A Bolivian cocktail lounge is moving into the basement of a Clarendon restaurant for a five-day pop-up starting Sunday.
The basement of the restaurant at 2901 Wilson Blvd was formerly home to Ambar’s cocktail lounge “Baba.” The pop-up bar will be open for four other days next week: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.
Casa Kantuta comes from siblings Carla and Juan Sanchez. They debuted their cocktail lounge inspired by their upbringing in the Bolivian capital city of La Paz last year in D.C. but have decided to bring it to Arlington this time around.
“There is a sizable Bolivian population in Northern [Virginia], and we know that many people who wanted to check us out did not get an opportunity to join us at our last pop-up,” co-owner Carla Sanchez tells ARLnow. “Arlington was strategically chosen because it is metro accessible and a close drive from our original location in ADMO, allowing both D.C. and [Virginia] patrons to join us, should they so choose.”
Baba, which never reopened after closing due to the pandemic, is a good temporary home for the pop-up cocktail lounge because the “aesthetic was similar to our own,” Sanchez said.
“‘Baba’ means “grandma” in Serbian which made me feel like this space would be perfect for Casa Kantuta,” said a press release. “The decor and design of their bottom level very much matched ours as a lot of our pop-up aesthetic is inspired by our own ‘abuela’ aka ‘grandma.”
The lounge is keeping it simple and offering a menu of only five cocktails, chilled singani shots, and Bolivian wine. That includes its signature cocktail Angry Llama, which has tequila, celery, pineapple, the Bolivian national spirit Singani and the traditional spicy sauce Llajua.
“Our focus is and has always been on providing unique cocktails that tell a story and celebrate our rich culture in an environment that makes you feel transported to another place,” Sanchez said.
While Casa Kantuta looks for a permanent home, the owners are thankful that Ambar Clarendon is allowing them to use the restaurant’s basement for a few days around Bolivian Independence Day.
“When the opportunity at Ambar presented itself, the space was already booked for different dates during the month, but thankfully, the dates closest to seis de Agosto were free,” Sanchez said. “The dates lined up in such a way that allowed us to put together this five-day pop-up that is really intended to celebrate Bolivian culture.”
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