For more on our 75 favorite bars in Washington and our favorite bartenders, make sure to pick up the February issue of the Washingtonian.
To come up with February's list of great bars, we sent a team out to explore Washington after-hours. We sipped cocktails, sampled snacks, danced into the wee-hours, and pushed our livers to the limit—all to find the hottest spots on the going-out scene. Here, you'll find our favorite drink at each of the 75 bars that made the list. Cheers.
- The Columbia Room: Gin martini, named the best in the country by GQ magazine
- The Gibson: The Old Uncle Simon, a warm rum drink that tastes like grown-up hot chocolate.
- PS 7’s: The Sav U’R cereal—cereal milk, rye, and allspice dram—which is like a lighter take on egg nogg.
- PX: A Moscow Mule served in a proper copper mug.
- Sidebar: A grownup “cream soda” with brandy, chocolate bitters, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cola.
- Wisdom: Anything involving Wisdom’s signature liquor, Blue Coat American Dry Gin. The fruity, spicy Summer Fling is especially nice.
Bring a Date
- Degrees: Espresso martini made with Van Gogh Espresso Vodka, Bailey’s Irish Cream, and chilled espresso.
- Napoleon Bistro and Lounge: A Bellini with champagne and peach purée.
- Quill: The Sparkling Clementine, made with Prosecco and freshly squeezed juice.
- St. Regis Bar: Adour Bubbles and Pearls, made with Proseco and Cointreau Pearls.
- Redwood: Cool as a Cuke with Hendrick’s gin, cucumber, and lime.
- Tabard Inn: Hot mulled cider with spiced rum.
- Vermillion: The warm apple pie cocktail, made with a vanilla-citrus liquor called tuaca. It tastes exactly like the dessert—right down to the whipped cream and cobbler-crumb topping.
Eat and Drink
- Bar Pilar: Mulled red wine flavored with orange and cloves.
- Black’s Bar and Kitchen: Cucumber Time, made with Hendrick’s gin and elderflower liqueur and garnished with a slice of cucumber.
- Bourbon Steak: Blood and Sand, made with Johnnie Walker Black, sweet vermouth, luxardo cherry, and fresh orange.
- Central: The tangerita, made with Sauza tequila, tangerine purée, and lime.
- PassionFish: A saketini, made with Three Olives Vodka, Hakkaisan Honjozo sake, passion fruit purée, and pickled ginger garnish.
- The Source: The Hitichino Nest White Ale on tap, a light and refreshing Japanese beer that goes down like candy.
- Cork: Chateau La Caminade, a beautiful French Malbec.
- Dickson: A high acid number such as a Domaine Jean-Luc Mader Pinot Gris to pair with a pork belly banh mi.
- Evo Bistro: The Steele Pinot Noir is a food-friendly wine with intense fruit and is a staff favorite. We especially like it on Wednesday nights, when the $70 bottle is half price.
- Grapeseed: The Horton Viognier, a nice, full-bodied white, is a deal at $4.50 a glass.
- Proof: Although it’s tough to go wrong with any wine from the glass here, sommelier Adam Bernbach recommends starting with a staff favorite, the “Bitters and Ginger and Stuff,” made with Angostora bitters, rum, cane syrup, egg whites, and ginger beer.
- Ripple: Vietti Barbera D’Asti. “We don’t always have it in house,” says general manager Danny Fisher, “but when we do it sells out fast.”
Drink Al Fresco
- Beacon Bar & Grill Sky Bar: Any of the seasonal martinis.
- Biergarten Haus: A draft of Kostritzer Schwarzbier.
- Cantina Marina: House margarita.
- Marvin: Gouden Carolus Classic.
- Nick’s Riverside Grill: Corona with a lime.
- Poste: Lavender margarita—not always on the menu, but the staff always has the makings on hand in warmer weather.
- The Reef: A rasberry-flavored Kasteel Framboise.
- Tabaq Bistro: Levander martini made with Maker’s Mark, levander, Angustura bitters, lemons, and Champagne.
- The Fairfax Lounge: The Jockey Club Cocktail, a mixture of Blue Coat American gin, white crème de cacao, and lemon juice.
