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.
1. Compass Rose1346 T St NW, Washington
2. Ripple3417 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington
3. Rose's Luxury717 8th St SE, Washington
4. Dacha Beer Garden1600 7th St NW, Washington
5. Tico1926 14th St NW, Washington
6. Riggsby1731 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington
7. Eat The Rich1839 7th St NW, Washington
8. Nido2214 Rhode Island Ave NE, Washington
9. Buffalo & Bergen1309 5th St NE, Washington
10. Suburbia1309 5th St NE, Washington
11. American Ice Company917 V St NW, Washington
12. The Dabney122 Blagden Alley, Washington
13. Osteria Morini301 Water Street Southeast, Suite 109, Washington
14. Quill at the Jefferson1200 16th St NW, Washington
15. Maketto1351 H St NE, Washington
16. Hank's On The Hill633 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington
17. McClellan’s Retreat2031 Florida Ave NW, Washington
18. Colony Club3118 Georgia Ave NW, Washington
19. Lincoln1110 Vermont Ave NW, Washington
20. 2 Birds 1 Stone1800 14th St NW, Washington
21. Jos. A Magnus & Co2052 West Virginia Ave NE, Washington
Compass Rose’s culinary muse is, simply put, the globe. Its menu of sharing plates synthesizes street and market food from around the world, conflating Danish smorrebord with house-cured steelhead, dill-caper remoulade, troute roe, rye bread, and flowers with Indian bhel puri chaat, a dish of baby kale, puffed rice, sev, potato, tomato, peanuts, mango, mint, and tamarind chutney. Going to Compass Rose without trying the Georgian khachapuri is like going to Moscow and skipping the vodka -- it’s simply unthinkable. Resembling an almond-shaped eye, the delicacy has a crusty, bready lid, a bubbling, cheesy retina, and, best of all, an egg yolk pupil in the center of all the action, staring right at you.
Boasting a linen-lined, curtained rear dining room and a 40ft tiled bar backed by huge mirrors and flower-patterned lightboxes up front, Ripple's a casually airy, beige-walled winer n' diner.
Situated in a converted townhouse on Capitol Hill, Rose's Luxury is a twinkle-lit, farmhouse-chic restaurant that draws crowds for its bold small plates. Unfortunately for those crowds, it doesn't accept reservations. Get here early for dinner and you can nab a front-row seat at the chef's counter overlooking the open kitchen, where shareable dishes like Thai-marinated pork blade steak and boudin-stuffed jalapeño are prepared with precision.
It turns out Russian owners Ilya Alter and Dmitri Chekaldin know a lot about German beer -- their friendly, open-air Shaw garden offers a broad selection of international suds, plus a menu that not only features standard bratwursts and pretzels, but also extends its reach with a bucket of mussels, a chicken schnitzel sandwich, and grilled steak skewers. Grab a communal picnic table and raise a pint in the seasonal garden, which is open in spring through fall.
The bright and graffic graffiti murals are the first clues that your visit to Tico, an outpost of original Boston tapas bar, is going to be a colorful one. Inspired by Schlow's travels in Latin America, Spain, and Mexico, Tico offers bold small plates with Latin leanings, like roasted cauliflower with cotija cheese, black bass ceviche, and a velvety tres leches cake for dessert. There are multiple taco varieties too, but what keeps fans coming back for more are the addictive hibiscus margaritas.
Located inside the swanky Carlyle Hotel at Dupont Circle, The Riggsby is a luxe retro-inspired cocktail bar and eatery. Celebrity chef Michael Schlow helms the menu, offering bespoke takes on classic 60s' inspired bar fare like club sandwiches, chicken paillard, and steak frites, the perfect accompaniment for a three martini lunch.
You know what’s more fun than binders full of women? Pitchers full of cocktails! Grab one, plus a dozen oysters during brunch service at Shaw’s Eat the Rich.
This Mediterranean eatery boasts a dining room that is equally as Euro-inspired as the menu, with repurposed white-washed woods and expertly curated floral arrangements. The food, mainly drawn from Italian and Spanish cuisine, consists primarily of tapas-like small plates and snacks -- think beef tenderloin carpaccio and warm lentil salad with house goat cheese -- while there are a handful of larger pasta and meat-based entrées available. The weekend brunch menu is divided into two subsets: sweet and savory, and brunch -- like dinner -- is always an occasion for imbibing at Nido. Needless to say, the bi-level Woodridge eatery maintains a philosophy rooted in the importance of good company and great food, served in a place that is every bit as comfortable as it is charming.
