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Top 5 Cocktail Lounges in DC?


weinoo
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I'm looking for the best places to get the classics, as well as places where the mixologists are creating some wonderful new cocktails.

Will be commuting fairly regularly from NYC, where our favorites include the usual suspects (Death & Co., PDT, Pegu, Mayahuel, Flatiron, M & H, etc.).

Great food is a plus, but certainly not a necessity.

By cocktail lounge, preferably a place where most everyone is seated and the person behind the stick really cares about the drinks he or she is serving to you.

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I'm looking for the best places to get the classics, as well as places where the mixologists are creating some wonderful new cocktails.

Will be commuting fairly regularly from NYC, where our favorites include the usual suspects (Death & Co., PDT, Pegu, Mayahuel, Flatiron, M & H, etc.).

Great food is a plus, but certainly not a necessity.

By cocktail lounge, preferably a place where most everyone is seated and the person behind the stick really cares about the drinks he or she is serving to you.

Price is a major factor in answering this question: Do you want the best-of-the-best, without regards to cost, or does relative value come into play? The $11-14 cocktail no longer causes sticker shock in this city, and if you don't mind paying that kind of money, there are several places that fit the bill: PX, The Gibson, Bourbon Steak, Proof, and PS7's are the first five that came to mind (the first two being "pure" cocktail lounges); there are others. If you like Scotch, Round Robin is an interesting choice, but I must warn you that the food there isn't just bad; it's flat-out horrible ... and expensive. The Adams Morgan Bourbon for Bourbon, of course.

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Price is a major factor in answering this question: Do you want the best-of-the-best, without regards to cost, or does relative value come into play? The $11-14 cocktail no longer causes sticker shock in this city, and if you don't mind paying that kind of money, there are several places that fit the bill: PX, The Gibson, Bourbon Steak, Proof, and PS7's are the first five that came to mind (the first two being "pure" cocktail lounges); there are others. If you like Scotch, Round Robin is an interesting choice, but I must warn you that the food there isn't just bad; it's flat-out horrible ... and expensive. The Adams Morgan Bourbon for Bourbon, of course.

Added bonus for Labor Day readership: Guess where the best tequila in town is being served right now? Nope, not Oyamel.

Thanks, Don. That would be right in the range of pricing here in NYC. If you know of any places that charge a lot less for a real Manhattan (I mean, how much is Rittenhouse and M & R really costing them - and if it's $1 more for Antica, so be it) or Martini, by all means...

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The $11-14 cocktail isn't even remotely going to come as a shock to someone who's used to drinking at the PDTs and Pegus of this world, which are brilliant, but ain't cheap.

I'd add the bars at Eve and the Tabard Inn to that list. Eve gives one the option of having an excellent dinner, or at least some really good charcuterie, along with the cocktails. We don't quite have anywhere yet that does that perfect high-low PDT/Crif Dogs combo (mmm, waffle fries), but PX comes close. Tabard Inn is a lovely place to meet people for a drink, and happens to turn out great cocktails besides.

In terms of who's doing what, PX/Eve are going to be more experimental - you'll see unusual infusions, foams, flavor combinations you may not have thought of that turn out to be utterly fantastic (like the Pickled Martini - everyone either loves it or hates it, you can guess where I fall). The Gibson is serving some serious classics and riffs thereupon. I haven't seen the list at Proof, but based on what their cocktail guru was doing at his previous stop I expect it falls somewhere between the two.

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I also wanted to add Central to the list- they make very good cocktails. Although when in DC I am normally preferential to Gina at PS7, but it is a much better experience when you can talk to her and have a more intimate experience which is hard sometimes because especially during happy hour the bar gets slammed.

If you are willing to venture into VA Liberty Taven and Eventide both have very good cocktails too. I say this as PX is also in VA. (Thanks yes VA... going back to work after a long long weekend is so hard)

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Damnit, but this thread is making me thirsty.

For Virginia, you also have to include Restaurant Eve, since P.X.'s hours are more limited, and that is where Mr. Thrasher spends most of his time.

In D.C.: Proof, PS7, The Tabard Inn, The Gibson, Bourbon (Adams-Morgan), Central, The W Hotel, Room 11, Cork, Rasika, Wisdom...

