Mixologist Derek Brown of The Passenger and Columbia Room - Biography
After years working as a sommelier, Derek Brown was tired of feeling like a “glorified librarian” and longed for the kind of casual customer interaction typical of the bar. A naturally chummy guy, Brown applied his fine tuned service skills and grape-trained palate to the world of mixology. Now regarded as a wine and spirits expert, Brown’s passion for cocktails, spirits, and classic bartending has made him a leading voice in the new cocktail renaissance.
Brown has developed celebrated beverage programs as a bartender and sommelier and consulted for some of Washington, DC's and the country's finest restaurants and bars, including The Gibson and Komi. He’s also taught at the prestigious L'Academie de Cuisine and CulinAerie. His latest project, The Passenger, a bar co-owned with his brother was named one of the 10 best new cocktail bars in America by Bon Appetit magazine. The Passenger houses the Columbia Room, Brown’s intimate cocktail club and laboratory. He also conducts seminars and events, and entertains drinkers across the country through his consulting company, Better Drinking.
Brown has received numerous accolades for his bartending, teaching, and wine stewardship, including Sommelier of the Year for 2008 by DC Modern Luxury magazine, one of the 2007’s five top new sommeliers in the country by Wine & Spirits magazine, and 2009’s Bartender of the Year by Washington City Paper. This year, he was the only bartender to be nominated for the James Beard Foundation Awards’ Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional.
Within the past year he has had the great honor of crafting cocktails at the White House for the First Family's holiday parties, as well as serving as the first ever mixology chair for Taste of the Nation DC and speaking about the reinvention of the cocktail at TEDx Penn Quarter.
When Brown is not behind the bar, he writes for the Atlantic Food Channel and is on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail. He is also a proud member of the DC Craft Bartenders Guild.