D.C.’s (after-work) cocktail scene

Washington D.C. is filled with excellent bars. Keep the following selection on your radar for the next time you are in the capital with time to indulge in a drink… or two.

Enjoy a cocktail across D.C.'s stylish bars. Image credit: Виктор Высоцкий/iStock
Enjoy a cocktail at one of D.C.’s stylish bars. Image credit: Виктор Высоцкий/iStock

It can’t always be all work and no play, especially in a bustling metropolis like DC. Even politicians and lobbyists take a few hours off to enjoy a good happy-hour drink and a spectacular rooftop lounge.

Barrel – A hidden gem

After a hard day on the Hill, try out this neighborhood joint with a sense of fun. Barrel has a long “brown water” menu (rye, bourbon, whiskey list) and very generous happy-hour menu (4-7 p.m.). There’s a tiki bar in the basement, a nod to a now-shuttered DC classic bar, called PoliTiki.

Calico – An urban backyard for any occasion

A year-round backyard bash: fire pits and blankets for fall to winter; open-air seats and a see-and-be-seen “greenhouse” in the summer. Menu highlights at Calico include barbecue, a handsome tomato pie, and adult juice boxes. The vibe is distinctly sweet and the décor leans towards a more feminine touch. This super-relaxed hangout is located in Blagden Alley near the Convention Center.

Clyde’s – An all-American favorite

Clyde’s favorite is in another class of D.C. happy hours that has been beloved by generations. Clyde’s is highly reliable in an expensive city. The first happy hour is from 3-6 p.m.; the second runs 10 p.m. – 1 a.m. This all takes place Sunday to Thursday. There’s one location in Georgetown, another in the Penn Quarter.

Dacha Beer Garden – German, Belgian and American craft beers

Young professionals head to Dacha Beer Garden after a hard day’s work in the U.S. capital. Beneath the flirty glance of a raven-haired 50s pin-up, a tented lot serves giant drafts of cold beer, stuffed cabbage, currywurst and “oreshki” (shortbread cookies stuffed with caramel). Expect a line as it’s always crowded.

Enjoy a refreshing cocktail after a hard day of work. Image credit: iStock

DC Reynolds – A neighborhood restaurant

This scruffy bar in Pleasant Plains has earned a reputation for its after-work scene thanks to its BOGOF (buy-one-get-one-free) happy hour. For every cocktail you order, you get a chit for a second one when you finish the first – as long as you’re polite.

DC Reynolds is a small bar but there is more seating outside at picnic tables. It’s a relaxed neighborhood spot, the ideal place to not just loosen a tie but to loosen up. On Tuesdays, orders of tacos come with a tequila flight. They are giving it away and having fun as they do.

These bars are well stocked. Image credit: iStock

Dio – A natural wine bar

In the Atlas District, Dio specializes in all-natural and biodynamic wines by the glass and bottle. The space is small, but the bartenders know their stuff: low-key and relaxed, the workday quickly feels a long way away. There’s a petite menu of snacks, meat and cheese plates as well as a few mixed drinks: regionally inspired sangrias, spiked lemonades, and brandy-based cocktails. Dio is on walkable H Street NE and you can ride the free streetcar to get there.

Pull up a stool at one of these cocktail bars. Image credit: iStock

Jack Rose Dining Saloon – A high-end whiskey bar

This Adams Morgan spot has the single largest collection of whiskeys (2,687 bottles on the wall) in the Western Hemisphere.

Jack Rose Dining Saloon offerings of classic and new cocktails, snack and meals, and the long beer list are almost as spectacular. There are a number of experiences under one roof: a massive ground floor “saloon” is topped with a bar with an open-air roof up top.

Pearl Dive Oyster Palace – Martinis and oysters

Located on 14th Street, this bar brings the cocktail party to the sidewalk nightly. Pearl Dive Oyster Palace‘s street-side bar is always packed with locals who flock for 7USD martinis and half-priced oysters from 4-7 p.m. and in the dining room all nights on Monday.

They also have a happy hour with deals upstairs at their dive bar, Black Jack.

Cocktails come in all shapes and sizes across these bars. Image credit: iStock

Penn Commons is an all-American bar and kitchen in the Penn Quarter. Sports fans can be expected here, hanging at Penn Commons near the Capitol One Arena. Their happy hour starts at 4 p.m. and just doesn’t quit until closing. On Sundays, it can be enjoyed all day.

Players Club – A homage to the golden age of video games

A sexy subterranean bar on 14th Street NW, Player’s Club has a distinctly 70s-80s party vibe: loads of liquor, video games, bubble hockey, skeeball and no kitchen. Food is available, though – it just comes from their upstairs neighbor, Shake Shack.

POV at the W – Great views out to Washington Monument

In a city with amazing hotel bars (Off the Record at the Hay-Adams; Quill at the Jefferson; Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons), this is a hot spot where people, even the most jaded locals, can’t keep their eyes off the views of the Washington Monument and the White House. at POV at the W, you’re close enough to see the glint on the sunglasses of the security details on the roof, and they can see you too.

Whiskey Charlie – A premium rooftop bar

A 2.5USD billion development in SW DC along the Anacostia, there are 20+ restaurants and bars, three major music venues and many hotels. Atop the Canopy by Hilton is a snappy rooftop bar with unbelievable river views and a very interesting cocktail list.

No happy hour specials but the sunset make up for the non-discounted drinks. The name of the bar, Whiskey Charlie, is made up of the phonetic letters for WC – the Washington Channel. This is the body of water between the Wharf and the East Potomac Park, which the bar overlooks. From here, you can also see the top of the Library of Congress, US Capitol, the scoreboard at Nationals Park, National Airport, Jefferson Memorial and beyond.