Another alcohol delivery service is set to launch in DC, thanks to the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration. Drizly, a smartphone app that sends liquor, beer, and wine to your doorstep, was just approved by ABRA for operations in the District. Service is slated to commence in the coming days, with an advertised delivery window of 20 to 40 minutes.
Drizly, which also serves at-home drinkers in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and more, isn’t the first booze app in Washington. Klink also delivers, and offers daily deals and a “party summons” feature for users in search of drinking buddies. Both use scanning devices similar to what you'd find in liquor stores to verify 21-and-up identification.
ABRA’s ruling may open the door to a number of new alcohol delivery apps—if they follow the proper guidelines. Hate last-minute beer runs? You may never have to make one again.
Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.
Have a Hefeweizen
Liter-size glass boots of German and Belgian beers are swilled at picnic tables at the Shaw beer garden Dacha, where you’ll find a small menu of sausages to pad the stomach. For more eclectic eats, head to Logan Circle’s snug Garden District for robust mugs of beer with pulled-pork sandwiches and freshly fried doughnuts, or to German-style Biergarten Haus for a large menu of Bavarian specialties such as pretzel rolls and schnitzel on the year-round patio. Another favorite: Westover Beer Garden and Haus, a tree-lined oasis adjoining Westover Market, perfect for sipping craft drafts and listening to live music in the summer or for warming hands around fire pits in the fall.
Hit the Roof Deck
We love downing Pimm’s Cups on the roomy, partially shaded rooftop at the Brixton, especially on quieter weekdays. Two outdoor bars help handle the popular pub’s crowds, but once Friday hits, it’s worth the short walk to the wooden deck at 1905 Bistro & Bar for a more relaxed sip in the sun. Across the river, the twentysomething crowd embraces tiki time at the tropically inspired top floor at Whitlow’s on Wilson, though we tend to stick to the cold beers and burgers. Cocktail fans should try the Roof Mule—spiked with ginger liqueur—at the aptly named Roof Bethesda, whose open-air third story boasts room for 200.
Al Fresco Happy Hours
Slurp dollar Chesapeake oysters, dig into $7 pots of mussels, and sip $3 local brews at Republic, which opens its bar and patio for happy hour weekdays from 3 to 7. Weekend deal seekers can try the patio fronting sister restaurant Black’s Bar & Kitchen for burgers and half-off oysters Saturday from noon to 3. Daily deals can be found from 5 to 7 on the Italianate back plaza at Vinoteca, where a friendly crowd plays bocce on the oyster-shell court, samples about 20 varieties of wine for $5, and snacks on discounted tapas like mushroom crostini. There are fewer frills at the Petworth neighborhood joint DC Reynolds, but it throws one of the best happy hours in town on the large back patio: Score a two-for-one deal on any drink, from local brews to Green Hat-gin-and-tonics.
Splash in the sun at the newly opened rooftop pool lounge at Dupont Circle’s Embassy Row Hotel. Guest passes ($25) allow all-day access, so you can take a day-cation with drinks, beach fare such as crabcakes, and scenic views. The public can’t swim at the Donovan House hotel’s DNV Rooftop, but come evening, groups gather poolside for Asian-inflected cocktails and dishes including tamarind-barbacoa beef tacos and bao buns from Zentan chef Jennifer Nguyen.
Few perches are more quietly charming than an umbrella-topped patio table amid the flower beds at Old Angler’s Inn, a 19th-century stone-walled restaurant near the C&O Canal. When the weather cools, heat lamps and spiked cider keep patrons warm in the beer garden out back. Century-old wisteria shades guests in the garden at Iron Gate, an idyllic spot for sampling Tony Chittum’s Mediterranean-influenced menu or sipping unusual Old World wines. In Adams Morgan, the flower-box-lined roof at Perrys—where couples nibble sushi under strings of lights—feels miles away from 18th Street.
Big changes are happening at the W Hotel Washington DC. In addition to a new southern European restaurant, Pinea, the rooftop P.O.V. Lounge is getting a revamp. The scenic bar closed on Saturday for an extensive renovation, and will debut along with the restaurant in September with an entirely new vibe.
The outdoor lounge already provides views of top Washington landmarks—including your best chance to gaze into the White House’s windows—but the redesign will incorporate more elements of the cityscape and its history. A 50-foot, glowing “red tape” wall is très bureaucratic Washington, while the city’s classical design is reflected in a rounded dome bar in the “White House corner.” Street artist Aiko has also been commissioned to design the walls to reflect DC architecture.
