With the highest number of college degrees per capita in the nation, it's no secret that the District is an ambitious place with some seriously
judgmental intense people. But follow this guide from our DC editor Leo Schmid, and when somebody in the bar inevitably asks, "So what do you do?", you can confidently respond, "I, at least, drink like a boss".
Best Cocktail Bar: Spanish-themed Estadio has my favorite gin and housemade tonic in the city, in addition to three great porron concoctions. If you're asking yourself what a porron is, I suggest you come not wearing your favorite shirt.
Best Sunday Funday: Running an all-day happy hour that rips half off all drafts and slings buckets of tallboy Bud Lights for $10, Black Jack should have a bar stool available for you right when they open, assuming you play your cards right.
Best Club: Located in South Dupont, The Huxley is divided into two rooms: the Ballroom, with its giant gold chandelier and dance floor, and the Library, a lounge for those who prefer to kick back and check things out. Library humor!
Best Outdoor Spot: Poste's patio and garden in the center of Hotel Monaco has a slew of great cocktails and is always jammed up with ladies during Summer happy hours.
Best Old School DC Bar: If you're across the street from the White House, head to Off the Record to surround yourself with caricatures of the political elite, and also, the real political elite.
Best Day Drinking: Pumping out Coronas and margs all day, Cantina Marina in Southwest is actually the only dock bar in the city, and it's the perfect place to tie one on all day long.
Best Hidden Club: The only signs of Heist are its black, bull-horn door handles, as the subterranean club has no signage, but locate those and you'll find a lair decked with bullet-casing tables, surveillance footage from actual bank jobs, and a water buffalo skull dipped in gold. I run through a few Hail Marys before walking in.
Best Beer Bar: It's funny that the best beer bar in the city would ask patrons to climb stairs, but alas, Churchkey's 50 draughts, multiple casks, and 555 unique labels (from over 30 countries) will have you pulling a Patrick Duffy and slowly walking out Step by Step.
Best German Beer Hall: Auf wiedersehen! Or so one would say prior to downing the 1L booze cannons at the Biergarten Haus on H Street.
Best Tasting Room: With two separate bars that fill pints and growlers on the cheap, the only thing that would make Port City Brewery's tasting room better would be a metro stop located inside of it.
Best Local Beer: The guys over at 3 Stars Brewery have a Belgian-style farmhouse ale called the Peppercorn Saison that, out of three stars, I give... three stars.
Best Sweaty Dance Party: The underground Imperial Champagne Bar at Napoleon's is raved-out with international DJs, endless champagne flutes, and private stall bathrooms so you can towel off privately. Or with one other person. Or with two other people, if you're really feeling it.
Best Locals' Bar: A favorite of the industry crowd, the Passenger is away from any tourist destination and usually has a great tallboy & shot combo.
Best View: The W's P.O.V. Lounge overlooks the White House, and provides mile-stretching views into Virginia. Oh, and when celebrities like John Legend and Pharrell come to the city, this is where they party.
1. Black Jack1612 14th St, Washington
2. Estadio1520 14th St NW, Washington
3. Poste Moderne Brasserie555 8th St NW, Washington
4. The Huxley1730 M St NW, Washington
5. Off the Record800 16th St NW, Washington
6. Cantina Marina600 Water St SW, Washington
7. Heist1802 Jefferson Pl, Washington
8. ChurchKey1337 14th St NW, Washington
9. Biergarten Haus1355 H St NE, Washington
10. Port City Brewery3950 Wheeler Ave, Alexandria
11. 3 Stars Brewery6400 Chillum Place NW, Washington
12. Napoleon Bistro1847 Columbia Rd NW, Washington
13. POV Rooftop Lounge and Terrace515 15th St NW, Washington
14. The Passenger1539 7th St NW, Washington
A sexy bar serving up American grub -- like quality pizzas and sandwiches -- and both fancy 'tails and craft beers.
