Hotel Happy Hours

By Fritz Hahn
Special to The Washington Poat
Friday, May 9, 2003


In recent years, the Washington area has welcomed some fantastic new lounges with hip designs and inventive, well-crafted cocktail menus that are a treat to explore. The problem: Drink prices hover around $10, and an evening out can really put a dent in your wallet. Thankfully, three of the most popular hotel bars now offer daily happy hours that make exotic cocktails and small appetizers as inexpensive as a bottle of beer or plate of nachos. All you have to do is visit between 5 and 7.

At Topaz Bar, several of the fanciest (and most delicious) cocktails are only $4, including the Ginger Not Mary Ann, made with ginger-infused vodka, and the Blue Nirvana, which combines champagne and citrus vodka. Snacks such as pork and cabbage spring rolls and skewers of grilled chicken satay and peanut sauce are also $4.

I've always found cocktails to be on the sweet side at the trendy Bar Rouge. At the "5 and 5 at 5" happy hour, the five specially priced cocktails are no exception. Standouts such as the Scarlet Letterbomb martini include strawberry vodka, blackberry schnapps and blackcurrant liquor; an Adultress Martini mixes apple and citrus vodka with three fruit juices. The five food selections are a good value. Steamed mussels swim in a rich sauce and come with herbed bread for dipping. Another good bet is the plate of savory crab and red pepper beignets.

If cocktails aren't your bag, try the happy hour in the Hotel Helix's mod lounge, one of my favorites in Washington. The special is half-price beers and burgers, which doesn't sound like much. But these aren't just any patties -- Helix's kitchen dishes up grilled angus burgers topped with smoked cheddar cheese, onions and a tangy aioli mustard, paired with a heaping pile of crispy fries. Add a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon, and you're looking at a full meal for $6.50. (Helix was actually one of the first bars in the city to put this hot blue-collar beer on the menu; if you'd like something fancier, there are other beers, such as Sam Adams, for $1 more.) Things get a bit more adventurous on "Disco and Ding Dong Thursdays," when a DJ spins hits of the '70s and the featured $5 drink is a rich, chocolaty dessert cocktail that's garnished with a whole Ding Dong on the rim of the glass. Kitschy, sure. But it'll satisfy your sweet tooth.

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