The 10 Best Cocktail Bars in DC:
the Instagrammers Guide

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Beer is to Portland, Denver, Asheville, and Grand Rapids as cocktails are to Washington, D.C. Even as more breweries and distilleries emerge throughout the city, Washingtonians still like their cocktails. Whether it’s the bars on Capitol Hill catering to politicians or the outdoor patios on U Street for young professionals, both worlds center menus around cocktails.

After living in the city for 12+ years and consuming more than just a few cocktails, I’ve ranked the best cocktail bars in DC around four categories:

  1. Quality of cocktails
  2. Vibe: the atmosphere it creates
  3. Neighborhood: how accessible and entertaining the neighborhood is (afterall, most cocktail bars are just one stop in a long arrangement of evening plans)
  4. Gram-ability: how photogenic the bar it is (since this blog is published by and for the DC Instagram community).

As you read through the list, keep in mind this is one person’s opinion. I see dissent as a good thing. The fact that people will disagree with my picks means our city has a lot to offer.

We have such a strong cocktail bar scene that it’s impossible to objectively decide on the top.

Nonetheless, here is my list of the best cocktail bars in Washington DC:

CopyCat Co on H Street NE

Copycat Co. (Photo credit: @hellococktails)

Cocktails: 5 out of 5

  • Although Copy Cat’s menu offers a wide range of classic cocktails, many patrons go with bartender’s choice, a sure sign of trust in the quality of cocktails. The bartender will ask you one or two questions about preferences and will return with a drink perfect for you. The wide range of knowledge among the bartenders caters to all types from liquer forward to sweet drinks. It’s often reported that the top bartenders in the city go to CopyCat for a drink.

Vibes: 4 out of 5

  • The bottom floor is a small Chinese street food shop selling potstickers, bao, and skewers. Take the stairs to the second level to discover the bar. They keep the tight space unassuming by ushering a small bowl of goldfish crackers to each table.

Neighborhood: 4 out of 5

  • If you don’t live near H Street NE, it can feel like a hike, but once there, there are plenty of bars and restaurants to hop from. The street offers top rated ramen, delicious pies, and even indoor putt-putt golf. There’s plenty to keep your evening going.

Gram-ability: 3 out of 5

  • CopyCat is unassuming. It’s not divey, but there aren’t any colorful mosaics and marble bar counters like other D.C. cocktail bars. It’s small, dark, and not conducive to photography. I love that about CopyCat, but if you’re going for the ‘gram, think again. The only way to get a decent photo is by using the candles on each table to light it.

copycatcompany.com
CopyCat on Google Maps
@copycatco


Harold Black in Eastern Market

Harold Black (Photo credit: @austinkgraff)

Cocktails: 4 out of 5

  • If you sit at the bar, you’ll notice the number of liquor they have on the shelves including a few obscure finds like black walnut liqueur. They rotate six seasonal cocktails ranging from $13-$15 and confidently offer bartender’s choice.

Vibes: 5 out of 5

  • Before online reservations were offered, it was a true speakeasy. You had to know the manager’s cell to grab a table. Patrons enter a unmarked wooden door to the left of Aqua Dua. Head up the stairs, knock on the sliding wood door, and you’ll enter into the small space. It’s dimly lit, intimate, and offers a small menu (order the bacon jam). Phones are discouraged so you can connect with your friends. It also has some of the coolest bathrooms at any establishment in the city (you pull a chain to flush).

Neighborhood: 3 out of 5

  • It’s in the heart of Eastern Market. Although home to a number of restaurants, most closes early. That means there’s not much to do once you grab a drink unless you walk to Barracks Row or Capitol Hill South.

Gram-ability: 4 out of 5

  • If Harold Black opened during the day, it would be beautiful lit up. However, it’s so dimly lit that you don’t notice the details in the decorations. In fact, they ask you not to take photos with a flash. That explains why you rarely see it pop up on your Instagram feed.

haroldblackdc.com
Harold Black on Google Maps


Denson Liquor Bar in Chinatown

Denson Liquor Bar (Photo credit: @calzasofrench)

Cocktails: 4 out of 5

  • There are nine cocktails on the menu each well balanced and complex. Most are between $15-$16, but the caviar martini costs $26. The bartenders can also mix you any off the menu cocktail.

Vibes: 5 out of 5

  • It’s in the basement of a Chinatown building giving it a speakeasy feel. There’s a long bar in the back with small tables scattered throughout. It can get crowded, but if you get a booth, it’s perfect for a small group of friends.

