There are times when the usual happy hour with $2.75 draft beers and 50-cent wings just isn't going to cut it. An after-work date with that potentially special someone, for example, or drinks with friends who've dropped in from out of town and are dying to catch up. You need a happy hour that's a step above.
It's a quandary that pops up regularly in the office, so I'm always on the lookout for special happy hour destinations. The latest one to cross my desk comes from an unexpected source: the Degrees Bar and Lounge at Georgetown's Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
Degrees has long been on my list of the nicest places for a drink in D.C. From the exposed brick walls and black slate floors to the large, comfortable barstools and fashionable glassware, it's classy without trying to be too trendy. The drinks are sweet and sunny -- a perfect example being the signature Fahrenheit 5: Malibu coconut rum, Grand Marnier, pineapple and cranberry juice. (Over the summer, I really liked the Caribbean Kiss, with Trinidadian rum, mint, blueberries and a touch of champagne.) What keeps it from being a regular recommendation? Well, this is the Ritz: Cocktails start at $12.50 and shoot up from there. A plate of calamari is delicious but costs $13. (Let's not even talk about the foie gras sliders.)
So it was with some surprise when we heard that the Ritz was launching a new happy hour dubbed "Rendezvous at the Ritz." Every afternoon from 4:30 to 6:30, all cocktails and appetizers are half-price, and select glasses of wine and bottles of beer are $6 and $3, respectively. (The choices rotate, so ask if there's something you're curious about.)
Some people will say that $6.25 cocktails and $7.50 quesadillas don't sound like much of a happy hour deal, and I understand. This is a happy hour that's relative: Yes, you'll pay more for a drink than at most bars in the neighborhood, but the setting and the service -- not to mention the food and drink -- are on another level.
-- Fritz Hahn (Oct. 8, 2010)