- Johnny’s Halfshell: Hendricks martini with three olives.
- Off the Record: The timeless, stylish setting calls for a classic: an extra dry martini.
- Old Ebbitt Grill: A dirty martini, straight up.
- Round Robin: A mint julep, which bartender Jim Hewes calls a, “Snow cone for big kids.”
- Bierreria Paradiso: Flag Porter.
- Black Squirrel: Frothy liters of Germany’s Hofbrau Dunkel.
- Brasserie Beck: The Antigoon Double Blonde, brewed especially for Brasserie Beck.
- ChurchKey: A Founders Breakfast Stout, a St. Idesbald Blond—or whatever else the knowledgeable servers recommend.
- Franklins: A pint of Golden Opportunity.
- Granville Moore’s: A bottle of St. Feuillien Brune—with fruit, licorice and malty flavors in a single sip, it’s more like Scotch than beer.
- Mad Fox Brewing Company: Festivus Ale, a dark, robust beer brewed in-house during the winter.
- Mussel Bar: You can’t go wrong with the $5.50 Brabo Pils, a fruity, golden lager. It’s $2.75 during happy hour (weekdays 4:30 to 6:30)
- Rustico: Something out of one of the featured authentic cask ales, such as the easy-to-drink Jolly Scot Scottish Ale.
Explore a Liquor
- Againn: The 40-year-old Bunnahabhain from the isle of Islay.
- Bourbon: Buffalo Trace’s Elmer T. Lee bourbon.
- Masa 14: The Margarita Traditional. Non-tequila fans will enjoy the Lemon Lager and the Mojito Traditional.
- Russia House: Mango martini made with house-infused citrus vodka and fresh mango purée.
Good for Games
- Breadsoda: Chocolate Old Fashioned.
- H Street Country Club: Where else but H Street could a Pimm’s Cup be considered ironic?
- Nellie’s Sports Bar: A cold draft microbrew—Starr Hill IPA, if it’s available.
- Spider Kelly’s: A Dirty Golfer, a mix of homemade lemonade and Firefly sweet tea vodka that’s a good complement to an intense game of Golden Tee.
- Toyland: The Martini Royale, a classic gin or vodka martini served with blue cheese-stuffed olives.
Cozy and Casual
- American Ice Co.: A craft beer—such as Goose Island 312 or Old Speckled Hen—served in a mason jar.
- EatBar: The wine menu here is meant for grazing, with more than 50 bottles available in tasting pours, full glasses, and ten-ounce beakers. Try the Zuccardi “Serie A” Mendoza, a Malbec from Argentina.
- The Irish Inn at Glen Echo: Smithwick’s on tap.
- Liberty Tavern: The seasonal beer selection. On tap during our visit was a malty, vanilla-scented Anderson Winter Solstice.
- Looking Glass Lounge: Sunday through Thursday, $5 gets you a shot of Jim Beam and a can of Natty Boh.
- Lyon Hall: Whatever’s in the Lyon Hall featured keg, which contains rare and speciality drafts from around the world.
- Restaurant Eve: Gin and housemade tonic.
- Hank Dietle’s Tavern: Budweiser pitchers run $8.75 apiece, and that’s not even the happy hour price.
- Quarry House: Ask the staff to recommend something new based on your favorite beers.
- The Red Derby: Upgrade from your Blue Moon to a Wittekerke, or, for something darker, try the Wexford Irish Creme.
- Tune Inn: DC tap water—you’ll thank us tomorrow.
- Vienna Inn: A cold Bud.
Music and Dancing
- Gate 54 at Saint Ex: Bees-in-a-Beer—an easy-to-hold IPA and honeycomb combo.
- Galaxy Hut: The 20 taps change often, but we had a great pint of Starr Hill’s Double IPA.
- Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar: The “Awesomeness,” a spiked slushie served in a mason jar.
- New Vegas Lounge: A biting bourbon and Coke.
- Patty Boom Boom: The boozy rum punches—made with Jamaican spirits—will get you in the tropical mood.
- Rock & Roll Hotel: The $6 “PBR-and-shot-of-crap-whiskey” combo.
- Wonderland Ballroom: Bottles of the hard-to-find Belgian beer Delirium Tremens.