Neighborhood: 4 out of 5

  • It’s not as hip as Shaw or Dupont Circle, but there is plenty to do in Chinatown. Denson Liquor Bar is right next to the Capital One Arena making it a great spot after a concert or game.

Gram-ability: 4 out of 5

  • The lights are dimmed, but what you can see is gorgeous. The bar itself, with its low lighting and beautiful countertop, is worth photographing.

densondc.com
Denson Liquor Bar on Google Maps
@densondc


Cotton & Reed near Union Market

Cotton & Reed Cocktail Bar (Photo credit: @austinkgraff)

Cocktails: 4 out of 5

  • The drink menu is written on the wall and changes often. Being a rum distillery, most of their drinks include rum (usually white rum). The bartenders are nice and make you feel part of the Cotton & Reed family.

Vibes: 5 out of 5

  • It’s in a restored warehouse literally across the street from Union Market, D.C.’s beloved food hall. It gives off an industrial feel, and the bartenders are kind. They also offer distillery tours.

Neighborhood: 4 out of 5

  • It’s right next door to Union Market, D.C.’s largest food hall. However, outside of that, there isn’t much nearby unless you want to walk to Ivy City to the north or NoMa to the west.

Gram-ability: 5 out of 5

  • Because it’s well lit, the high ceiling and exposed pipes make for a good Instagram photo. For the real money shot, take it from the outside looking in when the giant window is up during the summer.

cottonandreed.com
Cotton & Reed on Google Maps
@cottonandreed


barmini in Penn Quarter

barmini cocktail (Photo credit: @canonhirschler)

Cocktails: 5 out of 5

  • Arguably the most innovative cocktails in Washington, D.C., barmini’s menu includes 100 of them, including several cocktail flights. With such a large menu, these are some of the best cocktails DC has to offer and there is something truly something for everyone on the menu. If you’re overwhelmed, asked the bartender to guide you.

Vibes: 5 out of 5

  • Don’t let the sterile building fool you. Once inside, you’re in what seems more like a quirky science lab (cocktails can be seen mixed in beekers). To further the quirks, each chair is different from the chair with antlers to the swinging nest chair.

Neighborhood: 3 out of 5

  • Penn Quarter is built for day time workers, but more and more restaurants open later are opening nearby. Close to the National Mall and near key hotels, there’s growing incentive to expand the food scene in this part of town, but the boom hasn’t come yet.

Gram-ability: 5 out of 5

  • If you want to wow your followers, snap a photo of your colorful drink or the quirky chair you’re sitting on. The bar with it’s science lab feel makes for a stunning photo too.

minibarbyjoseandres.com/barmini
barmini on Google Maps
@barminibyjose


Morris American Bar in Mt. Vernon Square

Morris American Bar (Photo credit: @coryandthecity)

Cocktails: 4 out of 5

  • Every cocktail is $13 and most use three ingredients creating a simple, yet bold drink. You can’t go wrong from their seasonal menu, but if you’re daring, ask the bartender to make you a drink off menu. You won’t be disappointed.

Vibes: 5 out of 5

  • If the Great Gatsby visited Washington, D.C., he’d come here. This bar is more fancy than the others, but the bartenders make you feel welcomed (even if you’re dressed more casually). It’s a great spot for an after work cocktail with a colleague.

Neighborhood: 4 out of 5

  • At first glance, the neighborhood seems dominated by the Convention Center. However, if you look past that, you’ll find Blagden Alley and Shaw are within walking distance offering some of the city’s best restaurants and bars.

Gram-ability: 5 out of 5

  • This bar is literally inside the Convention Center, which is in need of a design refresh. Despite that, Morris American Bar is shockingly beautiful. The simple tables play well against the blue tiles on the walls.

morrisbardc.com
Morris American Bar on Google Maps


All Souls Bar in Shaw

All Souls Bar (Photo credit: @graves33)

Cocktails: 4 out of 5

  • Their website says they craft “simple cocktails with care.” They may be simple, but they aren’t sparse. There are 34 cocktails on the menu with numbers rather than names. Each for $10, you can order the “No 1” or the “No 34.” If you’re adventurous, the No 11 includes smokey pickled carrot.

Vibes: 5 out of 5

  • If hipsters built a dive bar, it would be All Souls. It’s no-frills in design and attitude, yet clean and inviting. There’s a wrap around bar and the menu says there’s an open food policy (you can bring outside food in).

