by Lauren Sloat - 260 Reviews - 86 List
There's nothing as glamorous as a well-made cocktail in D.C. Hand-chiseled ice, fresh garnishes, and the right combination of sugar, spirits and bitters draw the line between serious libation and booze for amateurs. Add the right view or historical setting, and you've got a classic in more ways than one. Leave it to the pros to do drinks such as the Manhattan and sazerac just right, and check out our picks for the best places to imbibe a classic cocktail in D.C. (Pictured: The Gibson)
Updated: September 15, 2010
Because sometimes you're too cool to mingle with the drunken masses, join owner Derek Brown and sommelier Kat Bangs in the Columbia Room, the inner cocktail club at this Mt. Vernon bar. Spots are available by reservation on select nights in this private room, which features drink mixing classes according to specific cocktail types.
One of the city's most revered cocktail spots, this 14th Street lounge lends a speakeasy quality to its finely crafted drinks. Old-school combinations are a throwback to the Prohibition era, as is the unmarked door. Where quality drinks appear, so does a crowd--make reservations or leave your number with the host to get a text when a table becomes available.
Live jazz music, dim lighting and rich leather banquettes make this Dupont lounge fit for real life "Mad Men." Music is kept to a low volume and the wait staff's attention to service--no clanking bottles here--means you can focus on conversation and downing that Sidecar.
"If you want a classic cocktail with that authentic speakeasy vibe, check out Todd Thrasher's handiwork at PX," says Citysearch Dictator Sal M. "When you beat in egg whites and crush ice cubes by hand, the drink is going to take a few minutes to prepare, and it certainly tastes that way."
This Capitol Hill cocktail parlor stands apart not only for its handcrafted drinks but also for its impressive absinthe selection. The vintage-grunge vibe makes it feel a bit more casual than the other spots, but it's great for drinking all the same. Get on the mailing list for information on tastings and events.
H Street NE is more known for its beer bars, but The Fruit Bat (from the owners of Wisdom) has made it a destination for cocktails, too. Baskets of fruit hanging above the bar, and boxes nurturing live, growing herbs provide fresh ingredients to be whipped into classic Latin American drinks.
With nearly 360 degrees of uninterrupted skyline atop U Street's Tabaq Bistro, view the Capitol dome and the Washington monument while sipping that Manhattan. The bar also offers a selection of aromatic, flower-inspired martinis, but don't be fooled--they may sound sweet, but they're as stiff as they come.
The cocktails at this W Hotel rooftop bar are as classic as its views of the White House. Garnished with hand-chiseled ice and infused with fresh fruit juice and other seasonal ingredients, it's clear that owner Sasha Petraske (of New York's Milk & Honey) has cornered the secret to great drinks.
Take a drink in the hotel the Obamas once called home. Just across from the White House in the Hay-Adams, this dark, quiet and richly decorated basement bar--where vodka martinis reign supreme--feels as historic and presidential as any drinking establishment could.
It's all about our nation's politics at this 14th Street night spot, where the access is democratic (no covers or velvet ropes, and seats are available without paying for table service), and the drinks, too, have a political bent. Cocktails such as the Policy 75, Black Manhattan and Cosmo-Policy add a D.C. spin to the classics.
Says Citysearch Dictator Matt D. of this Adams Morgan haunt beloved by locals: "I'm a fan of Bourbon's cocktails--they even make a mean sazerac (absinthe and rye whiskey), which is about as old-school as you can get." Indeed, the cocktail dates back to 19th century New Orleans.