You know what’s hotter than a sexy female bartendress? A bartender who knows her stuff. That’s what we’re focused on here -- the 17 most skilled gals behind the stick in the District.
Where you can find her:Compass Rose Specialty: Drinks made with fresh juice and unique spirits like chacha from Georgia (the country). She’s also skilled at naming cocktails with far-reaching references to hip-hop. Secret weapon: Her Salt & Sundry gold spoon for stirring -- she’s so smitten with it, she’s started to take it home at night. Watch her use it, but try not to stare at her pizza slice tattoo that resulted from a hangover. What she’s doing when she’s not working: Painting. In fact, come October, you’ll be able to see some of her work hanging in the restaurant. What she loves about DC: “I love that I didn’t think I would love it.”
Where you can find her:Ripple Specialty: Classic martinis, which she says call for gin. She’s also known for “Caroline’s Shifty,” an off-menu cocktail that’s a play on a Black Manhattan. Ask for it by name. Secret weapon: Amaros. “They are so versatile and fun to play with, plus they have medicinal purposes so you’re doing something good for your body.” What she’s doing when she’s not working: Pondering her “no-play list” for her upcoming nuptials; playing an iPad game called Plants vs. Zombies; and sweating at SoulCycle. What she loves about DC: “I am always impressed by how active a community the city is as a whole --half the time I don't even know about some cool, crazy, free event until I see it on Instagram.”
Where you can find her:Rose’s Luxury & Dacha Beer Garden Specialty: Tiki cocktails and anything that’s brown and bitter Secret weapon: The Old Fashioned. That’s what she’ll make you if you’re unsure of what you want to drink. What she’s doing when she’s not working: Dabbling in graphic design. The self-taught designer helps local bands out with cover art and posters. She’s also winning Speed Rack -- a women’s speed-bartending competition benefitting breast cancer. What she loves about DC: “Whenever I go out I meet someone new and run into an old friend too.”
Where you can find her:Tico & The Riggsby Specialty: Classic cocktails and hospitality. “With Christine, you’re either a stranger or a friend,” says a doting coworker. Secret weapon: Mezcal. She loves to introduce the agave spirit to whiskey and Scotch drinkers by using it as a substitute spirit in an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan. What she’s doing when she’s not working: Rock climbing and roller derby! What she loves about DC: It’s a large town -- walking down 14th St means running into regulars.
Where you can find her:Eat the Rich & Nido Specialty: Rye whiskey. Look no further than the rye tattoo she shares with fellow barkeeps Alex Bookless and Tom Brown as proof. But she’s also big on brandy, and her ultimate treat is a brandy Old Fashioned. Secret weapon: Sneaking aquavit into someone’s vodka soda in order to give it a little oomph. Her garnishing skills are also on point. What she’s doing when she’s not working: Though she hails from Alaska, Jade has become a devoted Nats fan. “My strategy is to go to every home game unless I’m working.” That’s why she has so many bobbleheads. An avid cycler, Jade rides from her Mt Pleasant digs to the ballpark, where she uses the bike valet. What she loves about DC: Local bands. She crushes hard for Fugazi, Dag Nasty, and Scream.
Where to find her:Buffalo & Bergen and Suburbia Specialty: “The Mixtress” loves anything local. “Tell me you have pawpaws and I’m in.” She can figure out how to incorporate anything into a cocktail, including pattypan squash. Her motto? Speak softly and carry a big muddler. Secret weapon: Technique. “There is a reason a drink calls for 30 rotations, a hard shake, or dry shaking.” She’s an awesome mentor for up-and-comers, but know that you’ll probably have to cut ice. What she’s doing when she’s not working: Baking bagels for Buffalo & Bergen and raising two little girls. “They’re the best cocktails I’ve ever made.” What she loves about DC: “When I first got here it was a small Southern town, now it’s a culinary epicenter for young chefs and mixologists.”
Where to find her:American Ice Co. and forthcoming restaurant, The Dabney Specialty: Classic, clean cocktails with fresh, local ingredients that she calls the farm-to-table version of drinks. She told us this en route to a foraging trip with the Dabney crew. Secret weapon: Fortified wines, like sherry, as an ingredient in cocktails. She calls sherry “craft bartenders’ St. Germain of the moment.” What she’s doing when she’s not working: Chasing her golden retriever, Tucker, around Roosevelt Island or drinking at other bars for inspiration Favorite thing about DC: “DC provides so much culture in a small space. I love that I can walk into a restaurant and have a conversation with a senator, a musician, an artist, and an incredible chef all at the same place.”
Kristi Green Kehrer
Where you can find her: Osteria Morini Specialty: Smoked cocktails with a short list of ingredients so imbibers can focus on how smoke changes flavor profiles Secret weapon: Chartreuse. “Know this: it cannot be used in every drink,” she warns. “But, when used well, it can absolutely improve a cocktail.” What she’s doing when she’s not working: Hitting dog-friendly spots with her husband and her pup like Glen’s Garden Market, The Argonaut, and Las Brasas Chicken & Steak in Arlington What she loves about DC: The history and architecture nerd adores the National Cathedral, despite what she calls her more secular belief system.
Where you can find her:Quill Specialty: Having studied under bar legend Todd Thrasher, Sophie slays beautiful, simple cocktails that actually take a lot of prep. “I’m happy to throw 20 ingredients into a tonic.” Secret weapon: Yuzu juice. She adds a splash of the whacky citrus fruit whenever someone asks for a bright, refreshing cocktail. What she’s doing when she’s not working: Cooling off on a tube on the Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg with a Bud Light Lime or (gasp) a glass of Arbor Mist What she loves about DC: Coming from Massachusetts, she was warned people here weren’t the friendliest. “Which is funny coming from Massholes.” But, she says people are super friendly and she loves exploring neighborhoods.
