There’s a lot of history to be had in Washington, DC, but, unfortunately, most of it involves politics. Luckily, there are a select few historic places dedicated to a much more noble pursuit: drinking. Here are the metro area’s best spots that make history come aliveâ€¦and then pass out the couch:
Round Robin Bar at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel
Not only is the Round Robin located within one of Washington’s most storied (and ritzy) hotels, the Willard Intercontinental, but the bar itself boasts a historic pedigree capable of overshadowing some the District’s most famous museums. Presidents Abraham Lincoln and William Taft both frequented the Robin’s trademark round, mahogany bar and it was there that Henry Clay mixed Washington’s first ever Mint Julep â€“ which remains the bar’s signature cocktail to this day.
1401 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20004 (Neighborhood: Downtown)
Back in the bootlegging days, the building that houses Stetson’s was one of DC’s premiere speakeasies. Seventy years later, the rumrunners may not still be around, but Stetson’s has usurped the space in a manner that would make their inebriated predecessors proud. This U Street tavern â€“ which made our list of DC’s Best Dive Bars â€“ is still a no-frills, Bud-and-a-Jack kind of place and even still pretty much looks like a 1920s gin joint with its mirrored bar, wobbly tables and ancient bar stools.
1610 U Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009 (Neighborhood: U Street Corridor)
Off the Record at the Hay-Adams Hotel
Named one of the world’s best hotel bars by Forbes and located within sight of the White House, Off the Record is de facto destination for post-work cocktails for the top dogs of inside-the-Beltway journalism (hence the name) and influence peddlers of all stripes. Of course, the fact that everyone from Mark Twain to Barack Obama has spent the night in the adjoining hotel might have something to do with the bar’s perennial place in DC guidebooks.
800 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006 (Neighborhood: Downtown)
From 1785, on this Alexandria public house frequently served dinner and drinks to some of America’s most well-known founding fathers, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and James Madison. Today, Gadsby’s atmosphere remains largely the same two centuries ago on (with the added addition of, you know, electricity) and a fixture of Northern Virginia fine dining.
138 North Royal Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 (Neighborhood: Alexandria)
Honorable Mention: The Gibson
Though the Gibson itself is relatively new addition to the U Street corridor, the menu is anything is but. Staffed by some of DC’s most knowledgeable bartenders, this cocktail lounge prides itself on a selection of decades-old libations that have been largely forgotten in the age of pre-made margarita mix. Moreover, the Gibson’s seasoned â€œmixologistsâ€ can whip drinks specifically tailored one’s tastes â€“ whether they lie with Kentucky bourbon or French absinthe. But be sure to book in advance, as its 49-seats are generally packed to capacity on Friday and Saturday nights and standing at the bar is strictly forbidden. How’s that for old-fashioned?
2009 14th St. NW, Washington, DC 20009 (Neighborhood: U Street Corridor)
Other entries in CultureMob’s Best of DC series:
Best Dive Bars in Washington, DC
Washington, DC’s Coolest (and Most Offbeat) Must-See Museums
DC’s Best Rock and Roll Bars, Clubs and Venues