DC Travel Guide  |  Food

Guide to Washington, DC: Cocktail Bars

Tired of the same old vodka tonics? Head to one of these A-grade cocktail bars for a totally different drinking experience.

The wall of whiskeys at Jack Rose. Photo courtesy of Jack Rose Dining Saloon.

Bar Pilar
A second floor was recently added to this U Street neighborhood favorite, which offers comforting small plates and well-made renditions of traditional cocktails, such as a Dark and Stormy with rum and spicy-sweet Fentiman’s ginger beer. 1833 14th St., NW; 202-265-1751; barpilar.com. Metro Station: U Street.

It takes talent for a restaurant lounge to attract its own following when a James Beard-­accoladed chef (Fabio Trabocchi) is in the kitchen, but we often head to Fiola for a seat at the elegant bar and one of Washington’s (if not the East Coast’s) best Negronis. 601 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-628-2888; fioladc.com. Metro Station: Archives-Navy Memorial.

The Gibson
Deejay and nightlife impresario Eric Hilton (Thievery Corporation) is behind this buzzing ­cocktail den tucked away off U Street. An insiders-only vibe—reservations are a must on weekends—shouldn’t deter you from a mix of classic and inventive sips, like the Upstate, a take on a Manhattan, with rye and herbaceous Italian liqueur. 2009 14th St., NW; 202-232-2156; thegibsondc.com. Metro Station: U Street.

Jack Rose
A high wall of whiskeys—Jack Rose’s specialty—and other quality bottles aren’t the only sign that this three-story Adams Morgan tavern is a cocktail lovers’ haven: More than 1,500 spirits are stocked on the premises. Take your drink up to the deck for views of the Washington Monument. 2007 18th St., NW; 202-588-7388; jackrosediningsaloon.com. Metro Station: Dupont Circle.

The Passenger/Columbia Room
Local spirits guru Derek Brown is behind this low-key Shaw cocktail haunt, where knowledgeable bartenders mix custom-order drinks built to taste (i.e., “strong and sweet”) for a youthful crowd. Tucked in at the back is an elegant speakeasy, the Columbia Room, with a ­rotating three-course ­cocktail tasting menu that draws serious sippers. 1021 Seventh St., NW; 202-393-0220; passengerdc.com. Metro Station: Mount Vernon Square.

One of Washington’s first speakeasy-style bars, this is still one of the hottest, thanks to mixologist Todd Thrasher’s rotating lineup of from-scratch cocktails—think a killer gin with house-made tonic—and a chandelier-bedecked room perfect for date night. 728 King St., Alexandria; 703-299-8384; eamonns­dublinchipper.com. Metro Station: King Street.

Vintage furniture, a billiards table, and bartenders in suit vests make this chill watering hole feel more Brooklyn than Silver Spring. The cocktail list has both classics and creative combinations, such as the Bombayboozled with cinnamon-infused bourbon and curried maple syrup. 8081 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring; 301-588; 0899; jackiesrestaurant.com/sidebar. Metro Station: Silver Spring.

The atmosphere at Erik Holzherr’s Hill East cocktail parlor is casual, but the affordable sips—most top out at $10—are seriously creative, with unusual ingredients such as coca-leaf liqueur. Need help navigating? The menu arrives with a helpful flavor guide. 1432 Pennsylvania Ave., SE; 202-543-2323; dcwisdom.com. Metro Station: Potomac Avenue.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.