As a city of transients, Washington, D.C.’s bar scene is as diverse as its residents. But the cocktail spots we named to this list all have one thing in common: They combine top-notch, uniquely crafted drinks and meticulously curated wine and beer selections with the kind of ambiance that makes you want to stay and order another round.
The evolving bar scene in Washington, D.C. has many roles to fill, as city-goers sometimes crave the trendiest new spot and top tier service, and other times just need a long drink in a dark bar. As varied as its neighborhoods, the capital city’s new crop of bars increasingly showcases the area’s varied personalities and quirks, attracting patrons who think likewise.
One of the most expansive bars in the city, Dirty Habit describes its vibe as a bit “apocalyptic”—sexier, darker, and more dangerous than your average D.C. watering hole. It gives you permission to indulge in your vices with a menu featuring house cocktails with names like “Dirty Decision” and “Prickly Position.” The “Glass House” portion of the bar offers plenty of communal or private seating, but to truly enjoy a night out, you’ll want to venture out to the courtyard where you and a group of friends can lounge at one of their many outdoor seating areas surrounded by cozy fire pits. The kitchen turns out stellar options for bar snacks, including a spicy crispy calamari and a killer beef tartare.
555 8th Street NW, dirtyhabitdc.com
At this under-the-radar neighborhood spot, meat, music, and mixed drinks are of equal importance. The regulars come for the smoked chicken and waffles, cured meats, and an extensive wine list featuring over 100 bottles. (If you are in the mood for beer, no fear—they’ve got it covered, too.) Just as important as the menus is the Jukebox, which has a little of everything including the Beetles, 80s hits, and Kanye.
415 8th St SE, eat-bar.com
If you’re looking for a break from the hustle and bustle of Logan Circle, don’t miss this neighborhood lounge and hotel bar right off 14th Street. This low-key gem is memorable for its quirky-fabulous outdoor spaces on the ground level (which is fully stocked with board games of all varieties) and the rooftop offering views of the city in all directions. Its menu of global shareable plates is perfect for larger groups. In particular, don’t miss the famous lamb belly tacos, which pair well with one of the many reasonably-priced bottles of red wine.
1430 Rhode Island Ave NW, radiatordc.com
Tilt Side Bar
This retro-inspired bar-within-a-bar-within-a-bar makes you feel like you’re in a pinball machine—one with delightful drinks, that is. Seven beers, seven wines, seven cocktails, and seven eats make up the fun seasonal menu that’s edited just enough not to feel overwhelming. For a unique cocktail, we recommend the Miss Vixen for its part-sweet-part-bitter (but all-delicious) flavor. But you’d be remiss to leave without sampling one of the local beers on tap. The knowledgeable bartenders will point you in the right direction.
1612 14th Street NW, tiltdc.com
For a Francophile, this wine bar is a match made in le paradis. French spirits are used almost exclusively, and curated French wines from Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Rhone occupy precious spots on the menu. Cozy and unpretentious, the bar is perfect to relax for a first date or a gathering of friends. Our absolute favorite cocktail is the Jardin de Luxe, a pure, elegant, and perfectly balanced elixir hinging on French gin and a mix of Herbes de Provence. The graffiti art comes compliments of children from the local public school, which blends seamlessly into the cool vibe.
1550 7th St. NW, lajambedc.com
If you fear awkward silences—or any silence at all—this small divey cocktail-forward bar will be your home away from home. Thumping music provides a backbone for imbibing sweet creative cocktails while rubbing elbows with industry folk and laid back neighborhood patrons. Don’t miss the Baked Apple G&T, which is like Christmas in a cup, no matter what time of year it is. Rest assured that Service Bar will be there when you need it. Its mantra is “Never Close Early,” which means 3 a.m. on weekends.
928 U St NW, servicebardc.com
As far as speakeasies go, you won’t find a more authentic one in the city than this dimly lit Prohibition-style bar. Accessed via an unmarked secret sliding wall, this romantic, cozy spot is known for bespoke cocktails laced with creative and unexpected ingredients. Just don’t attempt to go without a reservation—especially if you’re trying to impress a date.
212 7th St SE, haroldblackdc.com
Jose Andres’ Barmini bills itself as a cocktail lab serving over 100 adventurous (and may we add, very visually appealing) cocktails. Visiting is an experience—one that you may need to repeat over and over again just to try even a fraction of what the bartenders are mixing. If you don’t know where to start (or if you feel like you’ve tried it all), we suggest the cocktail tasting menu featuring a selection of their most inventive drinks.
501 9th Street NW, minibarbyjoseandres.com/barmini/