Food  |  Things to Do

Best of Summer: Where We’d Have a Drink Right Now

New rooftop lounges, summery cocktails, terrific happy hour deals, and more reasons to raise a glass.

The Green Zone’s mint lemonade. Photograph by Jeff Elkins
Best of Summer 2022

About Best of Summer 2022

To help you make the most of this time of year, this Best Of Washington guide highlights our 101 favorite things to do here in the summer. Read on to find out our picks for fun festivals, ways to get out on the water, refreshing cocktails, rooftop bars, pick-your-own farms, tasty pies, and lots more.

There Are Always Cool Summer Drinks

Slushy Coffee

Find it at: Electric Cool-Aid in Shaw, where you can ditch the espresso martini for an icy, creamy Irish coffee.

Ranch Water

Find it at: Lulu’s Wine Garden in the U Street corridor, which offers the Texan refresher, a mix of lime, tequila, and Topo Chico.

The Creative Spritz

Find it at: Sparrow Room in Arlington, where the South Wind Spritz gets its sparkle from pét-nat and its gentle bitterness from grapefruit soda.

The Nontraditional Piña Colada

Find it at: Estadio on 14th Street, where the lavender-hued slushy drink is made with sherry instead of rum.

Boozy Lemonade

Find it at: The Green Zone in Adams Morgan, which serves a mint-flecked frozen version with gin or vodka.

Spiked Green Juice

Find it at: Service Bar on U Street, which trades virtue for gin in its Green Leaf, made with kale, lemon, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

All the Drinking Gardens

Beer gardens have inspired a variety of outdoor drinking spots that draw groups, kids, and often dogs. Think outside the bock at these alfresco destinations.

Best Gin Garden

Look for a bright-green door amid Ivy City’s warehouses—it’s the en­trance to the distillery Green Hat, where a verdant gin garden, partly shaded for hot days, is the place to sip botanical cocktails such as a honeyed Bee’s Knees.

Lulu’s Wine Garden. Photograph courtesy of Lulu’s Wine Garden.

Best Wine Garden

The vibes are as chill as the Mexican Sauvignon Blanc at Lulu’s Wine Garden, a Southwestern oasis off U Street. New Mexico–native chef Cable Smith is behind a grazing-friendly menu. (We’re partial to the green-chili queso and short-rib-and-fry-bread tacos.) Bottles—most under $50—and cocktails such as tequila-spiked ranch water are designed for group hangs.

Best (Secret) Cocktail Garden

We love 600 T, the firelit Shaw cocktail den, in cold months—but wind your way through the bar back to street level and an intimate, colorful rear patio awaits. The cocktail menu contains delicious surprises such as a Madeira spritz with strawberry and mint or a Japanese gin-and-house-tonic loaded with a garden’s worth of bergamot, thyme, and lemongrass.

Best Pizza Garden

It’s an all-day party at the long garden tables—covered for inclement weather but open enough to catch a breeze—at Sonny’s in Park View. Rectangular, crunchy-bottomed pies and hearty Italian sandwiches are paired with fun drinks like “fizzy red pizza wine” and boozy slushies.

Best Low-ABV Garden

When creating 400-seat Nighthawk Pizza in Pentagon Row, Aslin Beer Co. had one thing in mind: offering “sessionable” (low-alcohol) beers, fit for leisurely gatherings with friends. They’re a perfect match for Johnny Spero’s crisp, tavern-style pizza.

Best Frozen-Drink Garden

The top-notch slushies at Shaw’s psychedelic Electric Cool-Aid are an antidote to steamy days. Twenty-plus blends range from riffs on piña coladas to watermelon margaritas.

Best Tavern Garden

The grassy gardens at Silver Spring’s Zinnia are outfitted with lounge and picnic tables plus plenty of space for kids to run. A globetrotting menu combines fish ’n’ chips with family-style Aleppo lamb stew, Old World wines, and Maryland beers.

