Washington, DC’s 30 best bars and lounges

Where to go when cocktail hour strikes? Discover the city's finest drinking holes with Time Out's guide to Washington, DC bars and lounges

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Brixton: A British pub in the U Street Corridor

Brixton: A British pub in the U Street Corridor © Worn Creative, worncreative.com


The best bars in Washington, DC, range from fabulously gimmicky destinations, such as José Andrés's "cocktail lab" Barmini, to ultra-old-school haunts shaking up solid classic drinks, like the lounge at Georgetown's Bourbon Steak. Beverage impresario Derek Brown serves up some of the best cocktails in Washington, DC, at the Passenger and its inside, reservations-only lounge, the Columbia Room; for a more playful experience, head to Hogo, a couple of doors down (run by Brown's brother, Tom), for massive bowls of fruity tiki drinks that pack a punch. Downtown DC's Eighteenth Street Lounge is a popular spot to see and be seen during happy hour; in warmer weather, the Donovan House hotel's rooftop bar and POV at the W are two of the most scenic places to lounge in Washington, DC. Those more into craft beer should take a trip to Southeast DC's Bluejacket Brewery, which offers 25 varieties of local brews, or Shaw's Right Proper Brewing Company, where a full pour can run you as little as $5.
There's plenty available for wine enthusiasts in Washington, DC, too. The menu at the small but elegant Vinoteca on 11th Street, Northwest, has around 60 wines by the glass, as well as a lovely patio for leisurely sipping and a bocce court in back. In Chinatown, Flight Wine Bar sources its bottles from around the globe, including Greece, Lebanon, and lesser-known regions of France.
Another option gaining in popularity of late in Washington, DC, is cocktails and wine on tap. Chef Mike Isabella offers on-tap Prosecco at Chinatown's Graffiato and margaritas at Bandolero; at the Passenger is industry-employee favorite Fernet Branca; even beer-focused Right Proper has two whites and two reds to choose from.

1

A&D

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

DC has no shortage of places trying for a "neighborhood" feel, but Daniel O'Brien and Ali Bagheri's quirky A&D comes pretty close to nailing it. The narrow front room is dominated by a bar at which you can order well-crafted cocktails, many made with local spirits

  1. 1314 Ninth Street, NW, Shaw
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2

Argonaut

Gentrified H Street has gone from sketchy to super-cool over the last few years, boasting a fleet of hipster bars offering cut-price cans of PBR and adult entertainment (no, not that kind—think arcade games and pinball). Perched on the end of the H Street strip, the

  1. 1433 H Street, NE, (at Florida Avenue)
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3

Bar Pilar

  • Rated as: 4/5

The younger and less popular sister of Café Saint-Ex, Bar Pilar is affectionately referred to as a dive bar, dressed up. The vibe is intimate, with just 38 seats, and the low-key attractions include bacon bloody marys at brunch (sort of a liquefied BLT, hold the

  1. 1833 14th Street, NW, (between S & T Streets)
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4

Barmini

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Critics choice

For local foodies, José Andrés’s Minibar is the Moby Dick of DC dining reservations: available to those truly dedicated diners who pursue it for months. For the rest of us, there’s Barmini, the adjacent “cocktail lab” that lets you try Andrés’s creations

  1. 855 E Street, NW, Penn Quarter
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5

Biergarten Haus

  • Rated as: 4/5

Biergarten Haus is a Bavarian-style beer hall with one-liter pours and robust German food (plus trivia on Tuesday night).

