Despite contentious politics and cutthroat careers, there’s one thing Washingtonians have in common: they know how to drink. The nation’s capital is one of the best places to enjoy a craft cocktail, find a rare brew, get to know a unique spirit, sip a special glass of wine, watch a game with cold beer, or share a pitcher of mimosas at a drag brunch. These are the best bars in D.C.
José Andrés’ cocktail lab neighbors his two-Michelin-starred tasting menu restaurant, and it’s called a lab for a reason. Barmini is a hub for innovative techniques and recipes. Reserve a tasting flight and you’ll witness modern and awe-inspiring twists on classic cocktails. You can also sip one of more than 100 drinks on the menu.
Bar Pilar is a true neighborhood hang, where you’ll find unpretentious drinks, nods to Ernest Hemingway, and food sourced from regional organic farms. The rotating seasonal slushies are crowd favorites, but don’t miss the unusual house cocktails or classic sips like the Hemingway Daiquiri.
By the numbers, ChurchKey has 5 casks, 50 drafts, and 500 bottles of beer. The selection itself is impressive, with über rare brews and limited edition bottlings, but there’s also devout attention to detail in the way the list is organized (by flavor profile) and how each pour is served (in the perfect glass at the perfect temperature).
The résumé of this versatile cocktail bar is overflowing with accolades, all of which are well-deserved. No matter the occasion, Columbia Room is the perfect place to grab a drink—whether it’s a bright spritz on the rooftop Punch Garden, a distinguished whiskey in the Spirits Library, or a seasonal four-course cocktail tasting menu in the Tasting Room.
You can party like it’s whatever era you like at this four-story retro nightclub in Dupont Circle. You’ll hear the greatest hits from the ‘80s, ‘90s, ‘00s, and today while enjoying bottle service and dancing the night away, throwback style.
Dacha Beer Garden
Dacha is one of D.C.’s favorite beer gardens, so the outdoor space is always bustling. The beer list consists of German, Belgian, and American brews, as well as meads, ciders, draft cocktails, and wine. The food menu is inspired by traditional Bavarian fare and Dacha is dog- and family-friendly.
As the name implies, this is the place to explore the smoky agave spirit, mezcal. Each of the cocktails feature a type of mezcal, whether it’s espadín or pechuga. You can also embark on a more dedicated study of the spirit with a mezcal flight, made up of several of the 100 or so choices available. Pours are accompanied by sal de gusano and oranges.
Jack Rose Dining Saloon
The more than 2,600 bottles of whiskey lining the walls of Jack Rose draw connoisseurs from all over the world to sample rare and coveted pours. You’ll find everything from single malt scotch to Japanese whisky, as well as cigars to complement your dram. While whiskey is the star, the beer, wine, and cocktail selections also hold their own.
At this playful spot in Shaw, the sommeliers know that wine bars don’t have to be stuffy in order to be serious about wine. There’s a chalkboard bar where doodling is encouraged, but behind the bar, the experts can tell you anything you want to know about the 50 wines by the glass served via a high-tech refrigeration system.
Nellie’s Sports Bar
There’s something happening every single night of the week at this popular gay bar on U Street. Take part in ping pong madness, paint night, drag bingo, karaoke, trivia, DJ sets, dance parties, drag brunch, all day happy hour, and more.
Off the Record
In the basement of the Hay-Adams Hotel sits a discreet bar where you can be “seen and not heard.” The crimson walls are accented by humorous caricatures of political figures and corner tables are ideal spots for crucial meetings of the mind.
Tucked away in Brookland, this French-inspired wine bar transports visitors to a Parisian bistro, with ostrich feather chandeliers and ornamental ceiling tiles. The wine list features glasses and bottles from small and natural producers in France and Virginia. Dishes like duck liver mousse, steak frites, and salmon en croute complement the pours.
This neighborhood cocktail bar serves up refreshingly affordable classic drinks, seasonal creations, and cocktails showcasing each major spirit (gin, rum, mezcal, tequila, vodka, whiskey, brandy). For a private experience, book the snug—a hidden room with direct access to the bar via a service window.
ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar
ANXO kickstarted D.C.’s cider scene with a bar that takes inspiration from the Basque country in Spain. You can sip ciders that are funky, fruit-forward, or vibrant, while snacking on pintxos like croquetas, montaditos, or buñuelos. Anxo also makes their own ciders at their own facility and in collaboration with other cideries.
Ventnor Sports Cafe
The key games of the season will always be playing at this sports bar, but another major draw is the food, like stacked sandwiches and short rib gruyere mac and cheese. It’s also a gathering place for alumni groups and special events like trivia night.