Tinc It Over

A few dashes of tincture transforms cocktails

It may seem counterintuitive to balance a mixed drink by adding more alcohol. But at Againn, it's the key to perfect cocktails.

The downtown gastropub has garnered attention for its extensive Scotch selection (and pricey Scotch lockers), but the wide variety of house-made tinctures makes mixed drinks an equal draw.

Like a potent cousin to bitters, tinctures are high-proof infusions, used to add aroma and balance acidity. To create the flavors, bartenders steep grain alcohol or rum with herbs and spices–including rooibos tea and rosemary–in Mason jars for about a week. After two passes through a strainer, they're ready for use in a full spectrum of mixed drinks.

The earthy fruit of the vanilla-rooibos tincture tempers the Scotch in the multilayered Haig & Peaches ($12), which also mixes peach lambic and Aperol. The Daiquiri Melange ($12) channels warm summer days with rum, Averna, lime juice and smoky chicory tincture.

Even Champagne cocktails get a boost from the boozy drops: The citrusy Coup d'Etat ($10)– made from Cava, Pineau des Charentes (French fortified wine) and lemon–gets a punch of warm spice from the cinnamon tincture.

The tinctures line the bar in labeled, alchemy-style brown glass bottles, with labels facing out to inspire new mixes. The bartenders are experts at finding complementary flavors; gin and tonic gets an herbal boost with a dash of rosemary. It's a formula you'll try Againn.

Againn Gastropub, 1099 New York Ave. NW, entrance on 11th St.; 202-639-9830 or againndc.com

Editor's Note: Againn Gastropub has closed.