Craft cocktails have replaced bathtub gin, but speakeasies are alive and well.

virginia alexandria bars captain gregory's
Craft cocktails have replaced bathtub gin, but speakeasies are alive and well.
| Credit: Alexis Jenkins

In Alexandria, Virginia, a popular sweet shop called Sugar Shack Donuts & Coffee serves something called the Luther Sunrise, which has become the stuff of breakfast legend. And at this same spot where you can have your morning breakfast sandwich of egg, cheese, and sausage served on a maple-glazed donut bun, you can come back later for craft cocktails—if you can find the bar.

Tucked behind a sliding door in Alexandria's Sugar Shack on Henry Street is Captain Gregory's, a 25-capacity bar serving inventive cocktails and small plates to complement them. There's a daily menu of 15 drinks, plus select beer and wine. But Captain Gregory's encourages guests to "go off menu" and let the bartenders dream up something new.

According to The Washington Post, speakeasy-style watering holes have been popping up in the D.C. area for several years now, ranging from vintage bars that are open to the public to real-deal secret spots you'll never find unless someone invites you.

Like its sister bar, Nocturne, in D.C.'s Shaw neighborhood, Captain Gregory's requires an online reservation if you want to be guaranteed entrance—especially for parties of 6 or more. According to the Post, the trick to getting in without a reservation is to pop into the Sugar Shack and look for a whiskey flag flying. If you spot the flag, give it a tug. It's actually a doorbell that rings in the bar. If there's room, they'll let you in.

But back to those donuts. Sugar Shack now has 11 locations in Virginia/D.C. with more in the works. Come to the Alexandria shop for serious coffee and handmade donuts in flavors like salted caramel, sweet potato pie, maple bacon, pecan pie, cinnamon sugar . . .

P.S. Captain Gregory's was named for a seafarer who supposedly was the first to punch a hole in a dough cake and create the donut. Jury's out on whether he did it intentionally or by accident. Either way, the whole story . . . rings hollow.

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