Where to Grab a Drink in Washington DC Right Now
You deserve a drink.
With the weather getting warmer and more of us getting vaccinated, things are starting to look up. But after more than a year of pandemic life under our belts, we could all use a drink right about now.
These difficult times also mean that bars and restaurants have struggled to keep the lights on, and we’ve lost many DC favorites. 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 outdoors, we’ve got something for you right here.
Bark Social Bethesda
While this dog park slash bar looks nothing like the others on this list, we couldn’t help but include this unique newcomer. This 30,000 square foot property in North Bethesda pairs an off-leash dog park with plenty of adirondack chairs and picnic tables for humans, and the space’s indoor and outdoors bars have treats for you and your pup. Bark Social stocks Maryland-made drafts from brewers like Denizens and Port City Brewing, wine and hard seltzers, coffee from Ceremony Coffee, and even a few brews made for dogs by Good Boy Dog Beer.
How to book: Pre-register via website
Atop Union Market with sweeping views of the city, Hi Lawn was made for summer 2021. The massive rooftop bar was built with social distancing in mind, so the turf-lined rooftop has picnic tables and circled-off spaces on the ground for spreading out on a blanket. The drink menu covers beer and wine, plus classic cocktails and house options like a play on a Long Island Iced Tea called the Lawn Hiland Iced Tea and a Painkiller variation served in the adult juice boxes that have become popular during the pandemic. On the food front, expect snacks like caviar and Pringles, charcuterie boards, and curated picnic baskets with several snacks from the menu for 2-5 people.
As part of the La Cosecha market, Serenata is a cocktail bar where owners say each menu item is inspired by “the many countries that make up the fabric of the rich Latin American heritage.” Each cocktail on the menu is situated on a map pointing to the country that inspired the drink, so the Duende Tango hovers near the Dominican Republic and features aged rum, aperol, scotch, orange bitters, olive, and mamajuana, an aged rum and red wine elixir. For the warmer months, the bar is operating a mobile cart outside the market that will serve spritzes made with South American ingredients.
St. Vincent Wine
Drinking at a bar in these times often means looking for ample outdoor space. Luckily, this new wine bar that opened in November fits the bill. The 4,000 square foot patio that serves as a hybrid bar, restaurant, store, and, eventually, live music venue was inspired by Bacchanal Fine Wine & Spirits, a New Orleans bar known for its outstanding wine program and relaxed outdoor environment. Here you’ll find a lengthy wine list served by the bottle; other beverage options like beer, cider, and batched cocktails; and shareable plates and gorgeous charcuterie boards for snacking.
Washingtonians are no strangers to Columbia Room, but the staple craft cocktail bar looks a little different these days. The indoor swanky tasting room remains temporarily closed, so the bar recently opened its rooftop and alley patios as part of a Summer Spritz Garden. The drink menu still features boozy house cocktails like the Suit & Tie, with scotch, cane sugar, berry-infused sherry vinegar, and aromatic and mole bitters, and swaps in several lighter spritz options for the summer like a frozen aperol spritz and a watermelon Americano.
Doi Moi’s basement has tried on several different styles over the past few years. As 2 Birds 1 Stone, it was a sophisticated speakeasy. In its Destination Wedding era, each kitschy nook paid homage to a popular wedding spot. Now the tucked away basement area is simply called Doi Moi Downstairs, and the new concept is serving tropical drinks in a dim, swanky space. Classic cocktails get the tropical treatment with options like a banana-lemongrass Old Fashioned, a coconut-infused gin Negroni, and a Cosmopolitan variation starring lychee and dragon fruit. With the speakeasy-style bar and restaurant more closely aligned, guests can now order the restaurant’s entire menu of Vietnamese dishes in the bar as well.
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.
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 now those drinks are available 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.
With indoor dining reopened in DC, you can finally sit among the brass finishes and deep blue velvet seats at this swanky cocktail bar again. The fun illustrated menu features a handful of tiki cocktails (including an oversized watermelon zombie to share) and riffs on the classics that can be enjoyed inside, on the bar’s patio, or at home. 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.
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.
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.
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 cocktail complex rather than merely a bar. 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 of rum, brandy, and Chartreuse that you can sip straight or try in a cocktail.
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 bookshop 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 and cocktail programs are also excellent, and you can enjoy it all inside the bar at limited capacity or on the open-air terrace perfect for socially distant drinks.
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.”
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 reopened for indoor and outdoor dining so you can sip daiquiri variations or have a fruity (yet boozy) brunch at this neighborhood favorite. The bar’s lineup of to-go cocktails with two servings each can be paired with top-notch empanadas or arepas for the road, and that sounds like a recipe for a perfect warm weather evening as well.
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 to go in a single serving or in a “group therapy” size to quench the thirst of four to six people.
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 anyway. 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.