The Stephen Colbert Drinking Contest That Never Was


The Passenger

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton has taken her shots, both figuratively and literally. As a congressional representative for the District of Columbia without full voting rights, her struggle to grant the District voting rights has often been met with resentment, indignation, and indifference, with the new Republican sweep of the House of Representatives signaling one more hurdle to the District's fledgling aspirations.

However, following the recent Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, Congresswoman Norton added a victory to a stretch of symbolic and actual losses for the District. That is, she beat comedian Stephen Colbert at a drinking contest at The Passenger, a local watering hole in Washington, D.C. (and, for full disclosure, my bar).

Colbert once satirically chided Norton to have D.C. residents scream out of their windows to be heard and said, "Voting is overrated." When The D.C .Voting Rights Act was defeated indefinitely by a filibuster in the Senate in 2007, Colbert shouted, "In your face, Eleanor Holmes Norton!" and sang "High Hopes," comparing her cause to that of the little ant in the song:

Just what makes that little old ant
Think he'll move that rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant, can't
Move a rubber tree plant

Colbert has promised to be in attendance should the District be granted full representation.

About two weeks ago, Passenger co-owner Tom Brown created a list of cocktails for the official Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear after-party, including Colbert's Screaming Eagle (Eagle Rare bourbon, Punt e Mes, peach bitters, and absinthe) and the Tea Bagger (Killbaggan whiskey, dry vermouth, and olive juice), with a special shot named after Colbert and Norton's captious rivalry called Norton's Revenge.

Sweet revenge was anything but. Congresswoman Norton commented in Roll Call, a District paper covering Capitol Hill, that she "expect[s] it to be the strongest and most caustic drink ever served in the District of Columbia, befitting the name." While the ingredients haven't yet been disclosed, Tom Brown described it as redolent of "fiery Red Hots and gunpowder, tasting of the true grit of liberty."

On the day before the rally, Norton issued a press release stating she would stop by The Passenger and try the drink, challenging Colbert to take his medicine: "Kudos to The Passenger for its creative idea of a drink that I am sure will be made with a kick equal to the kick I try to give Colbert on the air and that he always succeeds in giving me." We also created a Facebook page to encourage fans to join Norton in pressuring Colbert.

Norton lived up to her promise, addressing the crowd and having not just one but two of the offending shots flanked by DC Vote activists. In effect, tasting her own revenge. As for Colbert, one District bartender—who asked not to be named—placed him at the Old Ebbitt Grill, giving a speech in the atrium. With Colbert a no-show, the rules of propriety would then hand the decisive victory to Norton. A small victory for the ant, but nevertheless: In your face, Stephen Colbert!

Presented by

Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He sits on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail. More

Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He travels throughout the country and around the world in search of great drinks, and the stories behind them. Derek's methodical approach to cocktails was profiled in the Wall Street Journal's "A Master of Mixological Science" and his martini lauded as the best in America by GQ. He's been in numerous media outlets featuring his approach to better drinking, including CNN, The Rachel Maddow Show and FOX. Derek is a founding member of the D.C. Craft Bartender's Guild and on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail.

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