Where To Grab a Drink in Washington DC Right Now
The election and 2020 give us plenty to drink about.
There’s plenty to drink about in DC in a normal year. Now factor in an election year and an ongoing pandemic, and we’re ready to belly up to the bar and not move until it’s all over.
These difficult times also mean that bars and restaurants have struggled to keep the lights on, and we’ve lost many DC favorites -- so many, we couldn’t do justice to them with just a short list (though The Gibson’s permanent closure particularly hurts). But the industry is resilient and so many are still working to bring joy to Washingtonians and provide a safe place to take in our city’s incredible bar talent.
We’ve updated this list to honor the standbys that have been serving us all along and raise a glass to the brave newcomers that have opened this year. Whether you need a stiff drink to take the edge off or want a top-notch cocktail to savor, we’ve got something for you right.
Cafes with coffee by day and cocktails by night usually aren’t anything special, but The Royal turns that notion on its head. This Latin-leaning cafe has a lineup of to-go cocktails with two servings each that will help brace you for the new normal. Try a daiquiri variation or opt for a fruity (yet boozy) punch, but whatever you do, don’t leave without a few top-notch empanadas or arepas for the road.
How to order: Make a reservation on Resy or get takeout and delivery online
Service Bar DC
Service Bar is a cocktail bar made for the most seasoned in the business. On an average night, this U Street staple would be filled to the brim with industry folks drinking some of the best cocktails in town. The book-long menu has every classic cocktail you could rattle off, tiki drinks, and even an industry-favorite Miller High Life pony and shot combo, all at good-for-DC prices. And now, you can get their cocktails in a single serving or in a “group therapy” size to quench the thirst of four to six people.
How to order: Make a reservation on Resy or get to-go drinks online
The Green Zone
This Middle Eastern craft cocktail bar churns out truly inventive cocktails, so it’s no wonder it has been a favorite since it opened in 2018. The drink list also explores ingredients like saffron and puts an Arab twist on cocktails like the Jungle Bird for a menu that’s unlike any other in the city. And, let’s face it, the [bleep] Trump punch is a no brainer.
How to order: Make a reservation on Resy, order takeout online, or get delivery on Caviar
Grab a seat on the lush garden patio or opt for takeout from this wine bar -- either way you won’t be disappointed. Lulu’s Wine Garden has one of the prettiest patios in the District, and the affordable wine list is rare in this city, making it equally as satisfying. All of the 50 bottles in stock ring in at $49, plus the bar has a handful of by-the-glass wines, magnum bottles, and pricier sparkly options they call “fancy stuff.”
How to order: Make a reservation online, order takeout online, or order delivery on Caviar or Doordash
Dacha Beer Garden
DC’s favorite day-drinking destination has two large patios primed for socially distancing. The beer garden (which, ahem, is one of the best in the country) offers a bounty of draft ales from German to DC-made varieties and snacks like bratwurst and a monster pretzel with all the fixings that you can enjoy at an outdoor picnic table or at home.
How to order: Make a reservation for either location online, get takeout online, or order delivery on Postmates
You may not be able to sit among the brass finishes and deep blue velvet seats anymore, but this swanky cocktail bar is still churning out high-quality drinks. The fun illustrated menu features a handful of tiki cocktails (including an oversized watermelon zombie to share) and riffs on the classics. These days, the bar is also hosting classes via Zoom so you can sign up, order all the ingredients you need, and head home to master daiquiris and other cocktails or even ice cutting.
How to order: Order to-go drinks online, book a reservation, or secure a seat in a class online
When Roy Boys opened its first location in Shaw, DC dwellers couldn’t get enough of the well-crafted cocktails, fried chicken, and old school hip-hop decor. So they quickly opened a second outpost in the trendy Navy Yard neighborhood just three months later. The draft lines at both locations showcase local brews, and there are also ponies (aka mini, seven-ounce cans of beer) on hand in case you want to mix things up. The shaken and stirred varieties play with unique ingredients like activated charcoal and beets in the Black Excellence cocktail and oyster brine from one of the restaurant's signature dishes in a play on the classic martini, the Dirty Roy.