In addition to the public al fresco space, you’ll find a new VIP seating area with space for up to 50 in the “Washington Monument corner.” Those less interested in spotting current celebs can hang at the indoor bar off the terrace, flanked by a brass mural of historical A-listers such as Benjamin Franklin and John F. Kennedy.
The newest addition to DC’s outdoor drinking scene debuts today with the opening of Sauf Haus Bier Hall. The two-story watering hole includes both an indoor bar and an open rooftop, with a Germanic theme throughout. Here’s what you need to know.
The vibe: Oktoberfest in July. While any bar serving beer outside can call itself a beer garden, owner Edwin Villegas (who also owns neighboring Public) wanted to take the concept back to its Bavarian roots. Both the indoor and outdoor spaces boast long wooden picnic benches and German regalia, plus a foosball table where patrons can act out World Cup fantasies in miniature.
The beer: Deutschland is also the focus when it comes to brews. The 16 taps are devoted solely to German beers, such as liters and half-liters of Warsteiner Dunkel, Hofbrau Hefeweizen, and the refreshing Schöfferhofer Grapefruit. A smaller beer and can list includes craft domestics, which are tasty to drink but less fun to pronounce.
The other drinks: Did we mention beer is main theme? House cocktails come in the form of beer-tails, such as a mix of grapefruit, hefeweizen, and house-infused vanilla vodka. A full bar is available, but you’ll only find a single brand of liquor per spirit, such as Tito’s vodka and Patrón tequila.
The food: Soft pretzels. There’s no kitchen to speak of, so you’ll have to head downstairs to Shake Shack for something more substantial during the opening weeks. Once the bar is up and running, you’ll find a cart on the top floor turning out Fells Point Meats brats and franks, and freshly shucked oysters.
The happy hour: Weekly specials include $2 off all drinks from 4 to 7 Monday through Friday.
The entertainment: A few flat-screen televisions on both floors. And occasionally, an accordionist in lederhosen.
On the horizon: Unlike seasonal beer gardens such as Dacha and Garden District, Sauf Haus will be open year-round. Plans include a retractable roof for the deck and warming drinks such as mulled wine for when the weather turns chilly.
Sauf Haus Bier Hall. 1216-A 18th St., NW; 202-466-3355. Doors open at 4.
For a place named after a silent-film star, there’s a lot to say about the Chaplin Bar & Restaurant. The bilevel spot takes the place of Shaw’s Mandalay and serves an ambitious lineup of cocktails from brothers Ari and Micah Wilder alongside dumpling “shooters,” ramen, and eventually whole roast animals from chef Jeremy Cooke.
The drinks, food, and decor take inspiration from 1920s Japan and Shanghai. Guests can sip libations named after Chaplin’s comedic films in the black-and-red-accented dining room, such as the floral Gold Rush with Montenegro amaro, Champagne, peach liqueur, and gold flakes. The upstairs private “opium den” may be the best place to try the giggle-inducing Laughing Gas, a mix of gin, blackberry liqueur, and helium-infused soda.
Spirits also make an appearance on the dinner menu, where certain categories such as “drunken master dumpling shooters” are labeled adult-only. Inspired by oyster shots, three kinds of dumplings arrive with a boozy mix, which you can drink separately or take all together; think a chilled shrimp dumpling with a Pimm’s cup, or a warm pork dumpling with Japanese whiskey and lemon. Dumpling platters can also come infused with booze, such as dry-aged New York strip soaked in Yamizake 12-year Scotch for a week, ground, blended with roasted mushrooms and scallions, and served with a whiskey-spiked “drunken ginger” dipping sauce.
Not all the food is for licensed adults. You can order a variety of virgin dumplings, spicy noodle or papaya salads, or ramen. Cooke spent a four-month stint at Toki Underground before the Chaplin and creates an array of soups, from seafood ramen with mussel-dashi broth to a green curry chicken-inspired bowl, and a vegan-friendly option with mushroom broth, pickled vegetables, and fried tofu. Cooke plans to get a smoker for the 80-seat patio and offer family-style roasts; a party can call ahead and order large meats such as a baby pig or goat leg with an array of salads, noodles, and other sides.
The Wilders are known for their dessert cocktails at their other venture, Red Light, and you’ll find a sweet finish (or in this case, a “happy ending”) in the form of a rum-spiked root beer float.
The Chaplin Bar & Restaurant. 1501 Ninth St., NW; 202-644-8806. Open Monday through Thursday 4 to midnight, Friday 4 to 1, Saturday noon to 1, Sunday noon to midnight.
