An intern’s guide to Washington: $1 drinks at happy hour

Many new arrivals to Washington experience sticker shock at bars: The longneck bottle or pint of light beer that cost a buck or two in your college town suddenly goes for $5. Even "happy hour" prices can hit $4 or $5 for the most basic of drinks.


The bar at the Red Derby's rooftop deck serves $1 cans of beer every weeknight from 5 to 8 p.m. (Evy Mages for The Washington Post)

Not every bar wants to gouge you, though: Here are seven places where a very happy hour means beers for one buck. But remember, just because you're paying $1 doesn't mean your bartenders aren't working as hard as usual, so tip them appropriately.

The Bottom Line
1716 I St. NW. 202-298-8488. www.thebottomlinedc.com.
A subterranean saloon in the heart of downtown, the Bottom Line is an unfussy place. The menu runs the gamut from burgers to quesadillas to crab cakes. The bartenders are as personable as you'll find anywhere in the city, serving a mix of suits and softball teams. The Bottom Line does its fair share of happy hours, including free tacos with drink purchase on Wednesdays - think of it as a grown-up version of its sister bar, the Front Page (which has locations in Dupont Circle and Ballston).

Friday isn't usually a good day for happy hours; most bars figure they'll get crowds anyway, so they don't need to roll out big deals. Not so at the Bottom Line. From 4 to 7 p.m., bottles of Miller Lite cost $1, and they fly off the bar as fast as the staff can serve them. At 7 p.m., the price doubles. At 9 p.m., it rises all the way to $2.50, which is what you'll pay until 3 a.m.

But what if your friends aren't beer drinkers? There are $3.50 rail drinks from 4 to 8 p.m. and $3.50 baskets of wings (admittedly a little dry) to snack on.

Hamilton's Bar & Grill
233 Second St. NW. 202-347-6555. www.hamiltonsdc.com.
Hamilton's doesn't get much foot traffic, as it's hidden down a dogleg of Second Street next to the Interstate 395 tunnel. But its location, in the shadow of the Department of Labor and across the street from the Capitol grounds, explains the crowds at the saloon: government staffers, wonks and kickball and softball teams. (And it's great for eavesdropping, if you're into politics.)

Every Friday, Hamilton's hawks cans of PBR and Miller High Life for $1 from 11 a.m. till close. Groups on the patio buy metal buckets containing five or six cans on ice, and drinking games abound. Make sure to order the heartier Midwestern offerings from the menu - fried cheese curds, tater tots smothered in chili and cheese - while you imbibe.

McFadden's
2401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 202-223-2338. www.mcfaddensdc.com.
College nights at McFadden's don't end after the spring semester: The Foggy Bottom bar will continue hosting what it bills as "the wildest college party in D.C." all summer. Show a valid college ID at the door and you'll get $1 beers and $5 Fireball shots from 9 p.m. till close.

To kick off intern season, McFadden's will host an Intern Meet and Greet on Tuesday, with an open bar from 7 to 8 p.m. and $1 drinks from 8 to 9. Wings are 25 cents all night. The bar will also be handing out Intern VIP cards, which allows interns to skip lines and cover charges and get $3 Bud Lights all summer.

Madhatter
1319 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-833-1495. www.madhatterdc.com.
A playground for 20-somethings and a fixture on Dupont Circle bar crawls, the Madhatter draws crowds for its weekend dance parties and Sunday karaoke. There are specials every night, but the best one comes Thursday, when the bar serves mugs of Miller Lite for $1 from 8 p.m. until last call. The mugs are smaller on this night- a bartender told me they were 10 ounces - but they do the trick. If you need something stronger, splash out for $5 Maker's Mark drinks. Arrive early to avoid the crowds at the main bar or stake out space in the upstairs game room.

Millie & Al's
2440 18th St. NW. 202-387-8131. www.millienals.com.
Millie & Al's has been serving cold beer in an unpretentious setting since 1963. You'll still find older neighborhood residents rubbing shoulders at the bar with kickball teams gearing up for Thursday night karaoke and 20-somethings marveling at the old paintings, how cheap the drinks are and how cramped the bathroom is.

Those low prices have become legend: While $2 beers on Saturday night are welcome, it's possible to get a Bud Light or Miller Lite for just $1 from 4 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, with the price rising to $1.50 until close. And remember: Whenever the red light flashes and the skeleton dances, all Jell-O shots are $1. Even your coolest friends will brave an Adams Morgan dive for those savings.

The Red Derby
3718 14th St. NW. 202-291-5000. www.redderby.com.
One of the best neighborhood bars in Columbia Heights has a fantastic rooftop deck, dozens of beers in cans and regulars who know the bartenders by name. No bottles, no drafts - just good, old-fashioned aluminum. The Red Derby's selection includes old-school brews (PBR, Miller High Life) and craft specialties (Sixpoint, Brewer's Art).

Every weekday from 5 to 8 p.m., all drinks on the menu are $1 off, which slashes the price of Natty Boh, Stroh's and 8-ounce Budweiser pony cans to $1. As a bonus, you can pair your $1 beer with a $3 whiskey shot and enjoy both while playing Trivial Pursuit or Apples to Apples. A word of warning: The bar is cash-only, but an ATM is available.

Happy hour, singular: Keeping drink specials true to the name
Most happy hours give you a minimum of three hours to linger over your discounted beers. The Hamilton's Friday deal lasts all day; specials at the Madhatter and Millie & Al's last all night.

Two other bars, though, give you only 60 minutes in which to order and consume your $1 beers. That may sound rushed, but they both offer more than just cheap drinks.

The Mighty Pint
1831 M St. NW. 202-466-3010. www.themightypint.com.
"The Happiest Hour" at the Mighty Pint runs Monday through Friday from 4 to 5 p.m., but if you can sneak out of the office early, it's worth your while. The Pittsburgh-loving sports bar offers $1 drafts - including Yuengling and Guinness - and rail drinks.

As you might expect from the establishment's name, every drink is served in a pint glass, and 16 ounces of gin and tonic for a buck is nothing to sneeze at. The price jumps to $3 per beer and $5 per mixed drink at 5:01 p.m.

Jimmy Valentine's Lonely Hearts Club
1103 Bladensburg Rd. NE. www.jimmyvalentineslhc.com.
Jimmy Valentine's isn't for everyone. It's a casual neighborhood bar with a cool crowd and punk-rock attitude, dim lights, comfortable couches and weird/ awesome paintings. On Friday nights, when Jimmy's vibrates to the sound of guest DJs playing electro and house (usually), it's extra affordable: 16-ounce tallboys of PBR cost $1 starting at 8 p.m., with the price climbing to $2 at 9 and then an additional $1 per hour until midnight.

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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