D.C.’s (after-work) cocktail scene

Washington DC 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.

D.C.’s (after-work) cocktail scene

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.


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.


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 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.


This favorite is in another class of DC happy hours that has been beloved by generations. It’s not cool but 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.


Young professionals head to this Russian-flavored beer garden after a hard day’s work in the US 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.

DC Reynolds

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. It’s 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.


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.

Jack Rose Dining Saloon

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

Located on 14th Street, this bar brings the cocktail party to the sidewalk nightly. Their street-side bar is always packed with locals who flock for $7 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.

Penn Commons

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 sexy subterranean bar on 14th Street NW, it 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

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. 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, at the new Wharf

A $2.5 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 makes up for the non-discounted drinks. The name 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.