  1. 1355 H Street, (between 13th & 14th Streets)
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6

Bluejacket

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

Bluejacket was one of the most hotly anticipated openings of 2013, and after numerous delays it finally opened in October, making the Navy Yard neighborhood a bona fide destination for craft beer connoisseurs. ChurchKey's Greg Engert is behind the program of 25 drafts

  1. 300 Tingey Street, SE, Navy Yard
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7

Boundary Stone

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice
  1. 116 Rhode Island Ave NW
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8

Brixton

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

Yes, the second floor of this three-level bar looks more like a Downton-era hunting lodge than a real Brixton tavern. And no, the menu offerings of Thai chicken salad and miso-glazed black cod aren’t really authentic either (although, to be fair, rotis and samosas

  1. 901 U Street, NW, at 9th Street
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9

ChurchKey

  • Rated as: 4/5

The upstairs bar above sister restaurant Birch & Barley has one thing on its mind: beer. More than 500 varieties, to be precise. But this isn’t your average brewhouse—the shiny wood floors, sculptural light fixtures and bustling crowd should tell you that.

  1. 1337 14th Street, NW, (at Rhode Island Avenue)
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10

Daikaya (upstairs izakaya)

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Critics choice

The metal exterior of this Japanese spot behind the Gallery Place movie theater is carved with designs that resemble the symbol for wi-fi signals. If that doesn't clue you in that the place you're about to walk into is not your usual bar, one look at the menu of the

  1. 705 Sixth Street, NW, Chinatown
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11

Donovan House Rooftop Pool Bar

  • Rated as: 4/5

East of Dupont Circle, the Donovan House Hotel has a snazzy rooftop pool complete with bar, Donovan House Rooftop Pool Bar, and glittering views of the city. The gay-friendly location has reasonably priced drinks, sun loungers, and even an outdoor fireplace, making for

  1. Donovan House Hotel, 1155 14th Street, NW, (at Thomas Circle)
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12

Eat the Rich

  • Critics choice
  1. 1839 7th St NW, (b/t N S St & N T St)
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13

Eighteenth Street Lounge

Love it or hate it, ESL remains the city’s trendiest and most exclusive lounge, widely renowned (or notorious) for its strict door policy. Should your attire (or your connections) please the notoriously fickle doormen and you’re granted entrance through the

  1. 1212 18th Street, NW, Dupont Circle, (M Street & Jefferson Place)
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14

Firefly

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

The Madera goes for a "contemporary rustic" aesthetic with its Firefly bar, which features a lot of wood, including a huge tree trunk with minuscule copper lanterns hanging from its branches. Seating is comfy, with intimate nooks and low, expansive tables for cocktails

  1. Hotel Madera, 1310 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, (between N Street & Sunderland Place)
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15

Gibson

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Critics choice

If you’re in a bar in Washington drinking a cocktail, listening to dub bossa nova and watching hipsters at play, chances are that the bar is owned by Eric Hilton. Hilton, who makes up one-half of DJ duo Thievery Corporation, has been slowly taking over DC’s bar

  1. 2009 14th Street, NW, between U & V Streets
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16

Hank’s Oyster Bar

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

A recent addition to the neighborhood, this stylish, all-white Capitol Hill outpost of the Dupont Circle and Alexandria seafood chain boasts ownership of the Eddy Bar, a long stretch of marble offering house-made sodas in flavors such as "citrus sage" and punny

  1. 633 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, (between 6th & 7th Streets)
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17

Hill Country

  • Rated as: 4/5

The scent of molasses and ribs might be enough to draw you into this Downtown Texan barbecue spot, but it’s the downstairs Boot Bar, where live country music alternates nights with rock-band karaoke, that really brings in the crowds. The bare-brick space is sizeable

  1. 410 7th Street, NW, (at D Street)
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18

Jack Rose Dining Saloon

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Critics choice

Were Jim Morrison ever to be reincarnated and transported to Washington, the response to his immortal request, "Show me the way to the next whiskey bar" would inevitably lead him to Jack Rose. This is, quite simply, the only place to drink whiskey in Washington, with a

  1. 2007 18th Street, NW, (between California & Vernon Streets)
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19

Mockingbird Hill

  • Rated as: 4/5

Part of cocktail guru Derek Brown’s trio of Shaw bars—including the adjacent Southern Efficiency and nearby Eat the Rich—this dimly lit spot is a paean to the particular pleasures of ham and sherry. Inspired by Brown’s teenage fascination with the Clash (it

