job while The Gibson was getting ready for takeoff. Out of all the questions he had for me, the most important one was, am I willing to do what it takes financially and commitment wise to make this thing not only work, but be a big success. That also included him working with a committed staff he would have confidence in that could carry out this mission. I sucked it up and said I was on board. A few weeks later, he started on the path to create another one of DC’s best drink menus. He liked the idea of the wines we had, and decided we should create a drink menu of creative cocktails made with grape based spirits. After some initial discussion, it was decided that we could come up with a number of drinks made with different Brandy’s and Pisco’s. In addition, we would have a great selection of other spirits such as grappa, port, great scotch’s, vodka’s, bourbon’s and gin’s to name a few.

Flash forward to 6 weeks ago when we were trying to assemble our staff to carry out this mission. A gentlemen who had just moved to town from Portland, Oregon about a month before, and was one of the founders of the Oregon Bartenders Guild (, befriended Derek and asked him about any places in town that would be interested in having someone of his experience. Derek recommended Sova and spoke to him about the project we had underway. A few weeks later after spurning other offers from more established restaurants and bars, Jamie MacBain was ready to accept the Bar Manager position at Sova. He liked the idea of starting with a place that had a clean slate, and where he could assemble his own staff and have more creative input at the outset. Jamie MacBain was most recently the Bar Manager at Park Kitchen in Portland, where he developed a great following because of his passion and insatiable appetite for great food, wine, beer, and spirits. We are so honored to have him here.

Oh, and about that second guy who was recommended to me several months ago as a person who could overhaul our program. His name is Dan Searing. He’s a good friend of Dereks and is also a member of the DC Craft Bartenders Guild. Dan is in the process of opening a wine bar with some partners in Columbia Heights called Room 11, but in the mean time, Derek asked him if he could help us get our program off to a great start. Dan has worked at Pharmacy Bar in Adams Morgan, The Looking Glass Lounge in Columbia Heights, and he started the now defunct Thursday Night Punch Club at the Warehouse Theater near Chinatown. We are so honored to have Dan here.

We have also assembled a great crew of other bartenders and staff to help carry out this mission, and we hope that you’ll come by to introduce yourself to our new staff, and partake in a great selection of drinks.

Having said that, here’s our initial list of wines, beers, and cocktails.


Frank Hankins

Sparkling Wines

$11 NV Ewald Gruber “Punkt Genau” - Sparkling Grüner Veltliner
Weinviertel, Austria

Means “On the Dot”. Delicate effervescence with the scent of freshly peeled apples and long finish that includes exotic

$9 NV Charles de Fère “Cuvée Jean-Louis”, Blanc de Blancs Brut - Ugni blanc, Colombard
Nuits St. George, Burgundy, France

Crisp apple aromas and some baking spice for good measure. Crisp on the palate where lime, green apple, and pepper
run the show.

$8 NV Marumoto “Hou Hou Shu” - Sparkling Sake
Okayama, Japan

This quintessential sparkling sake can go toe-to-toe with champagne. A wisp of nigori with a delightful sparkle on the
palate. Great balance of sweetness and acidity.

White Wines

$12 ‘07 Vincent Girardin “Les Vieilles Vignes” - Chardonnay
Saint-Véran, Burgandy, France

Lively, refreshing green apple and citrus characteristics. Excellent balance with a long finish. A rising star producer in

$10 ‘08 Crios de Susana Balbo - Torrontes
Salta, Argentina

Alluring perfume of spring flowers, peach, apricot and a hint of citrus. On the palate the wine is dry, smooth textured,
layered, and succulent while retaining a sense of elegance.

$9 ‘06 Hope Estate - Verdelho
Hunter Valley, Australia

Intense floral aromas of orange blossom, guava, and honeysuckle with ripe citrus overtones. A clean finish of zesty citrus

$8 ‘08 Argiolas “Costamolino” - Vermentino di Sardegna
Sardinia, Italy

Intense, ripe nose with cream and peach aromas. Fairly full-bodied wine with a long, ripe finish. Perfect aperitif.

