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Mixology

Helium Cocktails: What a Gas!

July 22, 2014 By: Kelly Magyarics

An inert gas finds its way into an eclectic cocktail at a new Washington, D.C. drinks den.


Guests enjoying one of the libations on the menu at Chaplin Restaurant & Bar may get a fit of the giggles after just one sip.

It’s not because of the potency of the potables at the new Washington, D.C. bar. The drinks at Chaplin, which opened in the Shaw neighborhood on the recent July fourth weekend, are influenced by a 1920’s silent film star, and one in particular is quite a gas. “Our cocktails are inspired and named after Charlie Chaplin’s films,” notes Micah Wilder, who, along with his younger brother Ari, comprise the team behind Chaplin, as well as Red Light Cocktails and Dessert Bar. The dynamic duo also owns Wilder Bros LLC, a cocktail consulting company that has created more than a dozen cocktail programs throughout the city, and supplies bars’ cocktail programs with proprietary mixers and lost ingredients.

Chaplin Restaurant & Bar  Laughing Gas Helium Cocktail
Chaplin Restaurant & Bar Laughing Gas Cocktail

The house made soda in their Laughing Gas cocktail does more than deliver bubbles.  “It’s a blend of blackberry, lemon and gasses which will change the pitch of your voice, bubble, and allow you to sing like a Soprano while you imbibe,” touts the elder Wilder. The secret is helium, which Wilder says can actually give guests a fit of the giggles—without changing the flavor of the soda. (The drink is a nod to the 1914 Chaplin film of the same name, where the actor plays a dentist whose delivery of laughing gas yields madcap results.)

For the cocktail at Chaplin, the lemon-blackberry-helium soda is mixed with Bluecoat Gin and blackberry liqueur, served over ice and garnished with a sage leaf, and sold for $12.

Chaplin has 97 seats inside, and an additional 50 on their patio. On the menu are dumplings, ramen, Asian salads and family-style roasts. The bar showcases sips from the 1920s named for some of the English silent actor and comedian’s most iconic films (like Gold Rush, The Tramp, and The Vagabond)—with unique and modern twists.

Wilder is unaware of other bars offering helium-infused cocktails, and doesn’t plan on using the ingredient for any other drinks on the menu. But the Laughing Gas is a fitting homage to film’s bygone era—and its star. “Charlie Chaplin was the pioneer of the movement of muted films that embraced and unified separation through emotion, expression, comedy, originality, risk, sorrow and entertainment,” muses Wilder. “This is his story told by us the only way we know how!”

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Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and cocktail writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter or Instagram @kmagyarics.


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