Cocktail creation generally starts with bottles and jiggers aplenty scattered across the bar top. But not for Trevor Frye. He’s more apt to pop in earbuds, put Spotify on shuffle and ride his bike, immersing himself in alternative bands like LANY.
It all sounds a tad unorthodox, until you consider that Frye’s bar literally sits in the shadow of the District’s most iconic concert hall. “You cannot talk about music in DC without talking about the 9:30 Club,” he says. “Being so close to a venue that has such an eclectic range of artists allows for endless creativity when it comes to making cocktails inspired by the performances.”
Growing up, Frye was influenced by genres from classic rock to 90s hip-hop. (He dreams of camping out at the original Woodstock.) So when the former Dram & Grain bartender decided to venture out—in a space formerly occupied by a record store, no less—he named his bar (Five to One) after a song by one of his favorite bands, The Doors (The lyrics: “Five to One, baby, one in five. No one here gets out alive.”) A print of Doors’ charismatic frontman Jim Morrison—an Arlington, Va., native—is displayed above the whiskey, an appropriate tribute.
Rotating drinks inspired by acts performing next door go on the Set List menu. But he’s careful to avoid literal interpretation of lyrics. “We wanted these drinks to be reflective of the mood of the music,” he points out. A Common song launched the boozy I Used to Love H.E.R. ($12) with Martell VSOP cognac, triple sec, honey, Maurin Quina, Cocchi Dopo, orange and Trinity bitters. The transitions of the rhythms and octaves of CherChez La Ghost ($12) from Ghostface Killah is a favorite. “It’s light and approachable while also having a serious amount of grit to it—but also something you want to dance to,” he says. In liquid form, it shakes Illegal mezcal with 3 Stars Peppercorn saison, ginger, chartreuse and lime juice.
Artists are known to pop over to sample the libations stirred by their sets. So what’s Frye’s favorite concert ever? The next one he’s seeing. “[It’s about the] vocals, instrument skill, lighting, crowd engagement and interaction, intimacy at the 9:30 Club,” he says. “So much can make or break a show, and I have learned over the years to appreciate it all.” 903 U St. NW, 202.629.2877
Main Image: The CherChez La Ghost (a Tom Collins-inspired cocktail) and I Used to Love H.E.R. (which has cognac as its base) were created by mixologist Trevor Frye at his new bar, Five to One.