How to order: Takeout and delivery from the Navy Yard and Shaw locations online
Jack Rose Dining Saloon is lauded as the go-to spot for whiskey in DC, so owner Bill Thomas used The Imperial as a place to expand into other spirits. And expand he did. Occupying the corner where three main streets converge, the three-story Imperial is best described as a complex. While the basement-level speakeasy is currently closed, you can still make a reservation for the dining room or rooftop. Like its sister spot Jack Rose, The Imperial has a thing for rare and vintage bottles and offers up hard-to-find labels rum, brandy, and Chartreuse.
How to order: Make a reservation online
Tiki on 18th
We’ll get to the OG of DC’s tiki bar scene in a bit, but for now, let’s talk about its challenger. Tiki on 18th opened into a crowded bar scene, but rose to the top with quality drinks, a Polynesian food menu, and a prime location on 18th street in Adams Morgan. The bar is led by owners who know a thing or two about rum and are pros at mixing tiki drinks, so it brings forward a strong list of Zombie, Mai Tai, and Piña Colada variations that you can enjoy at the bar or at home.
How to order: Order pickup online or make a reservation on Resy
ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar
DC has plenty of breweries. But ANXO Cidery & Pintxos has you covered when you’re in the mood for something different. ANXO was the first maker to distill cider in town, and its menu features mostly cider made in house with a few guests from around the world that make the cut. You can easily spend the day sampling cider that ranges from bright and fruit-forward to funky and acidic on the spacious patio, or stop by and pick up cans to stock your fridge.
How to order: Make a reservation online, order cider online, or stop by the bar
This bar was the first in DC to dive head first into the tiki trend, and it isn’t stopping the kitsch anytime soon. Archipelago’s cocktails are still served in giant flaming pineapples or adorned with a banana carved into a dolphin on the patio, but you can also get those drinks to go. The bar is also selling its drinkware and a hollowed out pineapple for serving so you can make your own tiki bar at home and feel like you never left U Street if that’s more your style.
How to order: Make a reservation on Resy or get to-go drinks online
Jack Rose Dining Saloon
Let’s start with the obvious: Jack Rose’s whiskey selection is absolutely bonkers. At almost 2,700 bottles and counting, it’s one of the largest collections of the spirit on this side of the Atlantic. The visual of all these glass vessels lining the walls of the spacious first-floor dining room -- and the bookshelf ladders required to reach them -- is a sight to behold. But what’s most remarkable about Jack Rose is the attention it gives to almost everything else. The beer program is excellent, and there’s also the open-air terrace perfect for socially distant drinks.
How to order: Make a reservation on Resy, order pick up online, or get delivery through Doordash
This bar’s sing-a-long style karaoke may be put on hold, but it’s always taken a backseat to everything else going on. Most of the bar’s cocktails come from a Suntory Highball Machine -- a contraption that chills and carbonates the highball cocktails that Zeppelin is known for. And you can now pair drinks with sushi and yakitori at home or on the restaurant’s sprawling patio.
How to order: Stop by for a spot on the patio (the restaurant doesn’t take reservations) or order delivery on UberEats, Doordash, or Caviar
Last Call is the perfect dive bar. It’s true to the style with most patrons drinking beer, prices in the single digits, and a space that’s rough around every possible edge, but it also takes things up a notch without losing its wonder. Alongside draft beers, a carbonated Old Fashioned is on tap to give patrons easy access to the most classic of drinks and other made-to-order cocktails go way beyond the well varieties. The once-vacant space outside Union Market is covered with graffiti and you can now sit outside at a regular table or Ms. Pacman machine turned table for two.
How to order: Grab a seat on the patio or pick up to-go drinks