Sauced Exclusive

First Look: New Sun Liquor Bar and Distillery

The second iteration of the Capitol Hill cocktail bar opens in early March. Get a sneak peek now.

By Jessica Voelker February 21, 2011


For the past two years, Sun Liquor owner Michael Klebeck and manager Erik Chapman have been working relentlessly to create a second bar at 514 East Pike Street.

It’s finally finished. Well, almost finished.

Larger than its older brother, with one wall covered in a map of the world created with Venetian plaster by local artist Tina Randolph, the new Sun Liquor has a handsome birch bar built by Klebeck himself and an inhouse distillery where he and Chapman are working to create their own line of gin.

The gin won’t be ready when the bar opens—the recipe has yet to be perfected—but down the line it will be available for sample and sale on the premises and, if all goes according to plan, in liquor stores across the country. Chapman also hopes to make hard-to-find-in-Washington products like cherry liqueur and creme de violette.

The second Sun has a kitchen which will be used to make burgers with locally sourced meat and shoestring French fries, but the menu will be small so as to keep the focus on the booze, says Klebeck. “Otherwise the food starts to overshadow things. This is primarily about building a neighborhood bar.”

Klebeck is also part owner of the heavily branded Top Pot doughnut chain, so his design aesthetic veers towards vintage stuff with great detail. (It should surprise no one that he’s a big Wes Anderson fan). He chooses elements that have what he calls “the catcher’s mitt factor”—they just fit. A 1950s refrigerator that was gutted and then outfitted with a modern interior had the catcher’s mitt factor, as did the gorgeous General Electric spotlights from the 1920s that show off the alembic copper test still in the front of the distillery. Patrons waiting outside the restrooms will gaze at a glass trophy case full of Klebeck’s collection of antique badminton paraphernalia.

Since coming under Chapman’s management, the first Sun Liquor—which in its earlier days could be an intimidating place to order a drink—has become known for low-key, friendly service. “It’s the kind of place I can take my mom,” explains Klebeck. Table servers and tenders at the new spot have been similarly trained. “We had to tell one guy to stop shaking drinks in such a fancy way,” says Klebeck.

Chelsea Anderson will be moving to the new bar and Chapman has hired tenders from the Can Can and Il Bistro. As at the first bar, he will create a new signature cocktail menu each season.

Sun Liquor the sequel is set to open on Friday, March 4. [UPDATE: PLANNED OPENING IS NOW MARCH 11]. Click on the slideshow to get a sneak peek of what you’ll see.

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