Where to Grab a Drink in Washington DC Right Now
You deserve it.
After a lengthy hiatus, DC bars are back. Our go-to spots are filled with the sounds of new and old friends catching up and bartenders shaking and stirring drinks, and many have also expanded outdoor space for those waiting to return indoors.
The hospitality industry has shown unparalleled resilience lately, so now is as good a time as ever to support your favorite local hangout, whether that’s a fancy cocktail bar or a casual beer garden. But with several newcomers that have opened amid the pandemic (or re-opened after many months) mixing up DC’s drinking scene, there are more options than ever.
So we’ve updated this list to highlight some of the best bars in DC while also shining a spotlight on new openings that you’d be remiss to skip. Whether you’re looking for a spot for a comfortable al fresco happy hour or an after-dinner nightcap in a luxurious space, there’s something for everyone on our list of the best bars in DC right now.
Housed inside the Eaton Hotel tucked away inside the lobby’s library, this cocktail den recently reopened after a long pandemic layoff. The drinks have a literary inspiration and the decor includes lots of books to gaze at as you sip. The current menu is themed around the whimsy of Alice in Wonderland and features Seeds of Destruction, a classic martini that’s been transformed into poppable caviar “spears,” as well as the Mad as a Hatter, which riffs on the El Presidente by using butter fat-washed tequila instead of rum.
How to book: Walk-in only
Jalapeno-infused aguardiente fuels the cocktails at this Manor Park bar and distillery, which opened earlier this year in a transformed industrial building. The sugar cane spirit is similar to rum and a favorite drink in Colombia, where owner Dan Ziegler found his inspiration. His variation of the spirit, named Chacho, has a spicy kick that still manages to be super drinkable both neat, on the rocks, or mixed into a proper cocktail. The bar features some simple ways to enjoy Chacho, including as a margarita or a mule, along with more intricate recipes. Several of the cocktails are recreations from bars and bartenders around DC, making for a true local experience. Tours and tastings are available on-site as well.
How to book: Via website; walk-ins also accepted
Just a short walk from the NoMa metro station, Red Bear has become part of the fabric of its neighborhood, hosting regular events and churning out well-made and unique brews. Flagships include Skookum, a hoppy red ale, and the DC Dirt American Porter. Hard seltzer is often on the tap rotation along with experimental and seasonal inspirations. Groups can gather indoors over a board game, or unwind out on the large patio. Save room for food too—the menu is extensive and caters to all appetites with shareable options like waffle fries, beer-battered cheese curds, and the ridiculously craveable, Seattle-style teriyaki.
How to book: Walk-in only
Nicknamed “Mr. Lyan,” London-based Ryan Chetiyawardana is one of the world’s most influential bartenders and his bars have won numerous awards thanks to a commitment to quality, sustainability, and guest experience. Silver Lyan is Chetiyawardana’s first bar in the US, located in an old bank vault beneath the swanky Riggs Hotel in Penn Quarter. Drinks here take inspiration from both the District’s international influences and its role as the American capital. The Bases Loaded is a popular order, blending Maker’s Mark bourbon with lemon, golden whey, and a chokecherry float. For a truly all-out experience, order up the Jello Fruit Basket, a shareable platter of fruit-shaped jello shots inspired by classic cocktails like the martini and the tequila sunrise that comes with shots of champagne to boot.
How to book: Via website; walk-ins also accepted
Since opening in June, this chic cocktail bar has been out to prove that gin is so much more than it’s juniper-forward reputation. Drinks here celebrate the spirit in all its variations, from bright and citrusy, to dry and piney. The summer menu features a twist on the classic gin and tonic with the addition of lemon verbena and lime along with a martini riff using peppermint-infused vermouth and grappa. The skilled bartenders can also create unique drinks to satisfy any craving, and a selection of non-gin liquor, beer, and wine is also available. Bar seating offers a peek at the varied inventory, which features bottles from around the world, while the cozy sofa nooks provide a more intimate experience. Food is limited to chips and caviar for now, but the bar is flanked by sister restaurants La Collina and The Duck & The Peach to grab heartier bites before or after drinks.
How to book: Via Tock
ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar
DC has plenty of breweries, but ANXO cider has you covered when you’re in the mood for something different. ANXO was the first maker to distill cider in town, and although it’s original cidery and pintxos bar has closed, the Brightwood neighborhood taproom continues on as a destination. You can easily spend the afternoon 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 or indoors, but now those drinks are available to go, too. The bar also sells a selection of its drinkware online, so you can make your own tiki bar at home, if that’s more appealing than trekking out to U Street. The Asian-influenced menu is limited at the moment, though hits like the (seriously spicy) hot chicken steam buns and egg rolls remain available.
This cocktail bar is a visual stunner, with brass finishes and deep blue velvet seats that give it an expensive, art deco feel. 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.
Washingtonians are no strangers to Columbia Room, but the staple craft cocktail bar looks a little different these days. The swanky tasting room remains temporarily closed, but the indoor “spirit library” is back to hosting guests, as is the bar’s rooftop patio. 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.
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.
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 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.
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 Sazerac and 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. The bar’s nearly 2,700-bottle inventory has dwindled a bit during the pandemic as ownership set up an in-house retail shop to sell bottles and support employees. Still, it’s one of the most diverse 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 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 layouts in the District, both inside and out, 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.”
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 relates to a country that inspired the drink. The Daniela gets its cues from the Dominican Republic and uses extra-aged Brugal rum, Chinola passion fruit liqueur, orange-mint simple syrup and a blend of two sherries. For the warmer months, the bar is operating a mobile cart outside the market that will serve spritzes made with South American ingredients.
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 is 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, a selection of its cocktails are available to go.
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.
This bar’s sing-a-long style karaoke is enough of a reason for a visit, offered by reservation Thursdays through Saturdays from 10:30 pm to close. Cocktails are the restaurant’s other strong draw, of course, with most of the bar’s drinks coming 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 in the restaurant’s sprawling patio or dining room.