Where you can find her:Maketto Specialty: Whiskey cocktails from her time at The Gibson, where a regular customer pestered her for them every week. They’ve now been dating for three years. Secret weapon: “Lot’s of high fives.” And Midori. She classes up the violently green melon liqueur from Japan by dropping it into a glass of dry sherry. What she’s doing when she’s not working: The self-proclaimed “lady who lunches,” can be found at art galleries or scrolling through 900 cat photos on her phone. She’s also obsessed with quirky transportation and plans her vacations around funiculars. What she loves about DC: “It’s home.” She grew up blocks from Maketto. She adds that there are so many boss, beautiful ladies doing great things in this town.
Where you can find her:Hank’s Oyster Bar & the forthcoming Twisted Horn Specialty: Helping imbibers recover from a bad experience with a specific spirit. “I re-introduce it and help them make a comforting landing.” She took a class on pharmacology and learned it only takes three good experiences to right a wrong (like puking pine after a night with gin). Secret weapon: Fruits, vegetables, vinegars, and whatever else gets kicked over from the kitchen What she’s doing when she’s not working: Reading graphic novels by day and exploring cocktail bars by night (though she usually ends up with a shot of mezcal) What she loves about DC: “It’s so international and beautiful with tons of museums, concerts, and plays.”
Where you can find her:Jack Rose Dining Saloon Specialty: Classic, Prohibition-era cocktails, especially a rye Manhattan on the rocks Secret weapon: Speed. You’ve seen the whiskey library at Jack Rose, Arleigh has to move super fast building whiskey flights and mixing drinks. What she’s doing when she’s not working: When she’s not fixing her auto-corrected name from "Raleigh" to "Arleigh," you can find her trying new bars and restaurants with her bae, Devin Gong of Copycat Co. What she loves about DC: The close-knit bar community
Where to find her:McClellan’s Retreat Specialty: Megan’s an old soul who loves classic cocktails because they come with a side of history. At the Columbia Room, she learned from Derek Brown that “bartending was America’s first culinary art.” She also loves steering people away from beer and vodka sodas and towards new things. Secret weapon: Smith & Cross Navy-strength rum from Jamaica. It can boost any cocktail, even a Long Island iced tea. What she’s doing when she’s not working: Obsessing over furniture, plants, and menswear. She used to blog about men’s clothing and her happy place is a garden store called Surroundings in Lincoln Park. What she loves about DC: The plant fan has a soft spot for the US Botanic Garden and the National Arboretum. She also digs the monuments by moonlight -- especially when she’s landing at National Airport at night.
Where to find her: Stir Bartending Company, pop-ups at Colony Club & Red Eye Menus events Specialty: Playing cocktail matchmaker by making the right drink for the right person, often that means Scotch and mezcal Secret weapon: Carlie is a culinary school grad who studied classic French techniques that she employs behind the bar. The best example? “My ginger syrup is ridiculous.” She cold infuses it instead of cooking it for a “spicy, strong, robust flavor.” What she’s doing when she’s not working: Hosting free supper clubs for friends that she calls “family dinner.” Carlie also has a bad case of the travel bug, having visited Mexico, Finland, Spain, the Netherlands, and Greece this year alone. What she loves about DC: “Oh my God, everything.” But more specifically, people with professionalism that really appreciate well-crafted food and drinks. “It’s easy to make friends here.”
Where you can find her:Lincoln Specialty: She’s known for her beer cocktails, so ask for her off-menu “Betty White.” Secret weapon: Her muddler. “I know a lot of bartenders shy away from making mojitos, but I love them.” What she’s doing when she’s not working: Rolling around with Freddie Mercury, her 110lb pit bull, and not-so-quietly professing her love for Smirnoff Ice What she loves about DC: “There are so many different types of people here, and there’s always a new face, a new person, to engage with coming into your bar.”
Where you can find her:2 Birds 1 Stone Specialty: Tinkering with classic cocktails. “They’re called classics for a reason.” Secret weapon: Cachaça. She fell for the spirit while studying abroad in Brazil and likes introducing it to people. What she’s doing when she’s not working: Substitute teaching (cue "awwws"). And baking (more "awwws"). She has to mop up drool when people try her peach pie. What she loves about DC: Hailing from Adams Morgan, Lucy grew up going to the 9:30 Club. She even interned there in high school. She still loves the music scene, calling it very attainable as compared to other cities that just have big stadium shows.
Where to find her: Jos. A. Magnus & Co.’s Murray Hill Club Specialty: Nicole is a gin goddess. She honed her craft running The Gin Joint before joining the Jos. A. Magnus team as both a mixologist and a distiller. More specifically, gin and tonics are her specialty, because she also makes her own tonics under the moniker Chronic Tonic. Secret weapon: Having a well-stocked spice drawer because botanicals make her world go 'round What she’s doing when she’s not working: You’ll find her at SubDistrick -- a monthly drum and bass event at Backbar inside the 9:30 Club. That’s because she’s obsessed with German bass music that makes her feel like she’s in London in the 1990s. Favorite thing about DC: The music scene. And how easy it is to open up a distillery.
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Laura Hayes is a DC-based food and drink writer covering all things edible for Thrillist, Washington City Paper, Food Network, Arlington Magazine, and others. When the Syracuse University grad isn't convincing people to try a burger cleanse, she's at CrossFit or making bets that her Eagles won't win six games this season. Follow her adventures: @BTMenu.