In the nation’s capital, citizens abide by the rule of work hard, play hard. Hotel bars here, in particular, fit the bill for the latter, with their promise of a stiff drink, sophisticated surroundings, gracious service, and if need be, discreet accommodations just steps away. Here are the 9 best hotel bars in Washington, D.C.
Lit from within, Quill’s slick, hand-molded glass bar lends a soft amber glow to the space which happens to be where the city’s power players convene for well-crafted cocktails and seriously sublime service. The drink list changes seasonally, and thoughtfully features an original mocktail for those wanting to take it easy. Tuesday through Saturday evenings, beloved pianist Peter Robinson tickles the ivories with the canon of American classics, ranging from Cole Porter to Carole King. Linger long enough, and you’ll find yourself in a boisterous, impromptu singalong.
It possesses all the pizazz of the adjacent steakhouse with its chocolate marble-top bar, white oak flooring, and leather-capped ceilings, but with a more laid-back feel and forgiving prices. As the name suggests, there’s plenty of brown going down – the Golden Child is an especially crisp mix of Bulleit bourbon, freshly-squeezed lemon, and apricot – but the indulgent bar snacks from celebrated chef Joe Palma (like the lobster corn dog and Wagyu hot dog) hold ground against their boozy counterparts.
This airy, open lounge feels a bit like an insider’s secret, given its discreet location on the southwest waterfront. And a single sip of bartender Art Lakloet’s creations will drift you even further away from whatever’s ailing you that day. The Red Carpet, a house favorite, features two scotches (Johnnie Walker Red Label and Laphroaig 10) but is balanced and incredibly easy to drink. Equally smart is Lakloet’s hangover remedy of Ginger beer and bitters, garnished with orange and lime slices. Consider it Gatorade without the junk.
It should come as no surprise that one of the District’s most distinguished watering holes can be found at Hay Adams, a member of the prestigious Leading Hotels of the World. And because of its plum location – the hotel faces the White House, and you enter the bar via a nondescript set of stairs leading you to the basement – you’ll find politicos galore decompressing come evening. Snag a seat at the curved bar to indulge in cocktails as spirited as the conversation. The extensive by-the-glass menu draws in wine lovers from all over.
This striking, yet low-key spot might be centrally located in Georgetown, but feels miles away from the hustle and bustle of M Street. If you’re in need of repair, sink into one of the plush sofas and armchairs. Feeling more social? Then belly up to the bar to hang with some of the most accommodating bartenders in town. American rye whiskies take top billing on the menu, with some unusual offerings such as 77 Rye Whiskey by Brooklyn’s Breuckelen Distilling and a single barrel rye by Pennsylvania distillery Dad’s. If you’re seeking something a little less stiff, try the Barrel Aged Manhattan.
The quirky keyhole-shaped door leads you to a place that’s a throwback to a simpler time. Decked out in jewel tones of emerald and burgundy and lots of leather and wood, the latest venture from chef and owner Michael Schlow is a nostalgic-leaning one. The bartenders deliver flawless negronis and daiquiris, while the kitchen turns out equally comforting bites such as homemade potato chips and dip, deviled eggs topped with chicken skin crisps, and chopped salad smothered with Schlow’s thousand island dressing.
In 2013, the iconic lounge underwent a spiffy makeover by acclaimed architecture and design firm Rockwell Group. Today, it oozes even more style with a custom Swarovski chandelier, Chesterfield sofas, wood herringbone floors, and the chicest fireplace you’ve ever laid eyes on. As for what to drink, why not drink in a little history with a Red Snapper? Essentially, a Bloody Mary with gin, its origins date back to the St. Regis Hotel in New York City post-prohibition.
According to head bartender Jim Hewes, Round Robin is “the real deal, what others are trying to recreate.” It’s a handsome and historic space, classically outfitted with dark wood furnishings, hunter green walls, and sketches of historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, and Eleanor Roosevelt. As Hewes has been slinging drinks behind the legendary bar for almost 30 years, make a point of visiting when he’s working. Not only will he regale with you boundless knowledge of the city, he’ll also win you over with his classic, fuss-free cocktails.
You’d be hard pressed to find better views of the city than here, on the rooftop of the W Hotel. The only downside is that it can get pretty packed and clubby on weekends – imagine bouncers, velvet ropes, and bottle service – so your best bet is to swing by early in the evenings or during Sunday’s popular “bottomless” brunch for the most seamless service and views. Since the rooftop is covered and heated in the winter, guests can enjoy POV year round.