City Tap House beer director Andy Farrell isn’t a snob when it comes brews.
“The way I feel about summertime beer is that it’s hot outside, so drink what makes you happy and cools you down,” he says. “Ice-cold Miller High Life is a hell of a thing on a hot summer day.”
In addition to the “Champagne of beers,” we asked Farrell to recommend some of his favorite all-American suds for Fourth of July grill-outs. You can find most at Whole Foods or a liquor store with a better-than-average selection.
You want: A brew that goes well with barbecue.
Try: An American IPA, like Terrapin Beer Company RecreationAle (Athens, Georgia)
“You have all kinds of rich sauces, big flavors,” says Farrell. “I’m usually a fan of using your beer as a palate cleanser in this case.” Hoppy IPAs also pair well with tangy sides such as slaw and potato salad, and are typically lower in alcohol, so you can drink a few over the course of a ’cue.
You want: An easy-drinking beer with seafood.
Try: Port City Brewing Company Optimal Wit (Alexandria, Virginia)
“This is a great wheat if you’re not into hoppy beers, and you want something easy, clean, and bright,” says Farrell. He recommends the citrusy brew with seafood dishes, such as crabcakes and lobster. Want a little more hop? Try Port City’s Downright Pils. “Pils are hoppy on the front with a crisp, clean finish,” says Farrell. “They’re made for eating, the ultimate palate cleanser.”
You want: A robust, unusual brew.
Try: A German-style rauchbier, like Mad Fox Rauchbier (Falls Church, Virginia)
“If you really want to get crazy outside the box for your barbecue, try a German-style smoked lager,” says Farrell. “It’s like drinking bacon-beer.” If you can’t find the local version—it’s a seasonal item on Mad Fox’s list—make an exception to the American rule and try German Aecht Schlenkerla. The brewery specializes in smoked lagers, which Farrell says pair best with fatty, rich dishes like smoked pork butt and ribs.
You want: A crisp, fruity sip.
Try: A European-style radler, like Sixpoint Brewery Rad (Brooklyn, New York)
This style of beer, which literally means “cyclist” in German, originated in Europe as a biker’s drink: golden ale mixed with fresh fruit juice for a refreshing, low-alcohol thirst quencher. “They’re really bright, citrusy, and fresh,” says Farrell. If you’re not sticking within US borders, he also likes Stiegl Grapefruit Radler from Austria.
You want: A classy keg.
Try: Atlas Brew Works Rowdy Rye (Washington, DC)
Kegs don’t necessarily mean sticking to collegiate quantities of Bud. “If you’re going to invest in a keg, go local. That way you can ensure freshness,” says Farrell, who recommends calling nearby breweries or wholesalers (you can browse producers in our local beer guide). Even if you don’t know what exact beer you want, brewers can be helpful in recommending a variety that meets your style. Fitting for the Fourth, Farrell likes Atlas’s Rowdy Rye. “It’s an awesome food beer in general, and really complements barbecue. It has a nice spice, but it’s not bitter.”
Your summer drinking just got a lot sunnier. Tuesday brought news of a beer garden opening in Glover Park, and now Dupont’s Embassy Row Hotel readies its new rooftop terrace and pool for the public on July 1. The hotel is currently undergoing a $15 million renovation, with $500,000 toward revamping the outdoor space and its 450-foot swimming area.
Guests can take breaks from splashing around to sample a menu from chef Carlo de Leon, who recently appeared as a judge on Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen. Dishes include fish tacos, crabcake sandwiches, and an oh-so-trendy ramen burger. In addition to beer and wine you’ll find warm-weather cocktails such as the gin-based “spring fizz” with lemon, raspberries, and club soda. An open-air lounge equipped with outdoor sofas and chairs allows for views of the Washington Monument and other landmarks.
If you’re not a hotel guest, stop by the hotel’s front desk for a $25 day pass, though a limited number are available. The other, more pricey option: a $500 yearlong membership for only 50 applicants, which allows unlimited access, complimentary guests passes, and other perks (there’s also a contest to win a free membership). Pool hours are 7 AM to 10 PM, Monday through Sunday. Happy swimming.
Just in time for your summer drinking needs, the aptly-named Glover Park Beer Garden opens on Wednesday. The summer-long pop-up takes over the outdoor patio of the Savoy Suites Hotel at 2505 Wisconsin Avenue, Northwest, and will serve a range of brews and German-style eats.
