In 1930, Texas senator Morris Sheppard famously said, "There is as much chance of repealing the eighteenth amendment as there is for a hummingbird to fly to the planet Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail."
Luckily, the inspiration for its name is the the only lasting impact of the repealed 18th to be found at the newest bar in Wilmington.
Catherine Rooney's Hummingbird to Mars room opened three weeks ago, and has that old-time, speakeasy feel to it thanks to burgundy red walls, wrought-iron light fixtures and the fact that you can't just walk in.
If you want to imbibe at Hummingbird to Mars, you have to call or send a text to 302-468-6832. If there's room inside (and the room holds around 50), the doorman will let you in through a door on West 16th Street, with a light above it that's from the original Brandywine Raceway. If not, they'll offer to call you back when there's space in the room.
Also, you must dress the part to get in: Gentleman, that means no sneakers and a collared shirt is a must. Ladies, leave the jeans at home. Here it's all about slacks, skirts or dresses. If you're coming with a large party, call in advance and make a reservation.
Once you're in, though, they want to take you back to a time when the cocktail was king, and people drank more than just regular beer or red wine, manager Lo Skarda said.
In the days of the speakeasy, the proprietors had to make all their own booze. Lo flipped that, and at Hummingbird to Mars he makes all the mixers from scratch -- everything from the syrups for the sodas, to the cranberry juice, to the bitters. He's playing with alcohol infusions too. When we were there, we saw orange, olive and mixed berry vodkas, along with a honey and cinnamon-infused bourbon.
With all that work for mixers, it's no wonder they're so focused on the lost art of the cocktail. Try the Valentino ($11), with Hendricks gin, Maraschino liqueur, homemade orange bitters, lemon juice, orange zest and lemon zest. Or sip on the Sezerac ($10), whiskey with homemade bitters, sugar and an absinthe rim. All of the bartenders are well-versed in mixing cocktails, so tell them what flavor profiles you like, sweet, tart, bitter, and let them craft a cocktail just for you.
Don't go here expecting a big wine list. They have exactly three wines, one merlot, one cabernet and one chardonnay. But sitting in the claw-foot bathtub that they use as an ice bath are several different kinds of sparkling wines and champagnes, another category of beverage that Lo feels has been neglected. They have two available by the glass, but gather a group and order a bottle, which can range in price from $35-$250. Then sit back, relax, and be glad that we don't have to worry about prohibition.
Catherine Rooney's Hummingbird to Mars Room
Entrance on West 16th Street
Opens at 7 p.m. Thursday & Friday
Opens at 8 p.m. Saturday & Sunday