Six D.C. bars make Esquire’s list of “The Best Bars in America”

May 29, 2013
Columbia Room
Derek Brown mixes a cocktail at the Columbia Room, the boutique cocktail lounge hidden behind the Passenger. (Photo by Scott Suchman/For the Washington Post)

Esquire Magazine's 2013 "Best Bars in America" list features 28 dives, pubs and cocktail lounges from coast to coast, hand-selected by cocktail author and historian David Wondrich. The most surprising takeway: Six entries are from Washington D.C. That's as many as from New York City and San Francisco combined. (UPDATE: Here's David Wondrich's commentary on Washington bars.)

Some of these are obvious choices – the Columbia Room is in for serving high-end custom cocktails in a refined atmosphere, and even the bourbon bars of Louisville can't match the enormous whiskey selection at Jack Rose. The Tabard Inn's quirky decor and wonderfully romantic lounge have made it a favorite of Washingtonians for decades, and the cocktail program is wonderful – if in transition after the departure of head bartender Chantal Tseng, who will be in charge of the sherry program at the forthcoming Mockingbird Hill.

I might not put Off the Record or the Round Robin Bar on my "Where You Should Drink Right Now" list, but they earn deserved nods as historic Washington hotel bars. (And Off the Record's John Boswell makes one of the best gin martinis anywhere in the city.)

The one entry that puzzles me, though: The Raven. Now, I like the Raven. I enjoy the cast of characters that meets here: 70-year-old ex-Marines drinking next to longtime neighborhood residents, off-duty bartenders, and wide-eyed 20-somethings who just discovered the cheap drinks after moving to D.C. a few months ago. But I don't understand why it's being honored now, or whether it's more worthy than some other dives in the city.

(One thing about Esquire's "complete list" of Best Bars, which you can see on the magazine's Web site: Once a bar has been named to as a Best Bar in America, it retains the honor as a bar emeritus, which is why you'll still see the Hawk and Dove on the big map, for example.)

Which local watering holes would you include in a Best Bars in America list?

Esquire's 2013 Best Bars in America, sorted by city:

The Cloak Room
Austin, Texas

Drinking Fountain
Boston, Massachusetts

Brick and Mortar
Cambridge, Massachusetts

The Aviary
Chicago, Illinois

The Barrelhouse Flat
Chicago, Illinois

Arnold’s
Cincinnati, Ohio

Windmill Lounge
Dallas, Texas

Ship Tavern
Denver, Colorado

Williams & Graham
Denver, Colorado

The Libertine
Indianapolis, Indiana

Harry’s Country Club
Kansas City, Missouri

Manifesto
Kansas City, Missouri

Bellocq
New Orleans, Louisiana

Beagle
New York, New York

Booker and Dax
New York, New York

Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog
New York, New York

Pouring Ribbons
New York, New York

Tooker Alley
Brooklyn, New York

The Woodsman Tavern
Portland, Oregon

The Esquire Tavern
San Antonio, Texas

Noble Experiment
San Diego, California

Smuggler’s Cove
San Francisco, California

Columbia Room
Washington, DC

Jack Rose Dining Saloon
Washington, DC

Off the Record
Washington, DC

Raven Grill
Washington, DC

Round Robin Bar
Washington, DC

Tabard Inn
Washington, DC

Fritz Hahn has written about bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003, but he also writes about everything from Civil War battlefields to sailing classes. A product of Prince George's County public schools, Fritz majored in journalism at the University of Maryland and lives in the District.
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