Located inside of DC's Union Market, this diner-style spot is specializes in New York-style bagels and everything you can put in-between them. Every kind of bagel imaginable serves as your base for a breakfast or lunch sandwich that you can customize with a selection of meats and flavored cream cheeses. Or you can go for a signature style like the Foxy Loxy (self-explanatory) or something a little more daring like The Bandito with carnitas-style pulled pork and pickled peppers.
Located outside Union Market, you can find Suburbia by looking for the NFL-grade turf; lawn games; a flip cup table; and buzzed clientele holding sticky summer shandies made from beer, lemonade, and fresh ginger. Suburbia offers 10 beers on tap plus two draft cocktails and buckets of beer whenever they’re open, but Sundays are special. That’s when they bust out experimental Bloody Mary cocktails and sell them two-for-one.
Done-up with paint chipped-concrete/exposed brick walls, aged wood booths, and a mounted deer head, AIC serves up daily-rotating meats like smoked turkey alongside an impressive roster of craft cans.
Chef Jeremiah Langhorne opened The Dabney to showcase Mid-Atlantic flavors, and he's doing that by focusing on hyper-locality in the kitchen. His food tastes fresh and earthy, and while the menu changes with the seasons, you can expect rustic small plates like charred cabbage, grilled scallops, and whole BBQ Beaver Creek quail, as well as family-style meals like grilled black bass and chicken & dumplings. Most of the food in his Michelin-starred open kitchen emerges from a massive wood-burning hearth, which is easy to spot from the country-chic dining room.
This New York City transplant specializes in Italian cuisine from the northern Emilia-Romagna region. Expect house-made pasta dishes like braised wild mushroom rigatoni, simply grilled meats, and cured meat and cheese plates. Osteria Morini's dinner is perfect for date night, while its brunch, featuring ricotta pancakes and frittatas alongside signature pastas, has all the cheese and carbs essential to curing a hangover. The upscale Navy Yard spot is bright and airy with floor-to-ceiling windows and high factory ceilings.
Inspired by Thomas Jefferson's Monticello parlor, Quill is an upscale cocktail bar serving signature drinks, such as the "Route One Ricky" (Jim Beam rye, caramelized key lime shrub, and homemade cream soda), and American fare. There's a pianist playing live jazz most nights and new cocktails are introduced monthly.
Maketto combines a restaurant, coffeeshop, bar, and clothing store into one massive, 6,000sqft venue on H Street NE. The 60-seat restaurant focuses on Cambodian and Taiwanese food for lunch and dinner, and if you're in the business of brunching, be sure to put the Sunday dim sum brunch on your bucket list. The retail store showcases international brands at upscale price points, and even if the merch is beyond your budget, the sheer variety is worth checking out. The second floor cafe serves Vigilante Coffee and bread from Frenchie's Bakery, plus a few pastries baked in house.
This Capitol Hill oyster bar has delicious po' boys and lobster rolls, plus great cocktails.
Even if you’re not a Civil War junkie, you’re going to want to spend a lot of time here. The bar’s namesake, General George B. McClellan, would surely dig the cozy flannel banquets, dim lighting, and perfect mix of classic, original, and even throwback cocktails like a Sherry cobbler. The team includes Megan Barnes, formerly of The Columbia Room.
By day, this old-school eatery is a coffee bar and ping pong club. By night, it serves beer, wine, and cocktails. Why ever leave?
Lincoln reps the former head-of-state not only in name, but in taste as well, spotlighting some of his favorite eats, which apparently included oysters and gingerbread. Lincoln's small plate menu focuses on contemporary American cuisine sourced locally from farmers and fishermen in the region. Nothing says 'merica like infused bourbons and a full list of moonshines approved by honest Abe.
Situated in Logan Circle, 2 Birds 1 Stone may be hidden beneath Doi Moi off bustling 14th Street, but it’s far from unknown in the DC cocktail world thanks to its expertly crafted concoctions. The chic, often-crowded bar is known for its original creations (check out the punch du jour) and its re-imagined classics, such as a tequila-infused dark & stormy. The stylish, subterranean space is surprisingly bright, sporting plush seating and exposed brick.
Although this 1892 distillery was shut down during Prohibition, it was resurrected in 2015 by the founder's great-grandson. Now, Jos. A. Magnus & Co.—in the gin and bourbon business—also features The Murray Hill Club tasting room for a still-to-glass experience.