Red Wines

$12 ‘05 Massaya “Silver Selection” - Cinsault, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvèdre
Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

Deep cherry red with a lovely nose of framboise that is a prelude to rich, cooked fruit and pepper.

$10 ‘07 Doña Paula Estate - Malbec
Mendoza, Argentina

Dark and winey, with currant paste, cocoa powder and Turkish coffee notes backed by a solid grip on the fleshy finish.
Nice hint of grilled sage adds dimension.

$9 ‘08 Gaia “Nøtios” - Agiorgitiko
Peloponnisos, Greece

Deep red, with notes of butter, caramel, and gooseberry. Round body with delicate tannins.

$8 ‘08 Cono Sur - Pino Noir
Vallee Central, Chile

Bright red in color. Intensely aromatic. Notes of cherry, raspberry, and strawberry intertwined with softer traces of plum
and a subtler smokiness.

$8 ‘07 Luis Felipe Edwards “Reserva” - Carmenere
Colchagua Valley, Chile

Deep garnet. Butter roasted, caramelized nuts, and baked berry aromas. Finishes with a slightly spicy, tobacco wrapper
and mineral dust fade.


$5 Lagunitas, Czech-style Pilsner – Petaluma, California
$5 Bear Republic, “Racer 5”, India Pale Ale – Sonoma, California
$5 The Brooklyn Brewery, “Pennant Ale ‘55”, American Pale Ale – Brooklyn, NY
$7 Morland, “Old Speckled Hen”, English Fine Ale – Suffolk, United Kingdom
$5 Victory, “Golden Monkey”, Tripel Ale – Downington, Pennsylvania
$8 North Coast, “Brother Thelonious”, Belgian-style Abbey Ale – Mendocino, CA
$8 Delerium Tremens, Strong Pale Ale – Brouwerij, Belgium
$9 Chimay Blue, Strong Dark Ale – Abbey of Scourmont, Belgium
$6 North Coast, “Old Rasputin”, Russian Imperial Stout – Mendocino, CA
$5 Bells Brewery, “Kalamazoo”, Stout – Comstock, Michigan
$7 Young’s, “Double Chocolate”, Stout – Bedford, United Kingdom
$8 Kasteel, “Rouge”, Belgian Ale with Cherries – Van Honsebrouck, Belgium

Hand Crafted Cocktails

$8 Andes’ Sangaree – Carmenère, Crème de Cassis, Sugar, Lemon Peel
$11 Formosa – Ramos Pinto White Port, Hou Hou Shu Sparkling Sake, Orange Peel
$10 Vieux to a Kill – St. Remy XO Brandy, Old Overholt Rye, Coffe-infused Vermouth
$9 Original Sazerac – St. Remy XO Brandy, Sugar, Peychaud Bitters, Kübler Absinthe
$10 Red Lion – G’Vine Gin, Grand Marnier, Orange Juice, Lemon Juice
$12 Champs-Élysées – Hardy VSOP Cognac, Yellow Chartreuse, Sugar, Lemon Juice
$10 Coffee Cocktail – Ramos Pinto Ruby Port, St. Remy XO Brandy, Sugar, Egg
$10 French 75 – G’Vine Gin, Lemon Juice, Sugar, Charles de Fère Sparkling Wine

$14 Peruvian Pisco Tour
El Sarcay de Azpitia Pisco Acholado, La Caravedo Puro Quebranta Orgánico,
Viejo Tonel Moscatel

$16 European Brandy Tour
Poli Traminer di Poli Grappa, Castarède VSOP Armagnac Aged 10 years,
Hardy XO Cognac


ibc said...

In the immortal words of Leslie Neilsen: "Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop drinking."

Is that Old Speckled Hen on nitrogen? Or just the regular gassy stuff?

[P.S.: Sorry if I sound like a nit-picky asshole? This all sounds gas.]