Those who remember the long-gone Deck may recognize the surroundings. Though you won’t find tiki accents, it’s housed in a similar place as the once-popular (and often-rowdy) prep bar. Roughly 20 brews will run the gamut from generic bottles of Corona and Bud Light to craft drafts such as New Belgium Fat Tire, DC Brau Corruption IPA, and Atlas Rowdy Rye. A smallish food menu includes pretzel rolls, brats with kraut, and bacon grilled cheese. Those looking to catch a game will find two 50-inch televisions.
Perhaps as a preventative measure against noise complaints—rumored to have shut down the Deck—the al fresco watering hole will close at 11 daily, opening at 5 Monday through Friday and at noon Saturday and Sunday.
Summer grilling season is upon us, and we’re raring to stoke the coals for Father’s Day on Sunday. The big question: What to drink? We asked the beverage gurus at the Neighborhood Restaurant Group to give us their favorite pairings for common backyard barbecue dishes such as burgers, seafood kebabs, veggies, and more.
If you’ve eaten at Birch & Barley/ChurchKey, Iron Gate, Vermilion, or any other of the NRG spots, chances are you’ve ordered wine from Brent Kroll’s list, sipped one of Greg Engert’s beers, or sampled a tasty cocktail from Jeff Faile. Each oversees his area of liquid expertise at the restaurants, and they all have an eye for unusual finds and pairings.
While the suggestions are meant to spice up your grilling with non-generic drinks, all can be found locally. Kroll recommends Planet Wine for his selection; Engert likes Whole Foods (specifically the P Street location) for beers; while Faile is a fan of shopping for spirits at Ace Beverage. You can also search these top-notch stores from our Where Foodies Shop issue. Happy sipping for summer.
Hot dogs and sausages
“The Rosa is an easy drinker,” says Faile, which he makes by pouring Cocchi Americano Rosa (an aperitif wine, available for $18) over ice with a splash of lemon juice and topping it with club soda. “The lemon provides acid to cut through the fat of the dog or sausage, and it’s light enough in alcohol to have more than one.”
2012 Wiemer, Gewürztraminer, Finger Lakes, New York ($25)
“I generally think that a hot dog should have spicy mustard,” says Kroll. “Gewürztraminer is one of my top picks to offset spice, and this is one of my favorite producers. The wine is floral, with fruit flavors of white peach and nectarine, and notes of baking spice that add to the complexity. The soft texture is great with pork and hot dogs alike.” Fun fact: The Gewürztraminer vines are the oldest in the Finger Lakes, which share the same latitude as Germany.
Boulevard Brewing Company’s 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat Ale ($9.99 to $11.99 for a six-pack)
“Subtly nuanced and bone-dry with a pinpoint bitterness, this brew livens up any dog,” says Engert. He also likes the lemony, zesty hops in the brew, which pair well with hot dog toppings and seasoned sausages.
Burgers and cheeseburgers
“This is a nice savory cocktail,” says Faile. “You can play up the smokiness of the cookout with the mezcal, but you can still keep it light with the citrus.” Faile likes El Peloton de la Muerte Joven Mezcal, available for roughly $30.
2006 Martinez Laquesta, Rioja Reserva, Spain ($18)
“The richness of a burger is going to soften the tannin in red wine, making the fruit more apparent,” says Kroll. “This wine has a lot of nice acidity if the burger has a tomato. It also has cool herb and dill components derived from American oak, which makes the pairing more refreshing.”
Bluejacket’s Nobody’s Darling Black Lager (available exclusive from Bluejacket, $10 for a 750 ml. bottle)
“The brew’s crisp effervescence explodes into the burger, digging into the meat’s richness,” says Engert of the beer, a collaboration with Great Raft Brewing out of Louisiana. “The roasted flavors of the black beer also complement the grilled exterior of the burger.”
Dolin Blanc on the rocks ($13)
“Always one of my favorite summertime sips,” says Faile of this vermouth. “It’s floral enough to pair with any hops if you’re making beer-can chicken, and the slight sweetness will match up with the sodium bomb from a soy-sauce marinade.”
2012 Terre Nere, Etna Rosso, Sicily, Italy ($20)
“I really like Pinot Noir for a marinated chicken dish, and this wine is made from Nerello Mascalese, which is Sicily’s answer to Pinot Noir,” says Kroll. “You get ripe red fruit, prolific acidity, and some French oak influence. It’s a refreshing red, and not overly powerful.”
