Cocktail Spin

A wine-centric restaurant turns to cocktail and food pairings

Finding wine to complement a meal is easy. But unless you go for the three-martini lunch, cocktail pairings can be a bit more tricky.

Which is why Proof's drink menu is a refreshing change for anyone in need of sipping counsel. The menu–broken into beginning, middle and end sections to pair with corresponding foods–is a road map to coordinated and civilized cocktailing.

Bar manager Adam Bernbach has seamlessly assembled drinks that enhance–rather than overpower–the eclectic and ever-changing dishes on Chef Haidar Karoum's menu. Bernbach added his own innovations alongside classic recipes, making them more food-friendly with ingredients that either stimulate or settle one's appetite.

The pre-dinner cocktails are lively, bubbly palate-awakeners, like the Fools' Warmth ($10), a wintery sparkler made with Calvados, Prosecco and honey syrup. Nightcaps like the chocolate-infused Night Night ($11) are meant to offset spiced chocolate cake or the rich cheese platter.

The middle grouping of cocktails stand up to the kitchen's robust Asian-meets-American dishes. The wintry pork confit begs for the acidity of the grapefruit-laced Brown Derby ($10). Whiskey and cherry liqueur in the Blood & Sand ($12) balance Peking duck breast in a pomegranate reduction.

Each dish has its perfect corresponding libation, but if nothing appeals on the cocktail menu, Bernbach will devise something special.

And for those who are too snowed-in to make it to Proof this weekend, he's developed the Click Click Clack, a warming drink made with ingredients you probably have at home (click here to download the recipe).

Either way, Bernbach is determined to shake up your dining routine.

Proof, 775 G St. NW (between Seventh and Eighth sts.); 202-737-7663 or proofdc.com