It’s the Season for Bar Games

Hi-Lawn at Union Market. Photograph courtesy of hi-Lawn.

Best Outdoor Game Night

Shake off midweek stress at Hi-Lawn, the rooftop hang-out at DC’s Union Market. It offers giant chess, life-size Connect Four, Jenga, and cornhole during Wednesday game nights.

Best If You’re a Pong Master

Aptly named for its location on the site of a former used-car dealership, the Lot in Arlington has some of the same games as Hi-Lawn, along with “jumbo bucket pong”—which, fortunately for your liver, does not involve drinking buckets of beer.

Best Beach Games

Inspired by the boardwalks at Rehoboth Beach and Coney Island, Boardwalk Bar & Arcade at the Wharf offers beachy spaces with carnival fare and arcade games such as shuffleboard, Skee-Ball, and pinball.

It’s Prime Time for Happy Hour

Photograph by M. Batista.

Best Waterfront Happy Hour

In Old Town, Vola’s Dockside sits right on the Potomac. Happy hour runs weekdays from 3 to 7, offering $6 frozen cocktails as well as discounted crab dip and sliders.

Best Oyster Happy Hour

All four locations of King Street Oyster Bar—Potomac, NoMa, Leesburg, and Middleburg—offer a top-notch daily happy hour. Dollar oysters, plus a wide array of $7 drinks, are available from 3 to 6:30. (The DC location goes until 7.)

Best Early Happy Hour

Every Friday from noon to 4 at the riverfront Salt Line in Navy Yard, oysters are half off and there are $5 beers and $7 wine and cocktails.

Best Rooftop Happy Hour

Happy hour at the indoor/outdoor bar Wild Days, atop downtown DC’s Eaton hotel, is short—daily from 5 to 6—but you’ll find $8 cocktails, a few snacks, and, best of all, a gorgeous, music-filled setting.

There Are Lofty New Rooftop Lounges

Lady Bird. Photograph courtesy of LadyBird.

Lady Bird

The indoor/outdoor femme-chic lounge atop Dupont Circle’s Kimpton Banneker hotel serves cocktail-party-inspired fare (mini–lobster rolls, deviled eggs) and retro libations such as martinis—all fit for a socialite like the bar’s namesake First Lady. White House views and a “green room” lounge channel presidential vibes, while live music draws patrons to the terrace.

Ciel Social Club

Is that Mayor Bowser? And the Bravo Summer House boys? (Yes, not together.) The celeb-spotting is eclectic and the views are nearly 360 degrees at this sceney cocktail-and-tapas lounge in Mount Vernon Triangle.

Smoke & Mirrors. Photograph by Photo Fusion Media.

Smoke & Mirrors

Contrary to its name, clear views of the Capitol are a draw at this all-weather lounge at the AC Hotel near Navy Yard. Menus boast smoke-kissed cocktails, and a share-plate menu is filled with such choices as crispy duck wings and crab fondue.

Hank’s Oyster Bar Alexandria

Jamie Leeds’s beloved Old Town seafood haunt recently closed and moved to 818 North St. Asaph Street, now boasting a mostly covered, open-sided rooftop. Hit the bar for oyster happy hour, where $1.50 half-shells are matched with local beers and wines, or grab a table for one of the famous lobster rolls.


. . . And Chill New Basement Bars:

TKYO Speaks

The 30-seat, neon-lit bar below Kaiju Ramen on Capitol Hill is fun—if you can find it. (Look for a door in the sake barrels.) Once you’re inside, Japanese cocktails, beers, and sakes flow to DJ tunes, and you can always surface for a bowl of ramen.

Never Looked Better

The ’90s are back at this neon-pink-and-violet haunt, which channels an underground rave, in Shaw’s Blagden Alley. Blue shooters, appletinis, and highballs keep the party going. Special areas, including the flower-strewn “honeymoon suite,” are available for larger-party reservations.

This article appears in the June 2022 issue of Washingtonian.