For well over a decade now, the craft-cocktail movement has been going strong and the nation’s capital—thanks to places like the Gibson, barmini by José Andrés, 2 Birds 1 Stone, and Columbia Room—has been at the forefront of quality Manhattans and Martinis. While these bars are always welcome additions to any evening itinerary, there are a few new feel-good contenders to spend time in, too. Inspired by the boisterous drinking culture of New Orleans, Vieux Carre, replete with wrought-iron touches, is located downtown, in the epicenter of the lobbying industry. When it’s time for happy hour, the after-work crowd spills in for frozen Hurricanes, French 75-style shooters, and absinthe-vermouth-Grand Marnier concoctions that keep them satiated until the DJ gets going. Over on the more pulsating U Street, the chilled out Service Bar offers Southern-inflected dishes including fried chicken and red beans and rice alongside adventurous cocktails like the Bloomingdale (gin, galangal, blackberry/aged apple cider vinegar shrub, lemon, egg foam, absinthe spritz) and Burning Apple (Calvados, tamarind, habanero, honey, lemon) from an expansive menu. Particularly interesting is Cotton & Reed. This warehouse distillery in the burgeoning Northeast neighborhood makes a few boutique products on the premises—white rum with Louisiana sugarcane, dry spiced rum heightened by botanicals like sweet fenugreek, and a Tiki-friendly allspice dram liqueur—but it thankfully doubles as a welcoming, breezy bar. Naturally its signature rums are the focus, appearing in drinks such as the Redbeard with Campari and lemon and the Cuba Liberace with black cola and lime.
Photo Courtesy of Service Bar Facebook
Photo Courtesy of Cotton & Reed
Featured Photo Courtesy of Vieux Carre