With Washington D.C.’s reputation as both the city to be single in and a place to get ahead in business, some must-visit bars have popped up that are ideal for getting acquainted. Since D.C. is also very old, the modern watering holes blend well with the decades-old local hangouts and use the scenic, rustic vibes to their benefit. The ambient lighting brings a six up to a 10, and the bars are popular and cozy enough to where you might have to get comfortable with touching shoulders with your date in a hurry. Best of all, these 11 bars serve some pretty fantastic courage cocktails as if they have your first-date kiss already in mind.
Colombia Room was so popular it had to relocate recently to somewhere triple its original size, and it thankfully maintained everything we loved about the whimsical cocktail lounge in the first place. When you first arrive, it’s understandable that you might keep looking over your shoulder in hopes of glimpsing a very important person. In other words, the punch garden, spirits library, and tasting room make it feel really, really exclusive.
Colombia Room, 124 Blagden Alley N.W., Washington, D.C., U.S.A., +1 202 316 9396
With the oddly placed but strangely appealing décor, like a cactus couch and a white wall comprised of hands holding fruit, Barmini is a terrific bar to take a first date, and it is strongly recommended you make a reservation at the cocktail lab where you’ll find 100 classics as well as experimental cocktails. If you want to make it a really fun time, go with the experimentals. Some have adorable flowers and change colors, others arrive with mad scientist bartender smoke floating atop it. Whenever you think you are getting a little too tipsy, order some of the snacks that are available—they’re about as experimental as the drinks.
Barmini, 501 9th St. N.W., Washington, D.C., U.S.A., +1 202 393 4451
Dram and Grain
This exclusive basement bar owned by Jack Rose Dining Saloon that’s atop it will have your date thinking you’re someone pretty important. It’s reservation only, and it only sits about 60 people each week. The reservations are made at the precise times of 7, 9, and 11 pm, and each lasts exactly 90 minutes. In order to get the reservation itself, you need to go to Jack Rose’s bar, which is an acclaimed bar in itself so be sure to try one of the 2,600 whiskeys they boast, and pick up a business card for the speakeasy that you then text or call. And yes, this small hassle will be very much worth it.
Dram and Grain, 2007 18th St. N.W., Washington, D.C., U.S.A. +1 202 607 1572
Nellie’s Sports Bar
Since the L.G.B.T.Q. community loves Nellie’s, you know it’s a fun time. The best part, it doesn’t have you questioning whether you want to pay next month’s rent or have a fun night out. The retro cocktails and affordable brews are all part of the charm. Not to mention the “Sunday Fundays” which hosts D.J.s, board game parties, viewing parties, and drag bingo nights and brunches.
Nellie’s Sports Bar, 900 U St. N.W., Washington, D.C., U.S.A., +1 202 332 6355
This splendid dive in the Bloomingdale neighborhood isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s about as part of the community as Pop’s is in Riverdale. The beer-shot combo is tough to turn down, the jukebox holds over 2,000 carefully curated jams, and there’s live music each week. It’s an essential stop in the weekend night plans. But be warned it’s cash only, so take plenty with you to save the embarrassment of asking your date to pay.
Too many places have gone away from the constant classic in order to create something ingenious, but there’s something to be said for the ones who stick to the old ways and don’t take things too seriously. Pork nachos and daiquiris, piña coladas served in Hawaiian tiki idol glasses, so many herbs, fruits, and flowers atop your drink you can’t even see the colorful liquid underneath. Archipelago makes you feel like the first date turned into a cliché island honeymoon, in a really good way.
Archipelago, 1201 U St. N.W., Washington, D.C., U.S.A., +1 202 627 0794
This is a terrific bar for anyone who’s ever asked, “I wonder why they call it a Moscow Mule?” From the Manhattans to the Martinis, Copycat Co.’s menu gives customers a history lesson on each classic cocktail they’ve ever wondered about. They’re a great conversation starter over the dumplings and meat skewers served alongside them, and they add unique cocktails to the chalkboards regularly that are definitely worth a try.
Copycat Co., 1110 H St. N.E., Washington, D.C., U.S.A., +1 202 241 1952
2 Birds 1 Stone
This place is ideal for either someone who has a lot of first dates or someone who wants to make this first date into something more serious so you can come back to the place where it all began over and over again. Adam Bernach carefully changes his cocktail specials weekly, and they’re always worth any excuse to stop in and try: “Oh hey honey, it’s our third-and-a-half week anniversary. Let’s go back to 2 Birds 1 Stone!”
Off the Record
Don’t let the business people scare you off. D.C. is a place where a business bar and a first-date bar can be one in the same. Ideas are discussed over cocktails here, not coffee. That being said, this place serves politically-inspired long-standing cocktails in a historic speakeasy vibe basement of the Hay-Adams Hotel, mere feet from the White House. You don’t have to be history buffs to make conversation over the political cartoons adorning the walls or its satirical coasters.
Off the Record, 800 16th St. N.W., Washington, D.C., U.S.A., +1 202 638 6600
Dacha Beer Garden
Although Germany isn’t known for being the most romantic country in the world, no one has ever said they don’t know how to have fun or that their beer is sub-par. This Shaw hangout will make you and your date feel like you’ve just been transported to Munich, with its 33oz glass boots of German beer, brats with beer kraut, and chicken schnitzel sandwiches on the side. If you want to reduce the chances of someone who thinks he’s at Oktoberfest spilling a glass on your date, know that the expanded hotspot now includes a private loft where they offer a supper club.
Dacha Beer Garden, 1600 7th St. N.W., Washington, D.C., U.S.A., +1 202 350 9888
Espita Mezcaleria has more than proven itself an expert in distilled agave. Josh Philips has created an Oaxacan world of surprising, smoky, tangy, savory flights of small-batch mezcal. Want to get to know the difference between Tepextates and Espadin? This is the place for you. Want to crush outstanding margaritas in a brightly muraled space? This is also the place for you.
Espita Mezcaleria, 1250 9th St. N.W., Washington, D.C., U.S.A., +1 202 621 9695
This has been a hard week for our country, Mexico, our family, our friends, and communities that make Espita possible. Starting tonight through the rest of the week, we will feature two cocktails that support disaster relief efforts . We will be donating $2 from a Hurricane Relief cocktail sold to the Hurricane Irma Global Giving Relief Fund and $2 from each Earthquake Relief cocktail to a fund by @yescka_art studio for supplies to those affected by the earthquake that struck Oaxaca last week. We thank you for your contribution. Photo: @patraphotography