Anonymous said...


i will be their for cocktails asap!

Anonymous said...

clarification--the beer is all still bottles. Good bottles, but bottles none-the-less. That would be my only suggestion, to get some drafts.

7th and H said...


I think you meant to attribute that quote to Lloyd Bridges...i know it's a small issue, but "Airplane" is too great of a classic to not be quoted correctly. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Any effort to include any food? Seems that this would all pair well with gourmet desserts!

ibc said...

[Trying not to sound disappointed]: Old Speckled Hen in "pub draft" cans?

Better yet, Greene King Abbott Ale... Mmmmmmmm.

Anonymous said...

anybody who's ever been to belgium knows, really good beer (such as chimay blue)comes in bottles, preferably with a matching goblet...
i can't wait to visit for a drink.

Anonymous said...

Oh no doubt--the beer selection is great, and I'm not too upset about the cans vs. draught debate when it comes to that kinda beer, but I do think some beers are better on tap.

And, at any rate, I think this whole new direction is great for SOVA and I can't wait to go try out the new cocktails.

--Anon 1:23

Chris in Eckington said...

Being a bit of a barfly, knowing Dan Searing, and having tried some of Derek's work, all I can say is, this has certainly upped the ante on H Street drinking options! Now, as somebody mentioned, if they could only get some decent food in there to go with the drinks.

Stephanie said...

Congrats Frank! Can't wait to check it out!

DCDuck said...

Wow, this certainly is welcome news. I'll have to make a point of getting back there as soon as possible.

ibc said...

Anybody who's ever been to belgium knows, really good beer (such as chimay blue)comes in bottles, preferably with a matching goblet...Feh. Anyone who's drank an ice cold Pepsi on a hot day knows that good things come out of bottles.

If you want to drink that Belgian stuff, that's fine. But drinking an English ale out of a bottle is like cooking caviar with a butane torch.

In order of preference it's cask, then draft nitrogen, then pub-draft, then flat, out of an old boot, and *then* bottles.

The wine & cocktails sound pretty great, though.

Anonymous said...


I just completed my wholesale account paperwork with Cowgirl Creamery, and I'm meeting with one of their staff people next week to do a tasting.

We'll have small plates such as cheese plates, charcuterie, different spreads and dips (i.e. tapenade, roasted red pepper with feta, etc..), hummus, and the like. We don't have a kitchen, so we have to work with what we have... for now at least.

Oh, and I already have a distributer for some really good italian salami ( Sopressata, Piccante, Barolo, Cacciatore), and chorizo.

Give me a few more weeks for the food.

Thanks for the interest and support.

Frank from Sova, or is that SOVA ;-)

JJ said...

The beer selection is excellent.
Victory brewing is an up-and-comer and the Golden Monkey does not disappoint...probably my favorite beer out there right now.

Anonymous said...

Sounds good Frank....looking forward to your new wines.In addition,the new food items is an extra plus.

5th Street

poo the poo poo said...

this friggin rocks! i'm there! wow.

whodathunk? maybe they can work out a deal with taylor and get some sandwiches to soak up the booze i plan on drinking there every weekend...

Unknown said...

Cool Stuff

Anonymous said...

I'm definitely excited about this. However, the few times I have hung out at SOVA has been with groups of 4-5 people, and it is so quiet in there that you feel bad about having a normal conversation because you might bother the people that appear to be studying or just reading. It is like drinking in a library. We usually have one drink and then move on.

Anonymous said...

I am sure that the "feel" will change as the upstairs transitions from coffee house to bar at night. They have a sound system, so some louder background music would make a difference. Plus, with more people there, you hopefully won't be the only one talking.

Anonymous said...

SOVA is great in most every way, and will continue to go often and check out the new bar, but I would like to make one suggestion if Frank ever reads this...

Please be sure to pay as much attention to the music you play as you do the drinks, service, art, etc. Not talking about open-mic night or bands, but the canned Satellite Radio station that is often playing there.

