The Nation's Capital is filled with plenty of history and wonderment. It's also got some great places to eat and drink. A city full of international influences you can see the various flavors in the neighborhood spots and drink flair. I couldn't possibly cover every amazing place in this city but here are a few of my favorites...
The Jack Rose Dining Saloon Has one of the most extensive whisk(e)y collections in the Western Hemisphere. It changes but usually hovers around 2,700 bottles. It's the whisky promise land. The staff is gracious and helpful. If you want a scotch journey you will never forget ask if Harvey Fry is there and have him take you on a journey. You'll learn more than you thought possible and enjoy his larger than life personality. Look for a long white beard, giant magnifying glass (it's dark in there) suspenders and (probably) a Grateful Dead t-shirt. You can also get great food and cocktails here, but I never seem to get around to it after all those drams of whisky.
Dram & Grain
In the basement of JackRose's is little reservations needed speakeasy style bar. If you are looking for prohibition era style craft cocktails this is your jam. It's open Wednesday through Saturday but Friday and Saturday are reservations required and you probably need a week or two notice to get them. They don't have a website but you can find them on social media @Dramandgrain and you can text reservations to 202-607-1572
Just up the street from Jack Rose is a great bar, Bourbon. If it is American Whiskey you are looking for this place has it and has it at great prices. They have around 300 bottles of whiskey and the staff is knowledgeable. They can make you a great cocktail or recommend a dram to suit your tastes and some lovely barrel picks. Also, the food is amazing and Sunday Brunch is off the hook.
Just down the street from Jack Rose, is Rebellion This place has some great whiskies, a rooftop bar (if the weather is good), and semi-famous burgers. If you are looking for barrel finished beers, this is the place to go. It's divey, crowded and loud. Just like you'd want a burgers and booze place to be.
Described as a cocktail lab, BarMini seems a bit more like a laboratory than cocktail bar. It is the brain child of world famous chef José Andrés. It compliments his avant-garde 2-michelin-starred restaurant next door, MiniBar. If you are looking for molecular mixology, fantastic presentation and interesting flavors you will enjoy an evening here. Reservations required.
My words & photos cannot do justice to the experience that is the Columbia Room. Named Best American Cocktail Bar in 2017 by the coveted Spirited Awards at Tales of the Cocktail the Columbia Room tasting space is a single row of heavy comfortable seats along a curved wooden bar facing a stunning mosaic lined with the names of industry luminaries through the ages. The tasting menu changes seasonally and always takes you on a sensory journey. I highly recommend making a reservation and spending a couple of hours being being whisked away to another world. *Note - the pairing comes with small bites but is not a meal. I suggest eating a small protein rich meal before coming. The drinks are full size and strong.
Well since you have to eat anyway you may as well go to the Dabney which is quite literally next door to the Columbia Room. It strives to provide seasonal meals & cocktails in a warm environment. The wood burning hearth can be seen from everywhere in the room. This place exudes old American charm.
2 Birds 1 Stone
2 Birds 1 Stone is a lively and fun cocktail bar. Their menu is hand drawn and it changes weekly. They are a serious cocktail bar that refuses to take themselves too seriously.
Maybe one of the more stereotypical 'speakeasy' style bars with an unmarked door on 14th street. The Gibson is another great cocktail joint in town. They don't take reservations and they can get busy but they'll take your number and text you when a spot opens up.
Hidden completely away under a Shaw neighborhood donut shop is a tiny 17 seat-gem called Nocturne Bar. Part bar & part laboratory; rotary evaporators sit next to jars of strange fermented fruits. 30 small format cocktails make up the tasting menu that begs you to explore and ask questions. House made cordials, vermouths, infusions & foams artfully brought together. The concept at the Nocturne is to share a journey together. Focused entirely on your personal enjoyment they help you explore new flavors and ideas in a way that is completely accessible and fresh. From cocktails with the flavor of a Waldorf salad to one garnished with ramen noodles, served hot, with chopsticks - you are gently enticed to rethink your cocktail boundaries. The cocktails are intentionally smaller so they offer 3, 4, or 5 drink tastings (you get to choose which drinks). I love the smaller drink size to allow for more drinks!
We enjoyed drinks and a little dinner here. Fainting Goat had to make the list because it had a cocktail named after Jimmy Stewart, who I love. Try the duck wings... they are to do for!
If you find yourself in Georgetown there are plenty of places to get a great drink.
The Alex bar
My favorite is probably the Alex Bar hidden in the basement of the the Graham Hotel (get it?Alex(ander)...Graham(Bell)...) Anyway it's is a great little speakeasy. You will need to ask for the code at the front desk and be shown to stairs and locked door. It's a mix of victorian, steam punk and Jazz club. The bartenders are creative the vibe is warm.
The Rye Bar
Inside the Rosewood Washington Hotel is a great little hotel bar called the Rye Bar with good whiskeys and great cocktails. It has that quiet hotel vibe, but it's right next to the canal which makes for a lovely view or seat outside on a pleasant day.
RíRá Irish Pub
I am a sucker for a good Irish pub. I didn't try a cocktail here. But RiRa's has a nice selection of Irish Whiskey and crazy hand carved bar complete with patron saint. Plus they had Slane Castle Irish Whiskey which I can't get in Arizona yet.
I haven't been to Bourbon Steak DC. But the guys over at the Whiskey Library DC say it's legit so I trust the recommendation. You can have whiskey and a good dinner here as well. The concept is from well known Chef & Restauranteur Micheal Mina.
Don Ciccio & Figli
If you know me you know my obsession with Amari. Which also means I know a good one when I taste it. If you like Italian style Amaros, this is a must visit. In why opinion no one in the United States is making Amari with as much precision or flavor as Francesco Amodeo. Visiting the Don Ciccio & Figli operation is a treat. You can learn how it's made and taste through their expressions.
One of the best Navy Strength Gin's I have tried. They pride themselves on having so much flavor in the gin you don't need tonic water. I think they nailed it, Harissa, hops, figs, hibiscus, & mint among other things. They are famous for their bourbons though. My favorite is definitely the cigar blend. But it's hyper-allocated so don't go waltzing in asking for a bottle. It sells out in less than hour every release.
Cotton & Reed Distillery
Touted as DC's first rum distillery. If you love rum Cotton & Reed is your place. They make really good spiced rum and allspice dram and also serve a complimentary cocktail with your tour. They take tremendous care and use ultra premium ingredients in their small batch rums. It's worth a visit to try a cocktail or two.