Andechser Weissbier Dunkel ($4.99 to $5.99 for a 16.9-ounce bottle)
“Grilled, marinated chicken calls for something bold in flavor, yet restrained in body and richness,” says Engert. “This beer has wonderful dark bread and raisin notes.” Another plus: the heady, clove-like smell, which Engert says adds an extra layer of seasoning to the bird.
Seafood kebabs and fish tacos
“If you’re using a good tequila, which is 100-percent blue agave, you should get enough vegetal notes for dishes like seafood tacos,” says Faile. He also likes margaritas for the lime, which gives the seafood an extra hit of citrus.
2012 Gavalas, Assyrtiko, Santorini, Greece ($18)
“Santorini is home to one of Greece’s most prolific white grapes, Assyrtiko,” says Kroll. “The vines face salty breezes from the Aegean Sea, which gives the wines a great savory component with seafood.” The bottle he picks has notes of apple, pear, and pineapple, and pairs well with a variety of seafood dishes.
Troublesome from Off-Color Brewing ($10.99 to $12.99 for a four-pack)
“This beer is dynamite with grilled seafood of any ilk, providing a counterbalancing acidity to the brine of shrimp or fish,” says Engert of the Chicago brewery’s gose-style beer, a blend of wheat beer and a funky, fermented brew. “It’s energizing with light citrus notes, like a squeeze of lemon.”
Grilled veggies, such as mushrooms and eggplant, and vegetarian burgers
Faile mixes an ounce and a half of bourbon with an ounce each of Campari and sweet vermouth (such as Dolin) for this robust cocktail. You can drink it straight up or on the rocks. “The Campari and sweet vermouth add a nice herbaceous quality, which brings out the herbs and spices commonly found in veggie burgers.”
2012 Palazzone, Orvieto, Umbria, Italy ($18)
“I pick the Orvietto because I’ve had this pair well with numerous vegetable dishes,” says Kroll. “It’s also one of the rare wines that also won’t fight with green vegetables.”
Foothills Brewing Company’s People’s Porter ($9.99 to $11.99 for a six-pack)
“A well-balanced porter suits the earthy qualities of grilled portobellos and eggplant,” says Engert. “It boasts mildly roasted hints of cocoa and coffee, while the nutty and peppery notes complement the vegetable’s meat-like character.”
The Rob Roy
“For something big and bold, you go big and bold: the Rob Roy, a Scotch version of a Manhattan,” says Faile. The recipe is simple—a two-to-one ratio of Scotch to vermouth, served up or on the rocks—and you can play around with the ingredients. For a sweeter version, Faile recommends a Speyside Scotch. For a smokier and bolder taste, try an Islay single-malt.
2009 Château Pibarnon, Bandol Rouge “Les Restanques de Pibarnon” Provence, France ($27)
“I love Rhone-style wines with rich steak,” says Kroll. “They have ripeness and complexity, and you normally have more going on than just fruit.
“This is a nice change of pace from Rhone Valley reds; a mix of 70-percent Mouvedre and 30-percent Grenache grapes, which each play a part. It has great notes raspberry and blackberry, with bold enough tannins for steak.”
Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja ($12.99 to $14.99 for a 750-milliliter bottle)
“This sour red ale is reminiscent of red wine,” says Engert. “It slumbers in oak-barrel cellars and releases waves of red fruit. Tannins and acidity cut into the meat as well, lightening the richness of the cut, softening the intensity of the brew, and leaving the rib eye even juicier than when it was first pulled sizzling from the grill.”
Esquire drinks correspondent David Wondrich returns to Washington for the magazine’s annual “Best Bars in America” list. His favorite: Kelly's Irish Times, though Wondrich may have sipped enough Bushmills to confuse the pub with neighboring Capitol Hill institution the Dubliner.
“This is the kind of place where a president will take his annual Saint Paddy’s Day sip o’ Guinness,” says Wondrich. “If D.C. had an official designated dive, this would be it.”
Though past presidents may have dropped by Kelly’s at one point or another, it was the Dubliner a few doors down where President Obama famously dropped in for a pint of Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day. That’s not to say Kelly’s isn’t deserving of the award, and we agree with Wondrich—stiff pours of whiskey are the way to go.
Unlike last year, when six Washington watering holes graced the list, Kelly’s remains the sole spot in 2014’s roundup. If you feel like taking Wondrich’s lead and venturing further afield, he also highlights the Roosevelt in Richmond and Baltimore’s Rye (“Redeeming Fell’s Point, one cocktail at a time. Okay, more than one. Hey, it’s Baltimore.”).