Neighborhood: 5 out of 5

  • It’s in Shaw, which is home to a number of good restaurants and bars. If you want even more options, U Street is just around the corner offering dozens and dozens of after hour restaurants and bars. On weekends, it’s an especially lively scene.

Gram-ability: 4 out of 5

  • The no-frills design plays to its favor. The brick walls, wrap around bar, and frosted globe lights make for a good photo.

allsoulsbar.com
All Souls Bar on Google Maps
@allsoulsbar


Gravitas in Ivy City

Gravitas (Photo credit: @austinkgraff)

Cocktails: 5 out of 5

  • In fine dining, you’d assume all the energy goes to the food. Nope, not here. The cocktails are just as good. If you like sweeter drinks, order the Southern Butterfly or the Water Lily. The first comes with origami art and the second is the most complex sweet cocktail in the city. For an excellent stiff drink, order the Chesapeake Rum Runnin’.

Vibes: 5 out of 5

  • “Stunning.” It’s what you say when you walk into this former warehouse. The bar is in the very front with simple seating in the back. There are a few tables in the loft, and they recently opened a rooftop garden where cocktails are served. Since it’s a fancy restaurant, expect impeccable service.

Neighborhood: 4 out of 5

  • The Metro doesn’t go to Ivy City, and parking can be hard to find, but if you do venture out, there’s plenty to keep you occupied. This neighborhood is where most of the city’s distilleries are, including female-owned Republic Restorative and local gin maker New Columbia Distillery.

Gram-ability: 5 out of 5

  • The bar’s backdrop is a white washed brick wall, open ceiling, and glasses, bottles and plants perfectly placed on five wooden shelves. If the hanging plants throughout the restaurant aren’t enough, photograph the loft. Every corner is worth capturing.

gravitasdc.com
Gravitas on Google Maps
@gravitasdc


Astoria DC in Dupont Circle

Astoria (Photo credit: @austinkgraff)

Cocktails: 5 out of 5

  • Bartenders often say they unwind at H Street NE’s CopyCat. When its owner decided to open Astoria, the competition started to sweat. Borrowing from a similar cocktail menu as CopyCat, the drinks are consistent, balanced, and just darn good.

Vibes: 5 out of 5

  • Astoria welcomes all. When you walk in, you’ll notice the royal blue booths the and white tile floors. Before you are intimidated, notice the bartenders are dressed casually. They also cook really good (and spicy) food like the chili wontons.

Neighborhood: 5 out of 5

  • It’s along Dupont Circle’s 17th Street with plenty to do nearby. Within several blocks from Astoria DC is a quirky frozen yogurt shop (Mr. Yogato), a Nordic cafe (Mikko), and Thai fine dining (Little Serow). If all else fails, take a stroll through Dupont Circle enjoying the brownstones and embassies.

Gram-ability: 5 out of 5

  • The space is small, but the beauty great. It has everything an Instagrammer would want from royal blue booths and chairs that pop to a mosaic sign along the bar. The lighting is not as dim as other bars encouraging photography.

astoriadc.com
Astoria DC on Google Maps
@astoria_dc


Columbia Room in Blagden Alley

Columbia Room (Photo credit: @samanthacheng_)

Cocktails: 5 out of 5

  • Bon Appetit. Conde Nast Traveler. Travel & Leisure. GQ. These are just a few publications that have named Columbia Room as a top cocktail destination in D.C. Their menu is divided between featured, old fashioneds, and highballs each ranging between $15-$16. The bartenders handle each drink with care, and they make them strong.

Vibes: 5 out of 5

  • It’s on the upper level of a brick house in a historic alley. You can either sit outside on their rooftop patio or stay inside in a classic setting. Either way, the thread that connects the entire experience is regal.

Neighborhood: 5 out of 5

  • It’s in an alley that also is home to a Michelin star restaurant (the Dabney), a bakery (Seylou), a coffee shop (La Colombe), and a yoga studio (Shaw Yoga). You could easily spend the entire evening in an alley.

Gram-ability: 5 out of 5

  • Whichever way you have it, you’ll get a good shot. The inside has chandeliers and a large mosaic on the wall. The outdoor patio is simple, yet elegant. If you order food, be prepared to capture its beauty before indulging.

columbiaroomdc.com
Columbia Room on Google Maps
@columbiaroom


Since DC is full of so many great cocktail bars this list could easily been much longer. While you’re heading out for a cocktail in DC you should also check out these instagrammable spots in DC.

Let us know your favorite cocktail bar in the comments!

Best Cocktail Bars in Washington DC // igdcofficial.com

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