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Derek Brown      

Cocktail Expert & Author

A native Washingtonian with deep ties to the city, Derek Brown is a leading spirits and cocktail expert best known for his work at Washington, D.C.’s 2017 Spirited Award-winning "Best American Cocktail Bar," Columbia Room. He is the author of Spirits, Sugar, Water, Bitters: How the Cocktail Conquered the World—which earned him "Author of the Year" at the 2020 Nightclub & Bar Show Awards—and a forthcoming book on no- and low- alcohol cocktails, Mindful Mixology: A Comprehensive Guide to No- And Low-Alcohol Cocktails with 60 Recipes, slated for release January 2022.

Brown’s passion for spirits and cocktails has taken him across the globe where he’s learned about the integral role food and drink play in culture, customs, and values of communities worldwide. He’s written about drinks and drinking for The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and Vox, among other publications.

Brown admits that Washington, D.C. 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 concocted cocktails at The White House, clinked glasses with Martha Stewart, and was even appointed Chief Spirits Advisor at the National Archives Foundation. Brown’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.”

Equally recognized for his palatable non-alcoholic creations, Brown has become an advocate of non-alcoholic cocktails and the sober curious movement as a whole and, in 2020, joined Spiritless to serve as a brand champion and advisor for the budding distilled non-alcoholic spirits brand. Titled the Director of Brand Education, Brown is passionate about helping people understand Spiritless’ products and, more importantly, how to use them.

Brown is also a Distinguished Fellow at Catholic University’s Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship and, in 2020, Drinks International named him one of the Bar World 100, a list of the top beverage figures effecting positive change in the global bar industry.


So what's a cocktail, really? |
Merriam Webster defines a cocktail as "a usually iced drink of wine or distilled liquor ... "The first and most important thing to know," says Derek Brown, ...
How One of the Top Bar Stars Became a Champion For Not Drinking
In 2016, Brown started therapy, and in 2018, he was admitted to an outpatient program at Inova Behavioral Health Services in Fairfax. While treatment helped him ...
A Conversation With Derek Brown, Bartender and 'Booze Nerd'
Derek Brown likes to call himself a "booze nerd"--an apt description, since it captures both his extreme detail-orientedness about the craft and history of cocktails and the irreverent sense of humor that enables him to refer to mixology as just booze. He is the James Beard Award-nominated drinks guru behind the Columbia Room, a Washington, D.C., cocktail lounge that is frequently listed as one of the best cocktail bars in America.

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