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Posted at 3:45 PM ET, 01/14/2011

Last call at the Mayflower

By Fritz Hahn

Sambonn Lek has been shaking drinks and perfoming magic tricks -- including getting bills to levitate -- since 1976. (Andrea Bruce - The Washington Post)

Saturday night, around 1 a.m., bartender Sambonn "Sam" Lek will pour the last martini at the Mayflower Hotel's Town and Country Lounge. (Hopefully it will be his signature "Sam-I-Am," with citron vodka, cranberry juice and amaretto.) The Town and Country, which opened in 1948, is closing to make room for an expanded Thomas Pink shirt store; the Mayflower plans to open a new, as-yet-unnamed restaurant and lounge in the existing Thomas Pink shop in mid-July.

The new bar won't have Town and Country's dark wood and clubby feel, but it will have Sam Lek, the much-loved bartender who shakes up retro cocktails, can rattle off long-forgotten recipes and enjoys levitating $20 bills to spur conversation between customers. It's reassuring that Lek, who's been deftly mixing drinks at the hotel since 1976, is moving across the lobby to the new space, but I will miss one of the city's last old-school cocktail lounges, where tourists and politicos alike mingled to a soundtrack of tinkling piano music.

Video: Customers say goodbye to the Town and Country.

So raise a toast to the Town and Country tonight or Saturday, and take this as a reminder to pay another visit to the city's other grand hotel bars: Off the Record in the Hay-Adams and the Round Robin or the Occidental at the Willard.

By Fritz Hahn  | January 14, 2011; 3:45 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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