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Craft cocktail culture has become a near ubiquitous term in the vernacular of the well-heeled Washingtonian. In recent years, bars dedicated to the art of mixology have sprung up all over the greater DC area. Here are a few of our favorites:
Todd Thrasher's Old Town cocktail bar has long been a city staple. Open only "when the blue light is on," this small bar above Eamonn's restaurant is by reservation only. Order from a small menu of hand-crafted drinks or have the bartender make something just for you.
Located next to Marvin on 14th and U, this also by-reservation-only bar is known for its ever-changing cocktail menu. One of our favorite parts about this bar? Tell the waiter or waitress what you normally like to drink and the bartenders are always happy to whip up a creative drink just for you.
When acclaimed chef Jose Andres opens a cocktail bar, Washingtonians listen. This new Penn Quarter spot offers more than 100 cocktails on the menu as well as small bites. From a high-tech infuser to hand-cut ice cubes, we're pretty sure you want to drink here at least once.
The former team from The Gibson opened up a second cocktail shop downtown behind the more casual bar The Passenger. Make a reservation for a "cocktail tasting," which involves creations of the day from the mixologist, plus small bites, for $50.
Best Hotel Cocktails:
Washingtonians love happy hour, and it’s only natural that political insiders turn to these classic favorites to continue the workday outside of the office … perhaps with a cocktail or two at their favorite luxury hotel. Here are a few of our favorite spots inside hotels:
Off the Record at the Hay-Adams
It’s no wonder that the closest hotel to the White House also boasts one of the city’s buzziest bars.Media and political elite alike gather for cocktails in the basement of The Hay-Adams at Off the Record,which is decorated with cheeky political caricatures by cartoonist Art Wood.
Round Robin Bar at The Willard InterContinental
The hotel known for pioneering the term “lobbying” is undoubtedly one of DC’s most famous politicallandmarks. It’s also home to the tony Round Robin bar, where Senator Henry Clay first popularized thefamous Mint Julep cocktail. Today, Washingtonians and visitors from all over the world join for a scotchor a drink from the “All the President’s Cocktails” menu, where you can pick your libation based on the drinks preferred by our former Commander in Chiefs.
Known equally for its discreet staff as for its craft cocktails, this intimate hotel bar is uniquely suited to quiet conversations. Political insiders and VIPs choose to sip their drinks at this lounge decorated in vintage maps of European wine regions to reference the hotel namesake’s love of oenology. In warm weather, you’ll find guests on the outdoor patio, but in cooler months, the truly interesting discussionstake place in the private nooks just outside the bar’s entrance.
Even with the demise of the martini lunch (sigh) Washingtonians love our cocktails. Jeff Faile is a master of spirits, and his talents have fully unfurled at the fabulous Fiola Restaurant. His enormous bar hosts tastings and mixology classes – our favorite is his PhD-worthy seminar on gin. Faile has the goods to back up his talents, with no fewer than a dozen bourbons to pour for any given happy hour. Love a bitter negroni? He has five kinds, including a trendy white version with Cocchi Americano.
Faile’s alma mater, Palena, continues its reputation as the bar of record for in-the-know Washingtonians with the city’s best Manhattan. For a hip vibe, head to Black Jack for an El Dorado (tequila, habanero, and orange bitters) by the bocce ball court. Or try Jack Rose Dining Saloon for one of the city’s largest selection of spirits, with more than one hundred whiskeys alone.
Drink Prohibition-style with the moonshine punch at Brickside Food and Drink in Bethesda, Md. And on Friday and Saturday nights, the Empress Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental has live jazz to accompany your Cherry Blossom Sling Cocktail (vodka and cherry puree). If you're more of a Rat Pack fan, The Graham Georgetown has Pin Up Mondays, with cigars, whiskey, and 1950s tunes.