Bolivian cocktail bar and market opens in Adams Morgan DC
Casa Kantuta, a Bolivian cocktail bar and market, opens its doors to Adams Morgan. From left to right: bartender Luis B. Aliaga and founders Carla and Juan Sanchez. Photograph by Jessica VanDop DeJesus
When Carla Sanchez thinks of a sweatshop, it’s not about picky cocktails and secret shots. Instead, he brings up his hometown of La Paz, Bolivia, the city she left as a teenager in the ’90s to come to Washington with his parents and his brother, Juan Sanchez.
âLa Paz is a very mysterious and beautiful city. Everywhere you look, there is something special, something fun, something colorful, âsays Sanchez, digital content creator and lifestyle blogger. âI kept thinking that I might one day open a sweatshop inspired by my hometown. ”
That day is today. The Sanchez siblings, along with a team of Bolivian expatriates and BIPOC industry professionals, are launching Casa Kantuta in Adams Morgan. The month-long pop-up occupies the basement of spACEYcLOUD, a woman-owned skate shop / vegetarian restaurant / art gallery (so yes, this is the coolest place for women you’ll hang. this summer). An arts market by day and a bar serving South American cocktails and Bolivian street food by night, Kantuta aims to be a must-have Bolivian cultural hub at all hours. The entire Sanchez family, from parents to cousins, helped decorate the cozy space with Bolivian carnival masks, ekekos (small ceramic figurines that represent luck) and “cholita” accessories like bowler hats.
âDC is a melting pot, there is a bit of everything. But for some reason, Bolivia hasn’t really arrived in Washington yet, âsays Sanchez. âWe have Mexico, Peru, Colombia, why is Bolivia not present? We have such a great culture. And we are party animals, we are known for that.
For the party side, Sanchez enlisted Luis Aliaga, director of beverages for Roy Boys, a Bolivian / Venezuelan who also grew up in La Paz. There are a lot of Latin spirits behind the bar, ranging from mezcal to pisco, but he is very excited to present rujero singani. The Small Batch Bolivian Spirit is distilled from a grape native to the Bolivian Andes and is similar to Peruvian pisco in terms of its versatile flavor and national fervor for the drink.
âIt’s labeled as a brandy in the United States, but it’s more delicate and floral, like any other type of organic gin or vodka,â says Aliaga.
At Casa Kantuta, Aliaga mixes the singani into a variety of cocktails, whether you crave earthy, potent, sweet or refreshing flavors, including a game on Salvietti, a papaya soda (think Bolivian equivalent of l ‘French Orangina). Nostalgia often plays a role in the space: listen to the music, a mix of traditional Bolivian artists, reggaeton and ’90s hip-hop and R&B that the Sanchez siblings grew up on.
Another childhood treat (and now anytime): salteÃ±as, an empanada-like pastry filled with a savory stew of chicken or beef, potatoes, peas and eggs. Shaw-based SalteÃ±a bakery Maria Helena de Saya and another native of La Paz will be in Kantuta on Sunday for brunch. She will serve the hot pastries alongside Bolivian mimosas (singani and sparkling orange juice) and mocochinchi, a peach juice. On Saturdays and Sundays, the space will also host a market with local artists, designers, vintage collectors and small business owners with a focus on women-owned and BIPOC-owned businesses such as Spoken Spanglish and SunGods. .
Sanchez uses the pop-up to test the water in a brick and mortar Casa Kantuta somewhere in DC. In the meantime, she plans to take the Bolivian show on the pop-up route in New York and elsewhere.
âI hope if you are not Bolivian you will come and think ‘I have to book my ticket’,â says Sanchez. “I want it to be a cultural experience, and a beautiful one too.”
Kantuta House. 2309 18th St., NO. Open Thursday to Sunday from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. (bar service only); Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (market and brunch).