  1. 1843 Seventh Street, NW, Shaw
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20

Nellie’s Sports Bar

  • Critics choice

A gay-friendly sports bar? Mais oui, with karaoke on Tuesdays, Smart Ass Trivia Night on Wednesdays, board games galore, and a roof patio; along with ten HD TVs and one giant screen for game days—in the more traditional, sports-bar sense of the word. Nellie’s,

  1. 900 U Street, NW, U Street Corridor, (9th Street)
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21

Old Ebbitt Grill

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

The Old Ebbitt first opened in 1856 as a boarding house, and over the years its more illustrious guests have included Presidents Grant, Johnson, Cleveland and Teddy Roosevelt. Just a block from the White House, it’s a popular place for the power lunch (in the main

  1. 675 15th Street, NW, (between F & G Streets)
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22

Passenger/Columbia Room

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Critics choice

GQ once declared that mixologist Derek Brown makes the best martini in America. Judge for yourself at the Passenger, the former Gibson bartender’s venture in the gentrifying Mount Vernon Square area. The bar is named after the Iggy Pop song; inside you’ll find an

  1. 1021 7th Street, NW, (between L Street & New York Avenue)
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23

Perry's

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 3/4

Stand smack in the middle of Adams Morgan Party Central, the intersection of 18th Street and Columbia Road, NW (the traffic is so gridlocked on weekend nights that you can often do so without any significant risk to either life or limb), and you’ll see the

  1. 1811 Columbia Road, NW, (at Biltmore Street)
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24

Poste

  • Rated as: 4/5

Poste, part of the Monaco Hotel, is set in the restored sorting office of the 1841 General Post Office, which explains the high ceilings and skylights: they made it easier for the letter sorters to read addresses. The courtyard—reached through a long arcade that was

  1. Hotel Monaco, 555 8th Street, NW, (between E & F Streets)
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25

POV

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

If you’re looking for proximity to the White House, the W Hotel’s POV is hard to beat: the rooftop terrace has such great views of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that you can see the snipers lurking on the roof. The bar gets packed in good weather so reservations are

  1. W Hotel, 515 15th Street, NW, (at F Street)
More info
26

Roofers Union

  • Rated as: 4/5

If you’re willing to brave the college crowds to get there, this new three-floor spot, housed in the old Reef space, offers an experience far above Adams Morgan’s usual college-party feel. The smaller first-floor bar is great for a casual drink and bar snacks such

  1. 2446 18th Street, NW, Adams Morgan
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27

Round Robin Bar

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

This is the place where, it’s said, the term "lobbying" was first coined. Those wanting a quiet word in President Grant’s ear used to hang around in the lobby of the Willard InterContinental Hotel hoping perhaps to stand the president or one of his advisors a drink

  1. Willard InterContinental Hotel, 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, (at 14th Street)
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28

Sonoma

  • Rated as: 3/5

Sonoma offers a welcome grown-up respite from all the other dives and sports bars stretching down Pennsylvania Avenue. The long granite bar, exposed brick and extensive wine list make for a stylish, urban feel, and the upstairs lounge has plenty of comfortable alcoves

  1. 223 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, (between 2nd & 3rd Streets)
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29

The Source

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 3/4

Wolfgang Puck’s dramatic Asian-Fusion restaurant tucked under the Newseum also has a ground-floor lounge ideally located for an upscale post-museum fortifier. The minimalist/contemporary scene attracts a diverse crowd, with power players joining the tourists to watch

  1. 575 Pennsylvania Ave NW, (b/t N 6th St & N Constitution Ave)
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30

Tabard Inn bar

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 2/4

The Tabard Inn makes for a most relaxing place to start, end or break a day of sightseeing. The bar is set in a shabby-chic, living-room-like front room, where patrons can relax on Victorian sofas in front of a log fireplace that might have come straight from the pages

  1. 1739 N Street, NW, (between 17th & 18th Streets)
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