It's not awful, but it tends to be repetitious, and dwells on music that would be better in NoVA than H street. Nothing creates a good atmosphere better than good music, and H-street is the kind of place where you can be a bit more eclectic and adventurous. Indigo Girls were neat 20 years ago, but seems coffee-house cliche now and a bit out of place on H. Stale music can sometimes stultify even such a comfortable and cool place as SOVA.

Anonymous said...

funny you mentioned music and art,the two go hand in hand.I also think great music will set the tone at any venue.I cant wait to visit.

dave said...

I'm really geeked out to have a cocktail program in the neighborhood. Derek and Dan definitely know what they are doing and have a proven track record. Look forward to meeting the rest.

I'm not sure of another place in the city that has such a balanced emphasis on coffee, wine, and cocktails.

Alan Page said...

this is totally random and off topic, but i figured i would post this on the blog and didn't know where to put it:

Dear Garden Friends,

Please show your support for the Kingman Park Rosedale Community Garden
(KPRCG)! This year, we are attempting to purchase the land the garden
occupies from current private property owner. This owner has taxes owed
on the property. First, we'll have to raise the money for the
land-purchase. Second, we'll need the city to excuse the back taxes
owed on the land so that the sale can go through.

We need to send letters from supporters to city council and would like
to have them on hand for grant opportunities. We need these by the end
of the day, Thursday, April 23!*

Please see the sample letter (below & here) and change the text as you
wish to make it your own. Hand signed copies are preferable!

You can send the letter to us either by email or
contact us ( for fax number or snail-mail address.
We'd rather have a signed support letter, but due to the short notice,
we'll gladly accept a support email message sent to the above email

*If you can't get us a letter by Thursday, April 23, please send your
message/letter of support as soon as possible for future grant

More information can be found at the Kingman Park Rosedale Community
garden Website, click HERE

Thank you!



April 23, 2009

Re: Support for the Kingman Park/Rosedale Community Garden (KPRCG)

To Whom It May Concern:

I am pleased to write this letter in support of the Rosedale Citizens'
Alliance (RCA) and the community garden they sponsor, in the lot
bounded by the alleys of 20th, 21st, D and E Streets NE.

As a resident of the Kingman Park/Rosedale Community, I appreciate
their efforts to create a welcoming community space for all to enjoy.
For several years, this land was not maintained and became a dumping
ground for junked vehicles and other trash. The garden group has been a
good steward of the land for the past five years. I support their
efforts to purchase the land and maintain it as a community garden and
gathering space.

The KPRCG, which is run by RCA, has been a community gathering point,
providing a space for the residents of Kingman Park and Rosedale to
connect with each other, share stories and celebrate our neighborhood.
Under the care of RCA, the site of the KPRCG has become a unique space
for neighbors to gather.

I support RCA's efforts to purchase the land and encourage the city
council to waive the back taxes owed by the current property owner.
This will ensure that the land is preserved as a community space,
providing more space for growing edibles, growing our garden, building
and beautifying our community.



Posted By Ken to Rosedale Citizens' Alliance at 4/23/2009 08:30:00 AM

Anonymous said...

soul searcher, you could email your posting to inked and she can post it on the main page so all would see

oboe said...

Please be sure to pay as much attention to the music you play as you do the drinks, service, art, etc...Interesting. You're right of course, and it's not just SOVA. The music at the coffee shop on the other end of H St (Sidamo) is just *painful*. The worst kind of new age pablum...

Anonymous said...

i actually enjoy sidamo's music, it creates a relaxing ambience and is a nice change from the usual pop-culture sounds

hophead said...

jj--if you like victory red & black has been serving golden monkey for months now, and also has their whirlwind wit. They actually have a pretty cool beer list. H street is becoming a great place to go to get some good beer

xl pharmacy said...

Excellent menu, it really improved the place much more, it was good, but now is even better.