It would be a euphemism to say that the people of Washington, District of Columbia (D.C.), U.S.A. like their whiskey. But, when taking into consideration the number of high-stress jobs that brought people to the nation’s capital, you could say that D.C. residents love their whisky.
Whether you’re looking for a bar at the wharf in D.C. or looking for a casual little tavern to settle into for a drink, everyone has their favorite whiskey bar.
Where to Find the Best Whiskey Bar in D.C.
Locating the best whiskey bar in D.C. depends on several factors.
One thing to keep in mind is the kind of whiskey you desire. While most establishments will have some more commonly asked-for spirits, different whiskey bars offer other products.
Another is the purpose of the visit. Are you looking for a good business venue or are you looking for a neighborhood bar to relax after work?
The Best Based on Whiskey Types
Sometimes you just need a place that provides the ultimate version of the whiskey nearest and dearest to your heart.
Whiskey can only be called “scotch” if it is distilled in Scotland, where they take scotch very seriously. The makers have often passed the process down through generations. As a result, scotch drinkers can be very particular about their preferred label.
Jack Rose Dining Saloon at 2007 18th St NW is not only considered by many to be the best scotch bar in D.C., but also one of the best whiskey bars in the world, offering approximately 2,700 different whiskeys. On the first floor, bottles of extremely rare scotch bottles line the shelves, along with other unusual whiskeys.
Irish whiskey has a lighter flavor than most other whiskeys because it is distilled three times – all other whiskeys are only passed through twice. Irish whiskey sommeliers are just as picky about their whiskey as the scotch connoisseurs, and it definitely shows in their craft.
The Boundary Stone Public House, 116 Rhode Island Ave N.W., has been praised as having “The Best Irish Whiskey this side of Dublin.” However, the house favorites will always take precedence before getting into the Irish Whiskey “elite” options.
Two of the favorites are Greenmore, an eight-year-old single grain made of barley and corn. Corn is considered a vegetable until it is old and dry; then, it is regarded as a grain. It is the corn that gives this Irish whiskey a slightly sweeter taste.
Another is Redbreast, 12-year cask strength, which refers to whiskey that was not diluted after its aging. The Redbreast is a bit more expensive at $12 a pour rather than the $7 Greenmore.
Bourbon is uniquely American. It was distilled originally by bootleggers in the American south. For a whiskey to be labeled as bourbon, it must be distilled from 51% or more corn. Any other grain can be used with corn; the multiple flavors reflect different grains.
In addition to the various grains used, other flavorings, such as fruits, are added. This source of sweetness with the corn sugars makes for a sweeter whisky than Scotch, Irish, or Rye. Bourbon brands produce bourbon with their specific recipe to be identifiable in the market. Occasionally, a unique bourbon flavor can be found.
Given a perfect five stars by Tripadvisor, the best bourbon bar in D.C. is The Crown and Crow. Located at Logan Circle, The place is owned and run by a bourbon aficionado. His goal was to create an establishment that highlighted bourbon and has met success.
The structure that houses The Crown and Crow is a beautifully restored Victorian house. The house was in poor condition in Philadelphia and painstakingly returned to its original beauty in D.C. It fits nicely with all of the other Victorian-style homes at Logan circle.
To be labeled as Rye Whiskey, the product must be distilled from a minimum of 51% rye grain. The rest of the “mash” is usually corn and malted barley. Therefore, Canadian Whiskey is Rye Whiskey.
Further requirements to distill Rye Whiskey are that it is distilled to a maximum of 160 U.S. proof (80% alcohol by volume). Then it must be aged in new, charred oak barrels. The term “straight” rye whiskey means it has been aged for two or more years and has not been mixed with other spirits.
Aptly called The Rye Bar, located at Rosewood in D.C., is routinely listed as the premier rye whisky bar in Georgetown, DC. In addition to the stock of premium rye whiskeys, they make uniquely delicious rye cocktails.
For example, “Winter is Coming” is concocted with Redemption Rye, Single Village Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, artichoke liqueur, and freshly squeezed citrus. It sounds like that would warm you up.
A fun fact about rye whiskey in D.C. is that its history goes back to George Washington. At the suggestion of his Scottish plantation manager at Mount Vernon, a rye distillery was implemented in 1797.
The Best Based on Ambience
Certain places just give off an atmosphere that can melt away the stress and put one in the mindset of a good time. Others have a quality ambiance that makes them great for impressing important business clientele.
High-End Whiskey Bar
If you need to impress a client (or politician) who likes whiskey, the ambiance of the place is as important, if not more, than the selection.
Where can you find a high-end whiskey bar?
Everything at The Next Whiskey Bar at 2650 Virginia Ave checks all boxes to impress:
- Located at the infamous Watergate Hotel Lobby
- 2,500 softly lit whisky bottles create a unique and relaxing atmosphere
- Staff uniforms made by famed costume designer Janie Bryant
- The chairs are custom-made by Ron Arad with Morosco and designed for ultimate comfort
- A complete menu specializing in expensive whiskeys
If you are going to dress to impress and sway an outcome, The Next Whiskey Bar is the place to accomplish your mission.
Best Neighborhood Whiskey Bar
Chicken and Whiskey says it all in the name. There is no pretense here. Chicken and Latin street food served at a counter become a popular hometown hangout whiskey bar at night with a speakeasy-type vibe.
Whiskeys from around the world are offered on the menu.
Where Is Your Best Whiskey Bar?
Whether you are in D.C. on business, or live there and enjoy sipping whiskey, there is no shortage of good whiskey bars.
Recommending the “best” of anything is fraught with uncertainty because no one’s values are the same. You might be surprised that a drinking companion is less pleased with the whiskey bar you chose than you had hoped. Perhaps whiskey isn’t their drink of choice. If so, maybe find a beer garden in D.C. to try. While beer is their featured offering, they might just have a few choices of whiskey on hand.
At the end of the day, where to find the best whiskey bar in D.C. is any place where you are treated well and have options in the whiskey selection. If you don’t like where you’re at, it is easy to find another.
Remember, after enjoying yourself at a whiskey bar, drink responsibly and have a designated driver.