If you don't order a slushito at Estadio, you're doing it wrong. These frozen boozie slushies are the star of this vibrant spot, and come in two variations: cranberry, ginger, brandy, and cava, or pistachio, manzanilla, sherry, and gin. Be sure to dig into their scrumptious and colorful Spanish tapas and bocadillos (sandwiches), too, like the sautéed chorizo picante.
Poste Moderne Brasserie is a quaint restaurant and bar located in the Hotel Monaco's courtyard patio. Herbs and vegetables from the restaurant's own garden add freshness to the French-inspired menu. Colorful plates like roasted baby beet salads and sauteed spring vegetables with truffled ricotta are some of the options on offer.
Located in South Dupont, The Huxley is divided into two rooms: the Ballroom, with its giant gold chandelier and dance floor, and the Library, a lounge for those who prefer to kick back and check things out. Library humor!
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...
Southwest DC’s Cantina Marina is the culinary embodiment of Margaritaville, from its nautical theme to its beach bites-style menu. The Cajun-meets-Tex-Mex joint is built to resemble a beach shack; with cerulean blue and lemon yellow wood paneling dotted with decorative plaster fish, Cantina Marina would be less conspicuous in sunny Key West than the District. Embrace your temporary vacation, though, and comb through the platter of “Super” nachos to rescue the shrimp, steak, and Andouille sausage that’s smothered by chili, pico de gallo, crema, avocado, and jalapeno. The salads, entrees, and sandwiches offer Creole options, like Jambalaya pasta and the Bayou burger. You’ll want to wash your savory plates down with an ice-cold beer, a margarita, or a sweet specialty cocktail, like the blueberry lemonade. With a location right on the water, it’s likely you’ll pour hours into this place; and you know, it’s your own damn fault.
True to its name, Heist's adorned in gold jail bars and memorabilia from some infamous robberies; cocktail servers wear purposefully tasseled bow ties and tuxedo garb.
With 55 draft lines and 500-plus bottles that all manage to deliver on quality, ChurchKey is a chic Logan Circle destination for DC's die-hard beer fans. In addition to the meticulously curated lineup of domestic brews and collabs one would expect from a top-flight beer bar, this stylish spot above sister restaurant Birch & Barley has its finger on the pulse of what’s happening craft-wise overseas, too, allowing you to one-up your friends by saying things like, “I’ve really been impressed by what’s happening in Estonia’s beer scene lately” with complete seriousness. The food menu is loaded with plenty of hearty bites like tater tots, burgers, and flatbreads to soak up all those suds.
The Haus is a 7,000sqft bastion of Bavarian revelry, with twin darkwood upstairs/downstairs bars backed by rows of ornamental steins and mounted deer heads, plus a gorgeously wood-fenced, massive outdoor space for you to enjoy in warmer weather.
Port City Brewery is a brewery that is run by a fourth generation Alexandrian. Not only can you enjoy the brewery for the brews but on Saturdays you can tour the whole facility for 20-30 minutes to see the process in its entirety.
3 Stars is a local DC brewery serving up creations like a Belgian-style farmhouse ale called the Peppercorn Saison.
The underground Imperial Champagne Bar at Napoleon's is raved-out with international DJs, endless champagne flutes, and private stall bathrooms.
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.
When the original Passenger closed at the end of 2014, it felt like losing a loved one. Thankfully, the endearing, unpretentious cocktail joint returned at a new location not too far up 7th Street, where it still encourages patrons to chat with bartenders about what flavors, spirits, or ingredients they’re in the mood to drink, and let the experts take it from there. But don't worry, there’s a chalkboard menu with four or five rotating cocktail options if you’re feeling anti-social. The space also retains its worn-in vibe with carryovers from the old Passenger (church pew booths, a Steve McQueen mural) and vestiges from other DC hotspots (Liv’s old disco ball, leopard-print chairs from the defunct Millie and Al's). It’s still the bar that sells tallboys of Schlitz and makes world-class cocktails -- only now it has Chartreuse on tap and a concert stage upstairs, too.