Have a Drink in Downtown DC

Filed Under: Washington, DC
After a long day of lobbying, consulting, deal-closing or convention-going, a stiff drink is probably on your mind. We get it. Luckily for you, the city of Washington – especially in recent years – has seen an incredible influx of completely unique, world-class drinking establishments. Whether you’re in the mood for a local microbrew or an expertly-crafted cocktail, skip the hotel bar and start a tab at one of these downtown DC destinations – all conveniently located near the city’s convention center.

Want more info about The Capital City? See Travel Channel's Guide to Washington, DC.
The Passenger DC
Jim Webb

The Passenger/Columbia Room

Venture down 7th Street to The Passenger, a laid-back cocktail bar with seriously delicious bar food. Order one of the specialty cocktails, hand-written on a chalkboard near the bar (they change constantly), or challenge one of the expert bartenders to mix you up something delicious – they’re always up to the task. You can’t go wrong with the food (fried peanut butter cups wrapped with bacon??), but for a taste of a true DC classic, order a chili half smoke.

For a more intimate experience, weave through the patrons happily sipping their thyme rickies and planter’s punches, and push open the closed door at the back of the bar. Here, you’ll find the exclusive Columbia Room – a 10-seat, reservation-only offshoot of The Passenger. Honored as one of Food & Wine's 50 Best Bars in America and GQ's 25 Best Cocktail Bars in America, Columbia Room is open Tuesday-Saturday and features a drink tasting menu that includes an opening drink, a seasonal drink paired with an amuse bouche and a third drink tailored to your preferences by their stellar bartenders. Cheers to that!
A & D Bar

A&D Neighborhood Bar

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the word “neighborhood” in A&D’s name really means “dive.” The laid-back, casual spot actually has an impressive cocktail menu. Try their namesake drink, which is a vodka-and-gin concoction that features their house-made “dirty juice.” The bar doesn’t have a full kitchen, but – as would be expected from the owners of the beloved gourmet sandwich joint SUNdeVICH – A&D has an ever-changing selection of upscale, well-prepared bar food. Try the chow chow cheddar … their gourmet version of pimento cheese. Oh, and be sure to ask about the shot and beer special … especially if it’s been one of those days.
Churchkey
Bill Couch, flickr

Churchkey

After climbing the daunting flight of stairs, slip into one of the twisty-turny well-cushioned chairs at Churchkey’s massive bar, and you’re in for a treat. Even self-professed non-beer-drinkers will find a brew they can appreciate here. Don’t be intimidated by the lengthy list – the bartenders and servers have an encyclopedic knowledge of the 555 unique labels available. Tell them what you’re in the mood for, and they’ll bring you the perfect brew. If you’re looking for a bite to eat, head downstairs to Birch & Barley or wander up the newly-revitalized 14th Street corridor -- among Posto, Pearl Dive, Le Diplomate, Estadio, Masa 14 and El Centro, you’re sure to find a menu that suits your tastes.
Lincoln Restaurant
LINCOLN

Lincoln

This downtown restaurant serves up unconventional (and delicious) seasonal American cuisine, but the bar -- with its lively atmosphere and modern décor -- is a reason to visit in itself. In addition to well-executed American classics, Lincoln’s menu features a number of appropriately-named signature drinks including the Gettysburg Address and Honest Abe’s Moonshine. Visit during happy hour (7 days a week from 4-7 p.m.) for $5 glasses of wine, cocktails and small plates (smoked gouda mac and cheese, anyone?).
Zengo
Paul Wagtouicz

Zengo

Located in DC’s Chinatown, this self-described Latin-Asian fusion restaurant by chef-owner Richard Sandoval is well known for its creative, unique, tapas-style menu. The downstairs bar area is a great place for a pre-dinner drink if you’re dining at any of the stellar restaurants in the area (think: Dakaiya, Oyamel, Graffiato). The bar also has great weekday happy hour specials – visit anytime from 5-8 p.m. for a discounted selection of cocktails, beer, wine and small plates. Don’t miss the crunchy shrimp.
Quill
The Jefferson, DC

Quill

Tucked in a private corner of the swanky Jefferson Hotel, Quill is a cozy, intimate, elegant-but-not-stuffy hidden gem. Take a seat in one of the 2 dimly-lit, cozy, wood-paneled rooms, or at the unexpectedly modern orange-glass bar as you listen to the jazz pianist play. Sample one of their perfectly mixed signature cocktails, or branch out with a seasonal concoction. You’ll really feel like you’re in DC as you sip cherry blossom-infused vodka only steps from the White House. The one downside? It may not feel like a hotel bar, but you’ll still pay hotel bar prices.