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The Gibson
Photograph: Courtesy The Gibson

The 15 best cocktail bars in DC

For expertly crafted drinks by top notch bartenders, visit the best cocktail bars in DC

By Jake Emen

As the best Mexican restaurants in DC and the best sushi in DC have proven, the city has become a top dining destination in the country. And now, with the opening of a slew of fine imbibing joints helmed by top notch bartenders, the nation’s capital has quickly become a drinking destination as well. Visit the best cocktail bars in DC for expertly crafted martinis, Manhattans, margaritas and more and, once you’ve indulged a bit too much, consult our list of the best hot dogs in DC (always our preferred hangover prevention food).

Best cocktail bars in DC

Columbia Room
Photograph: Jeff Elkins

1. Columbia Room

5 out of 5 stars
Bars Mount Vernon Square

A revamped Columbia Room debuted at the start of 2016 with a beautiful, new multi-room space in Blagden Alley. Helmed by Derek Brown and his Drink Company team alongside head bartender J.P. Fetherston, the bar instantly climbed atop the country’s best cocktail havens list. Grab a seat for a multi-course cocktail tasting menu with paired bites to enjoy an immersive and educational imbibing experience unlike any other or visit the front area’s spirits library for a more informal drinking session, with seasonally updated a la carte options and a selection of vintage spirits. Weather permitting, the front patio turns into a festive garden for even more fun.

Photograph: Ken Wyner

2. Barmini

5 out of 5 stars
Bars Cocktail bars Penn Quarter

The sister joint to Jose Andres' minibar, barmini offers a robust lineup of 100 cocktails on its menu at any given time. Roughly half of that space is allocated to classics, with the other half showcasing original concoctions by the bartending team. The funky, modern and bright environs perfectly complement the venue’s fun and creative vibe, as guests will also be entertained by color changing cocktails, vapor clouds, liquid nitrogen and more. 

Dram & Grain
Photograph: Emilio Pabon

3. Dram & Grain

5 out of 5 stars
Bars Cocktail bars Dupont Circle

Dram & Grain is the basement speakeasy located within Jack Rose Dining Saloon. While Jack Rose is a worthy destination on its own accord, Dram & Grain plays by its own rules, with an entirely different menu and experience. The current lineup is dubbed Dram & Global, drawing inspiration from five global cocktail hotbeds for an inventive and intensive cocktail list. The space looks the speakeasy part too, with leather chairs and dim lighting, and a collection of vintage and rare whiskey on hand. Space is limited, as are operating hours, so text the reservation number available on the venue’s Twitter account to reserve a space.

2 Birds 1 Stone
Photograph: Scott Suchman

4. 2 Birds 1 Stone

4 out of 5 stars
Bars Logan Circle

Expect a new lineup of house specialty cocktails each and every week at 2 Birds 1 Stone, located underneath Doi Moi (there's an outside staircase leading down to the entrance on the side of the building). Even better than a weekly updated cocktail list? Head man Adam Bernbach draws up a colorful menu to correspond to the new drinks each week. Expect a laid back atmosphere that values good drinking and good fun over all else. On the weekends, things get louder and more crowded, making for a fun late night hub for groups.

Photograph: Scott suchman

5. Masseria

4 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Italian Northeast

Masseria is known for its delightful Italian cuisine and high-end tasting menu by chef Nicholas Stefanelli—and rightfully so. But, thanks to bar manager Julien-Pierre Bourgon, a seat at the bar offers just as exciting of an experience as one at the chef’s table. Bourgon presents both classic cocktails and a slew of inventive ones, often playfully named in homage to song lyrics. Try the smoky Fumo di Ufo, a large brandy snifter ensconced in drink-enlivening infused smoke.

Espita Mezcaleria
Photograph: Espita Mezcaleria

6. Espita Mezcaleria

4 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Mexican Shaw

Have you embraced the wonders of mezcal yet? If not, it’s time to seek out Shaw's Espita Mezcaleria. Beverage director Megan Barners and certified master mezcalier Josh Phillips ensure a phenomenal experience driven by a flight of unique and hard-to-find mezcals or perfectly crafed cocktails. You’ll want to order the Mayahuel, the house mezcal margarita, one of a rotating number of cocktails on drafts or whatever else your bartender suggests.

Left Door
Photograph: Courtesy Left Door

7. Left Door

4 out of 5 stars
Bars Cocktail bars Logan Circle

Tom Brown and head bartender Mick Perrigo partnered up to open Left Door, adding another worthy destination to the bustling 14th Street scene. Tucked away behind an unmarked door and up a staircase is the lounge space, likely filled with people looking for exciting cocktails, low key vibes and good conversation. The bar is somewhat reminiscent of a comfortable home parlor, just one that happens to be replete with vintage spirits and high-end ingredients from across the globe. The cocktail menu is updated frequently, offering a pleasant excuse to continue returning.

Bourbon Steak
Photograph: Courtesy Bourbon Steak

8. Bourbon Steak

4 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Georgetown

The posh Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown is home to Bourbon Steak—a power dining destination that doubles as a great cocktail drinking den courtesy of head bartender Torrence Swain. Feel free to skip the wine list and opt for one of the many mixed drinks instead, including unique originals and homages to old school libations (all prepared with house-made ingredients, of course).

Service Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Service Bar

9. Service Bar

3 out of 5 stars
Bars Cocktail bars U Street Corridor

Since opening in the fall, Service Bar has quickly become a go-to drinking destination. Whether looking for a relatively cheap all-day special or a “hyper seasonal,” exquisitely presented cocktail, the venue has got you covered. Consider reserving the enclosed, neon-lit "snug room" for a private group experience and, once seated, order a bottle of Krug and pair it with a bucket of fried chicken. Trust us on this one.

Photograph: Courtesy Archipelago

10. Archipelago

3 out of 5 stars
Bars Cocktail bars U Street Corridor

It is always the perfect time for a tiki drink and the crew behind Archipelago makes that an year-round activity at the massive space on U Street. Helmed by four bartender friends, the venue offers large format concoctions and frozen pina coladas to cure all ails. The house original tiki drinks are bold and potent, made with unique ingredient combinations.

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