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.
1. The Rye Bar1050 31st Street NW, Washington
2. Riggsby1731 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington
3. Blue Duck Tavern1201 24th St NW, Washington
4. The Lounge at Bourbon Steak2800 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington
5. The Observatory1075 Thomas Jefferson St NW, Washington
6. The Round Robin Bar1401 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington
7. The Dignitary901 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington
8. Off the Record800 16th St NW, Washington
9. Degrees Bistro3100 South Street, N.W., Washington DC
10. Quill at the Jefferson1200 16th St NW, Washington
11. The St Regis Bar923 16th St NW, Washington, DC
12. DNV Rooftop Pool Bar1155 14th St NW, Washington
13. POV Rooftop Lounge and Terrace515 15th St NW, Washington
Just because the C&O Canal isn't some major shipping lane doesn't mean it can't be a major sipping lane. So hit the Capella Hotel's legitimately beautiful Rye Bar, which serves up barrel-aged cocktails and rare rye whiskeys to patrons sitting at a marble topped honey onyx bar, or on large Chesterfield leather chairs next to floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto the canal.
Located inside the swanky Carlyle Hotel at Dupont Circle, The Riggsby is a luxe retro-inspired cocktail bar and eatery. Celebrity chef Michael Schlow helms the menu, offering bespoke takes on classic 60s' inspired bar fare like club sandwiches, chicken paillard, and steak frites, the perfect accompaniment for a three martini lunch.
A popular brunch, lunch, and dinner spot inside the West End's Park Hyatt, the Blue Duck Tavern offers up hearty fare with the likes of pork belly, short rib hash, and apple pie on the menu. Herald the arrival of spring by brunching al fresco on their outdoor patio, where you might sneak a peek at some seasonal flora and fauna (including a small family of those eponymous ducks!).
The Lounge at Bourbon Steak is a retro bistro offering Mid-Atlantic fare inside the Georgetown Four Seasons Hotel. Nestle into a booth and load up on savory bar bites like Maryland blue crab hushpuppies and lobster corn dogs; they pair well with the old fashioned cocktails (we like The Potomac, a house variation on a dirty martini featuring white truffles) off Bourbon Steak's well-curated list.
The Observatory is a 3000sqft lounge on top of the luxury boutique Graham Hotel. Enjoy a well-curated menu of hand-crafted cocktails while taking in sweeping panoramic views of DC & VA. You'll wanna make sure you look sharp before you just waltz in, though: reservations are strongly encouraged, and there’s a business casual dress code.
This shadowy, oak-paneled bar in the Willard InterContinental Hotel has been a DC standard for years, serving the likes of Mark Twain and Walt Whitman in its heyday. Offering an extensive selection of scotch, bourbon, whiskey and rye, classic cocktails are what's on the menu here; the house Jingle Bell Julep with fresh mint, triple sec and mixed fruit liquor is a menu favorite.
The Dignitary is a swanky whiskey den located inside the Marriot Marquis hotel in DC's Mt. Vernon Square. Settle into some studded leather couches, order up one of their presidentially named cocktails or just a glass of your favorite bourbon, and enjoy.
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...
The Ritz has installed a discreet, AM-to-AM spot in its former Bar & Lounge area. Decorated like a swanky French townhouse, decked out with classic bistro tables and banquette seating for 46, this is a solid spot to go for classic cocktails, no matter the time of night.
Inspired by Thomas Jefferson's Monticello parlor, Quill is an upscale cocktail bar serving signature drinks, such as the "Route One Ricky" (Jim Beam rye, caramelized key lime shrub, and homemade cream soda), and American fare. There's a pianist playing live jazz most nights and new cocktails are introduced monthly.
The St Regis poured a lot of money ($2 million, if you're counting) into revamping the bar at their DC outpost. This bespoke luxury saloon offers small plates from Adour and seasonal bourbon-based cocktails, perfect for enjoying while splayed out on a Chesterfield sofa, relaxing in front of the fireplace.
On hot days, this sexy rooftop bar at Thomas Circle is the perfect oasis away from the humid city streets. Cool off poolside with Asian-inspired bites and summer-themed cocktails, sake, and chilled wine.
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.