The good news is, the list keeps growing :rolleyes:

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The suspects listed above capture most of it, I would also add Bibiana (Italian restaurant/wine bar) which just opened. Tom makes a mean watermelon shrub. He's there except on Mondays. If you're taking the Bolt Bus from NYC, Bibiana and PS7s are the nearest restaurants. Tom is more trained in the classics, Gina's recipes are fun, tasty, and very approachable.

Since you are focusing on variable pricing for a build-you-own Manhattan, I would think that might happen at Bourbon (Adams Morgan) or Central. Maybe Tabard Inn, but more probably Room 11 (although calling it a cocktail lounge is stretching it). Seriously doubt at PX.

Mondays, I would hit Proof. Wednesdays or Thursdays, I would hit Tabard Inn.

Central, PX, Gibson, Room 11, Bourbon Steak, the W Hotel: it really doesn't matter what day you go, there is always a consistent approach to cocktails, IMO.

If you want to see a beautiful selection of brandies (including piscos and grappas), try SOVA (although not sure what their level of bartending is now). Finally, Founding Farmers reportedly has a strong bar program, although the food has been disparaged soundly.

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Had a couple of delicious drinks at Bourbon Adams Morgan this past Friday night. Particularly liked the Ryjou and my rye, campari, vermouth concoction, similar to a 1794 I've had in San Francisco and whose name escapes me. A well-made Manhattan was the topper, and we were lucky to walk out of there on our own two feet. Nice meeting Owen as well - I guess they do let him out of the basement every now and then :( .

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Last night, I had a chance to try Quill, the new bar/lounge in the Jefferson Hotel. What an elegant and classy place! We were also impressed by Quill's bartenders, who put on quite a show making both traditional cocktails and modern concoctions . I had a cosmopolitan, and my friends had cuba libres and one of Quill's signature cocktails--a mixture of Prosecco, ginger, and pineapple. The verdict: AWESOME and pricey (at about $15 each, the price, was not so awesome). We also ordered some tapas--the crostini w/ manchego cheese and olives, a Serrano ham plate, and foie gras "bon bons", which were all delicious. Quill has a pretty decent wine list too with a wide range of European and American wines averaging $10-$13/glass. I liked the drinks at Quill and would put it right up there with the Lounge at Bourbon Steak.I hope to return soon, maybe for a drink before dinner at Plume or the Greenhouse, the Jefferson Hotel's restaurants. Has anyone been to either place? The reviews I've read of Plume have been mixed.

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Figured I'd bump this thread and see if anyone has a new place to add, a place to be avoided, etc.

What's the Columbia Room like, for instance?

And with the Manhattan Cocktail Classic slated for this coming weekend, will a lot of bartenders be out of town?

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Figured I'd bump this thread and see if anyone has a new place to add, a place to be avoided, etc.

What's the Columbia Room like, for instance?

And with the Manhattan Cocktail Classic slated for this coming weekend, will a lot of bartenders be out of town?

Probably not your thing, but if you like fruity cocktails, I recently had a couple good ones at Cafe Atlantico.

I would also add that the last time I was at Rasika, but it was a while ago, so that may not still be the case (Gina now at PS7 used to be there and I think the good cocktail program she put in place was still there at that time).

As a note every time I go to Eventide the cocktail menu has changed, and sometimes I go every couple weeks, I love that because I get to constantly have new and seasonal cocktails, but I hate when a drink I love is no longer there, and I am so forgetful I can't remember the name so that they could remake it if they had the ingredients. D'oh!

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I would also add that the last time I was at Rasika, but it was a while ago, so that may not still be the case (Gina now at PS7 used to be there and I think the good cocktail program she put in place was still there at that time).

Jason Stritch at Rasika is shaking some great cocktails. The cucumber Vesper is absolutely made of win.

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Virginia: Eventide is full of win. Trust Steve. I haven't been to EatBar since Gina left, so I can't say on there. Liberty Tavern can be fine, depends on who is there. There's PX, but really...I'll save my thoughts on there for now. I haven't been there in probably pushing two years now.

DC: PS7. The Gibson. The Passenger. Proof. Room 11. With Owen and Patrick having left Bourbon, it'll be interesting to see how the rest go on there. POV.

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My top ones today include the murderer's row of Proof, PS7's, and the Passenger. Cafe Atlantico, the Tabard Inn. And, for the next couple Mondays, the Alliance Tavern.

A nod to the Gibson and to POV, both of which I've had terrible luck actually getting into a chair due to a refusal to make reservations.

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