No matter which side of the aisle you’re on, politics in our nation’s capital can drive a person to drink. Fortunately, there are plenty of great places to do just that in Washington, D.C. The city was once known as the domain of buttoned-down bars and stodgy steakhouses, but thanks to an influx of millennials in recent years, D.C. has become a hotbed of epicurean innovation and variety. The District is also home to a vibrant craft brewing and distilling scene, so there are lots of intriguing local libations to explore.
U Street Corridor
This historic neighborhood has long been considered the heart of D.C.’s music and arts scene—and that includes the art of drinking. Start at Five to One, where nightly cocktails are inspired by whatever band is playing at the 9:30 Club across the street.
Next, take a five-minute walk to The Saloon, a laid-back basement pub that offers German beers on draft and Belgians by the bottle. A block away you’ll find Bin 1301, a friendly wine bar with an intriguing international list. (When’s the last time you tasted Armenian or Brazilian sparkling wines?)
Put on your cocktail-drinking hat for the tour’s final leg, beginning a block up the street at The Gibson. The entrance is marked only by a nondescript black door, but that’s part of the appeal of this dimly lit speakeasy. Once inside, sample inventive cocktails such as “I’m Remy. You’re Nicki,” made with Scottish whisky, amaro, maraschino liqueur, and crème de violette.
Just around the corner is Colada Shop. This brightly colored storefront is a tribute to Miami’s Little Havana, and features rum-fueled cocktail classics, including authentic daiquiris and cuba libres. Be sure to try the daily croquetas and empanadas. Continue along 14th Street to your last stop: 2 Birds 1 Stone, a lively subterranean spot for cocktails. The hand-drawn drinks menu changes weekly and includes both classics and creative concoctions.
Atlas District/H Street Corridor
This once-struggling business district is fast becoming one of the city’s hottest hangouts. Kick off your tour of H Street—the neighborhood’s main drag—at the newly opened Dio Wine Bar, a love letter to organic, biodynamic, and other “natural” wines. The bar carries 30 international wines by the glass and bottle, including local picks from Maryland and Virginia.
Tasty dim sum and a lesson in cocktailing await at your next destination, Copycat Company. The pop-art-inspired menu explains the origins of classic cocktails and suggests myriad combinations of liquors and ingredients. When you’ve had your fill of drinks and dumplings, take a two-minute walk to Granville Moore’s, where rickety wooden booths and low ceilings are part of the Old World charm. Choose from a rotating lineup of Belgian draft beers and an extensive bottle list that includes Trappist and large-format brews. Craving mussels and frites? This is your place.Farther down H Street is racehorse-themed Hill Prince, nestled inside a historic row house. Order a classic or seasonal cocktail and kick back in one of three distinct bar areas, including an outdoor patio where DJs spin records on weekends.
Cap off the evening at Sospeso, a block up the road. The space has a modern Mediterranean vibe and a well-crafted list of off-the-beaten-path international wines, local beers, and crafty cocktails. House-infused vermouth drinks are a must.
Northeast D.C.’s industrial warehouse district is a hub for distilleries (plus a bonus brewery). Begin at Republic Restoratives, creators of Rodham Rye, a whiskey named for Hillary Clinton. The distillery also makes D.C. vodka and a Kentucky bourbon that’s locally aged in wine barrels. Cocktails are served in the industrial-chic bar area Thursday through Sunday.
A seven-minute walk will take you to One Eight Distilling for locally sourced whiskey, gin, and vodka. Cocktail service is offered on weekends, and hungry visitors can grab a bite from pop-up vendors or have food delivered.
New Columbia Distillers, one-third of a mile away, is home to D.C.’s ubiquitous Green Hat gins. Join the weekend crowd in the distillery’s no-frills work space for spirits samples and $5 cocktails.Next up is a six-minute stroll to the Murray Hill Club at Jos. A. Magnus & Co. Distillery. The bar-within-a-distillery serves experimental cocktails Monday through Wednesday, starring Jos. A. Magnus vodka, gin, and bourbon. Atlas Brew Works, at the same location, welcomes visitors daily with draft versions of flagships Rowdy Rye and District Common, plus seasonal and taproom-only specials.
Packed with bars and restaurants, trendy Logan Circle butts up against the bustling Shaw district. Have your first drink at Left Door, a friendly speakeasy that’s not above using high-end and rare spirits to create killer cocktails. (The “World’s Greatest Cocktail,” made with Cristal, will set you back $100, but there are plenty of cheaper options.)From there, it’s a 10-minute walk to Churchkey, D.C.’s craft beer destination. If you can’t find something to love among the bar’s 50 taps or 500-bottle reserve list, you should probably give up on beer altogether.
Maxwell Park, a half-mile away, is a wine-focused version of Churchkey. Monthly wine themes including “Let’s Get Weird!” keep things playful, and a high-tech refrigeration system chills the wines to four different temperatures for optimal drinking. Take a quick turn down Blagden Alley to The Dabney, a Mid-Atlantic-themed restaurant with a compact-but-thoughtful drinks menu. Grab a bar seat and explore eclectic wines, signature cocktails (try the Leather Britches) and local ciders. A couple doors down at the cozy Columbia Room, splurge seekers can opt for a prix fixe food and cocktail experience in the reservations-only private tasting room, or pop into the spirits library or punch garden. Get some fresh air on the mile-long walk to Anxo, a Spanish-style cider bar that features its own house-made ciders plus selections from Spain, England, and across the United States. Munch on jamón and roasted almonds while you work your way through the 30-cider list.
This Northwest D.C. district is generating buzz for its independent vibe and small collection of terrific restaurants—all steps away from each other on Upshur Street.
Grab a glass at Ruta del Vino, where all the wines hail from Latin America. The list is intriguing (18 wines by the glass, 10 by the bottle), and features everything from Argentine Brut Nature to Mexican Sauvignon Blanc. A few doors down, Hank’s Cocktail Bar favors savory and bitter ingredients over sweet and fruity. Check out “Bittersweet Surrender,” made with genever gin, roasted red pepper, Campari, vermouth, and chili salt.
Continue on to Petworth Citizen, a bar for book lovers. On weekend nights, bartender Chantal Tseng serves a newly invented “Literary Cocktails” menu in the Reading Room, based on a particular author or book.
Finish the night with a four-block walk to Slash Run, a “hair metal-inspired” dive bar with a 100-bottle whiskey list and local beers on draft. Rock out to metal and punk tunes from the CD jukebox while you soak up the evening’s alcohol with burgers and batter-fried poblano peppers.