The beach is a walk or Metro ride away at Electric Cool-Aid at 512 Rhode Island Avenue NW, a three-year-old outdoor bar with a variety of frozen drinks, unique cocktails, beer and food. Just don’t expect to go swimming or surfing there.
Angela DelBrocco, business manager of Electric Cool-Aid (ECA), said she walked past the abandoned lot that is now home to Electric Cool-Aid often. Together with business and life partner Ben Schwartz, ECA’s general manager and Ben’s brother, Jesse Schwartz, operations manager, the trio teamed up to clean up and transform the space into a fun, vibrant setting for drinking and socializing.
After moving to DC from Memphis, Tennessee, and working at Nellie’s and other DC establishments, and meeting Ben Schwartz at Ivy and Coney, where he worked, DelBrocco said she wanted to bring something new to the community and noticed a dearth of outdoor spaces and frozen drinks in the District.
“There certainly wasn’t a place where you could go and have a variety of frozen drinks,” DelBrocco recalled. The bar takes its name from the old school bus that sat on the lot when it was home to Mr. P’s Ribs and Fish. The bus was initially intended to be used as a bar, which proved impractical in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the name, inspired by the colorfully-painted bus in Tom Wolfe’s 1968 book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, stuck.
Electric Cool-Aid’s picnic tables, benches and umbrellas give the outdoor venue a beach party vibe, accentuated by vividly-colored murals on the walls facing the space. DelBrocco said that out of a menu filled with unique drinks, two are near and dear to the owners’ hearts are the frozen Irish coffee and Disney on Ice, a spin on Dole Whip with rum. She emphasized, however, that ECA’s focus is on the experience.
“For us, it really is about the atmosphere that we try to cultivate,” DelBrocco said. “It’s casual and laid back. We’re focused on the breadth of things that people enjoy, which includes nonalcoholic frozen drinks and nonalcoholic beer.”
Electric Cool-Aid partners with local businesses to serve food to customers. They regularly update their Instagram page with the information on the rotating vendors and food items available at certain times. Currently, they are partnering with Sonny’s Pizza for free delivery to customers and their next-door neighbor DC Shawarma, which delivers food directly to ECA’s seating area.
DelBrocco believes that the community has always been at the forefront of everything at Electric Cool-Aid. “We actually live in Shaw, about a block away from the bar itself,” she said. “So, for us, it’s always been about building our community and being part of our neighborhood. There are regulars that all live within a couple of blocks of the bar, and they have been incredibly supportive. We’re just so grateful and so proud to be part of the Shaw community and we look forward to being a staple in the neighborhood for years to come.”
Electric Cool-Aid is open Monday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., Friday 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday 12 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Read about their drinks and upcoming food offerings and events at www.electriccool-aid.com.