This Is a Bar on Wheels
Yes, The Rye Bar is expensive. After all, it’s home to one of Washington’s priciest cocktails: a Manhattan here will run you $22 each. But this is the bar for a certain sect of society, folks who demand a "hard harvested" ice program and only the finest barrel-aged cocktails. The decor matches the menu, too: the bar is made from onyx and marble, and set against floor-to-ceiling windows that offer views of the C&O canal.
Channel your inner Peggy Olson or Don Draper when you roll up to the bar at The Riggsby. This is definitely the place for a three martini lunch -- the bar works on delivering classic drinks at a decent price point. During The Riggsby’s weekly happy hour (Monday to Friday, 4-7pm) a martini, Manhattan, or gimlet will only set you back $6.
Park Hyatt Washington
There’s a totally nice bar located next to the Hyatt’s Blue Duck Tavern, but why hang out inside when there’s a patio to be enjoyed? Every spring, the restaurant opens seats by the fountain (which is frequented by a small family of those eponymous ducks). Bonus points: like the food at Blue Duck Tavern, the cocktail menu features local spirits and ingredients.
The Four Seasons
Bourbon Steak is home to some killer cocktails, including classics like the Rusty Nail, Manhattan, and Old Fashioned, but there’s also a cocktail menu that stretches for pages, just in case you want to be overwhelmed by options. If you’re up for bar bites, try the Maryland blue crab hushpuppies.
The Graham Hotel
For an evening escape, head to The Observatory at The Graham Hotel in Georgetown. The rooftop bar offers cocktail and cigar service, as well as sweeping views of Georgetown and the Potomac River. But don’t just expect to walk in: reservations are strongly encouraged, and there’s a business casual dress code, so you know, put on something decent for once.
The Willard InterContinental
It was a sad day when The Willard announced that the Scotch Bar at The Round Robin was closing. But don’t lose hope: the Round Robin bar has expanded seating and still serves classic cocktails, including the mint julep, which the bar is actually credited with introducing to the district back in the day.
This is the exactly the type of place where you would imagine Frank Underwood meeting to seal someone’s political or earthly fate. It’s a basement hideaway within sight of the White House that’s been serving up killer cocktails for decades. Rely on your bartender for drink recommendations -- these guys know what they’re doing.
This bar is discreetly hidden in the back of the lobby, and it’s often a celebrity sighting spot when there’s a major event taking place in DC. Bar service here is consistent and welcoming. Pro tip: sneak into the lobby’s living room for complimentary, passed s’mores, which are offered nightly from 6:30pm to 7pm.
Live piano music, cocktails that change monthly, and an outdoor terrace where it’s possible to enjoy a glass of cognac... Quill isn’t shooting for mediocre here. Bartender Rachel Kling will take good care of you with drinks like the Monkey’s Boulevard, a barrel-aged cocktail comprised of Monkey Shoulder scotch, Cardamaro, and vermouth.
The St. Regis
Relax in the leather armchairs, or mingle by the fireplace -- wherever you sit, this bar is adorned to match the mood of the classic drinks served here. Try the Red Snapper or Old Fashioned, and if you’re there in time for brunch, order up one of the hotel’s signature Bloody Marys.
14th St/Thomas Circle
Pool bars are kind of a rare thing in DC, but at the Donovan House, the pool not only, you know, exists (yay), but comes with a view of Thomas Circle. Swimming is reserved for hotel guests, but you can sit poolside and sip on summer-themed cocktails, sake, and chilled wine. Pro tip: hit up happy hour, when you can nab a beer for $4 and sushi rolls for $6 each.
Mt. Vernon Square
The Marriott Marquis is one of the newest hotels in DC, and it has the biggest bed count. The whiskey list is also pretty massive... order a flight or try one of their signature cocktails.
If you want a bar with a view, then the POV rooftop terrace & lounge is right up your alley. This rooftop bar has views of Downtown DC, including the Washington Monument and the White House. Just be prepared to pay... cocktails start at $16 here, and yes, bottle service is available.
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Tim Ebner is a food and travel writer based in Washington, DC. Follow him on Twitter for more tips: @TimEbner.