Food & Drink

Drink at DC's 8 best cocktail bars

Published On 12/05/2013 Published On 12/05/2013
BNOYL Cocktails DC
Laura Hayes

Your night out wouldn't be complete without a cocktail -- our picks for DC's best cocktail destinations are below, from mad-scientist mixology, to underground speakeasies, to rooftop terraces.

Jim Webb

The Columbia Room
Mt. Vernon Square
With more accolades than can fit in your dad’s trophy case, cocktailing mecca Columbia Room continues to bring it. Snagging a reservation for their drink tasting menu can be tricky, but take heart in the fact that you can also raise your at-home cocktail game and sign up for one of their classes -- though they still won't turn out nearly as good.


Old Town, Alexandria, VA
This Alexandria speakeasy with a '20s vibe (that's 1920s, though 1720s would have been a bold move) is still moving the bevvy that helped put them on the map -- the Smoker's Delight. Four different types of tobacco are steeped before being hit with sugar, bourbon, honey and lemon. Even if Marlboros aren't your thing, you'll like it.

Laura Hayes

Spirits Bar at Rogue 24
Back in high school, cheftender Bryan Tetorakis was carving craziness at National Ice Carving Association competitions while you were playing NHL '94 (you stand by your decision… Roenick was unstoppable). Try three of his elixirs paired with three bites at his four-seat bar in the back. Green Chartreuse and liquid nitrogen are two of his secret weapons.

Leo Schmid

Bar Charley
Dupont/Adam’s Morgan
Everyone’s talking about Bar Charley’s The Stepdad. Why aren’t you? The drink is more DC than Jayson Werth will ever be. Fortunately, he makes $16.5 mil so he can afford two Stepdads. Check out the fire-based wizardry that goes into making one right here.

The Gibson

The Gibson
U Street
Like a real speakeasy, it’s hard to find even following the little blue dot on your smartphone. If you find it, act like a regular and go off-menu -- they'll know how to take care of you. But mind the rules: a two-hour limit and absolutely no standing.

Off The Record

Off the Record
McPherson Square
For a little historic elegance, step inside the Hay-Adams Hotel's lauded drinkery. Stare at the caricatures on the wall repping Washington's elite. Try not to stare quite as obviously if one of them happens to be drinking next to you as you sip your David's Washingtonian (potato vodka, limoncello, Chambord).

Metro Center
The view is somewhat built into the drink price at this rooftop hotspot, but it's worth it to admire the majesty of DC, and the scaffolding on the Washington Monument. Warm your insides with a Rock and Rye, made with… rye, along with Jamaican rum, orange, lemon, and spices.


McPherson Square
Four score and several rounds ago you were enjoying your first Gettysburg Address at Lincoln. Ready to move on from their signature cocktail? Grab a group and try the Emancipation Punch -- ginger syrup, lemon sour, homemade beet puree, and aromatic bitters boozed up with botanical vodka and acai liqueur.

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1. Columbia Room 1021 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20001 (Shaw)

Columbia Room is consistently one of the best cocktail bars in DC, pouring expertly crafted 'tails using their own cordials, bitters and tinctures, and using hand-carved ice. It's no surprise it has been voted as one of the best bars in America.

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2. PX 728 King St, Alexandria, VA 22314 (Old Town)

This speakeasy might charge a bit extra than others in the area, but it's worth it after tasting their specialty cocktails that are handcrafted by some of the most seasoned expert mixologists in the city.

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3. Spirits Bar at Rogue 24 922 N St NW, Washington, DC 20001 (Shaw)

Cheftender and former competitive ice carver Bryan Tetorakis holds it down at DC's smallest bar, Spiritsbar. You and three of your friends can sidle up to the four-seater (in the back of Rogue 24) while Tetorakis prepares creative concoctions with ingredients like Green Chartreuse and liquid nitrogen.

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4. Bar Charley 1825 18th St, NW, Washington, DC 20009 (Adams Morgan)

This Adams Morgan spot specializes in variations on cocktail classics, including 15 different Manhattan recipes. Many of the bar’s drinks cost $10 or less, including the rotating draft Tiki cocktails for under $8. While you wouldn't necessarily come here for the food, shareable bites like flatbreads and fries are worthy orders.

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5. The Gibson 2009 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20003 (U Street)

This multi-level cocktail bar has a serves a variety of craft cocktails that are constantly changing, allowing you to enjoy something new and exciting amidst the spot's warm ambiance every time. The drink list hovers in the $10-$15 range, and is organized by type of spirit, making it easy to find something you’ll like. The space has a speakeasy feel, with cozy seating and dim lighting.

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6. Off the Record 800 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20006 (Downtown)

If you're across the street from the White House, head to Off the Record. Situated in the Italian Renaissance-style Hay-Adams hotel, this aptly named haunt looks like an over-the-top hideaway of the political elite. Don't be surprised if you noticed Frank Underwood sipping a Sazerac by the bar...

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7. POV Rooftop Lounge and Terrace 515 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20004 (Penn Quarter)

POV offers an assortment of seasonal cocktails and a small plate food menu in a chic, top-floor sky-lounge outfitted with oversized, Alice in Wonderland-style black & red couches and glossy, darkly lacquered walls. Floor-to-ceiling windows peek out onto Downtown DC; a wrap-around terrace provides great views of the mall and the White House lawn.

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8. Lincoln 1110 Vermont Ave NW, Washington, DC 20005 (K Street)

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.