All Hail the Resurgence of the Great Cocktail Bar. Here Are 6 We Love.

Where to find swank Sazeracs, crisp martinis, and more.

Silver Lyan. Photograph by Greg Powers.

The pandemic briefly dried out our cocktail-obsessed city, but bars are back in a big way. The following new high-style drink spots are the antidote to a year-plus of pouched-for-your-couch imbibing.

We could while away an evening—or a boozy brunch—at Apéro (2622 P St., NW), sommelier Elli Benchimol’s glitzy nook of a Champagne-and-caviar bar that feels more Paris than Georgetown. Service is big here: There’s absinthe service, caviar service, and terrific service overall—plus quaffable cocktails such as amaro spritzes along with decadent nibbles. Say yes to the potato waffle with onion crème fraîche and gravlax and to caviar pasta.

New Orleans–style Dauphine’s (1100 15th St., NW) is primed for date-drinks-turned-dinner. Lauded barman Neal Bodenheimer of NoLa’s Cure designed the cocktails, and nothing feels phoned in when you’re seated at the grand white marble bar sipping an expertly mixed Sazerac or Pimm’s cup. We like to match drinks with oysters: raw, baked, or in a silky cream pasta.

Another cheffy favorite: Tim Ma’s Bar Chinois (455 I St., NW), a moody dim-sum-parlor-meets-French-cocktail-haunt helmed by ex–Chaplin’s barwoman Margaux Donati. Tantalizing share plates—think French-onion-soup-inspired “gyoza de boeuf” or Singaporean fried fish—match magnums of Champagne and Calvados daiquiris.

Looking for a pre- or post-dinner drink? Retro-chic Jane Jane (1705 14th St., NW) in Logan Circle channels a Southern living room at cocktail hour with snacks (onion dip, olives) and delightful drinks from veteran bartender J.P. Sabatier. (We love his Scofflaws and French 75s.) On Capitol Hill, reservation-only gin sanctuary The Wells (727 C St., SE) is the place to perch on a plush green sofa and sip something delicious and obscure—say, a floral Japanese gin or tomato-water-spiked cocktail. We also love hiding out at Penn Quarter’s Silver Lyan (900 F St., NW), a whimsical watering hole where masterful British barman “Mr. Lyan” riffs on cosmos, Manhattans, and martinis.

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.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.