For more than six years, O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub has been Clarendon’s go-to corner pub – a cozy, one-room hangout offering a respectable pint of Guinness, darts and a solid Irish fry-up, complete with black pudding. On weekends, there was just enough room to squeeze in a couple of guys with acoustic guitars. But at the beginning of February, O’Sullivan’s expanded into two neighboring storefronts and tripled in size.
The new space’s dining room added much-needed seating, but the real star is the Whiskey Bar, which has its own entrance at Wilson Boulevard and Highland Street. With red walls, darkly stained wood and a giant mirror with a Guinness logo, it feels like a stereotypical Irish pub. But take another look at the bottles that line the shelves. On display are about 100 whiskeys: 30 Scotches, 25 Irish whiskeys and 25 American bourbons, plus a mix of Canadian, Japanese and rye whiskeys.
“We took over the lease for [the other businesses] last year, and we talked about what we could do with the [extra] space,” says O’Sullivan’s manager David Morrin. “We realized that, if we had 30 whiskeys, and they were all selling well, why not go all out and make it a dedicated whiskey bar?”
The new whiskey menu is long and varied in price; most Irish whiskeys are $6 to $9 a pour, but they can go as high as $20 or $30. If you don’t know a Knappogue Castle from a Greenore, start with one of 15 themed whiskey flights: The Taste of Ireland ($9) consists of one-ounce samples of three very different 12-year-old Irish whiskeys, while the Home Is in the Hearth ($14) offers a trio of smoky, peated Scotches aged 10 to 16 years.
The new bar also has an expanded draft beer selection, including microbrew taps from Founders and New Holland to break up the trinity of Smithwick’s, Harp and Guinness.
Whiskey is best savored early in the week: Flights arrive on long paddles that hold the special tulip-shaped tasting glasses and a small pitcher of water, in case you want to add a few drops. On Friday and Saturday nights, when the bar gets busy and space on the countertop is at a premium, there’s not enough room to properly enjoy such an elaborate setup. At that point, just order a whiskey and a beer.
Although O’Sullivan’s jumped in capacity from 100 to almost 300, it’s still the same pub at heart. Soccer and Gaelic Athletic Association matches play on the TV, and weekends bring musicians playing covers ranging from Sublime to Old Crow Medicine Show while the crowd sings along. It still feels busy, but not uncomfortably crowded. Weeknight entertainment remains the same: Wednesday is the pub quiz, and karaoke takes over the original bar on Tuesday nights.
If you liked O’Sullivan’s convivial vibe before, you’ll enjoy the new space. If you like whiskey or Scotch, you’ll have fun exploring the new menu. And if you’re tired of overcrowded Clarendon bars on Saturday nights, you’ll welcome the extra elbow room.
3207 Washington Blvd., Arlington. 703-812-0939. www.osullivans
Open 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday-Tuesday, 11 a.m.
to 2 a.m. Wednesday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday-Sunday.
Music from noon to 1:30 a.m. on Sunday. Performers include Brian Franke, the Michael Patrick Band, Williem Dickie and Department of Homeland Security pipe band. The Boyle Irish Dancers perform at noon and 5:30 p.m.