2015 was a solid year for new bars, breweries and distilleries in the Washington area. There's a lot to look forward to in 2016, from the return of the Passenger and the Columbia Room to the debuts of the District's first rum and cider distilleries. Here are some of the places we're most excited about.
Projected opening date: Mid-February.
We're in the middle of a full-on craft cider revolution, and D.C.'s contribution is Anxo, which will make Basque-style cider near Truxton Circle, while also serving 20 other ciders and 20 beers and cocktails on tap. The team behind Anxo includes former Meridian Pint beer director Sam Fitz and Boundary Road executive chef Brad Walker, and they've been honing their skills at a series of cider-fueled pop-ups. In September, Anxo will open a production facility in Brightwood Park, which will allow it to sell its cider to other restaurants and bars. That space will also eventually house a restaurant and bar. 300 Florida Ave. NW. anxodc.com.
The Columbia Room
Projected opening date: Early February.
After a hiatus of more than a year, Derek Brown's award-winning cocktail den is about to reopen for business. The urbane 14-seat Columbia Room will still offer prix-fixe menus -- now three or five courses of cocktails paired with small plates -- and only open to those with reservations, but there are two new spaces in the Blagden Alley bar worth noting. A second-floor deck has tables next to a garden for growing mint and other herbs used in cocktails, while the front bar, which won't take reservations, will offer a menu of classic and reinvented cocktails, plus a "Spirits Library" with bottles dating to the early 19th Century. (Yes, they're for sale, and no, they won't be cheap.) 1224 Ninth St. NW. www.drinkcompany.com.
Cotton and Reed
Projected opening date: Spring.
Washington's distillery scene exploded in 2015, with the debuts of One Eight Distilling's vodka, gin and white whiskey; Jos. A. Magnus's gin and bourbon; and Capitoline Vermouth joining New Columbia's Green Hat Gin and Don Ciccio & Figli's amaro and limoncello. What's missing from this increasingly crowded bar cart? The District's own rum. That will change this spring when Cotton and Reed launches in a warehouse in Union Market's neighborhood. In addition to a production facility, Cotton and Reed will have a tasting room, helmed by award-winning bartender Lukas B. Smith of Dram & Grain and the Secret Monkey Social Club. 1330 Fifth St. NE. cottonandreed.com.
Projected opening date: March or April.
Probably the most anticipated bar opening of the year is actually a reopening: the return of the Passenger, where expert bartenders made some of Washington's most interesting bespoke cocktails while also serving up tallboy-and-a-shot-of-whiskey pairings. The new location, next to Ivy and Coney, is larger than the old space, with room for 175 customers on two floors. (A rooftop deck is in the works, too.) Owner Tom Brown expects some of the old Passenger staff to be behind the bar again, which would really feel like coming home. 1539 Seventh St. NW. Facebook page.
Quarter + Glory
Projected opening date: The week of Jan. 4.
While Shaw, Bloomingdale and Petworth have passed 14th Street in terms of the number of new openings, there's still life near the corner of 14th and U. Coming to the former Jin Lounge is Quarter + Glory, a cocktail lounge from the team behind New York City's Ward III and the Rum House. Expect 23 cocktails at this "authentic ode to the bars of old New York," including a barrel-aged Negroni on tap, in a sleek setting with a 33-foot oak-topped bar, large booths, and 20-foot ceilings. 2017 14th St. NW. quarterandglory.com.
Projected opening date: Mid-to-late January.
Think of the Sovereign as the ChurchKey of Belgian beer bars. Beer expert Greg Engert is stocking the new Georgetown destination with 50 draft lines and 300 bottles -- look for classics from Belgian brewers Westvleteren, Cantillon and De La Senne alongside like-minded Americans, such as Allagash and Crooked Stave. Peter Smith, formerly the chef at PS7's, is handling the "playful" menu, which will include a variety of mussels. The two-level building, formerly home to Champions and Blue Gin, has received an extensive makeover that might have you itching to book tickets to Brussels -- but with a beer selection this good, you might not have to. 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW. thesovereigndc.com.
Projected opening date: This week, or early January.
Jamie Leeds, the chef behind Hank's Oyster Bar, brings another promising neighborhood hangout to Petworth, where she lives. The bar will be helmed by inventive drink-slinger Megan Coyle, long one of my favorite reasons to visit Hank's in Dupont, and promises cocktails that are made from house infusions and small-batch spirits, while the menu of bar bites includes pickled eggs and mac'n'cheesy fritters. 819 Upshur St. NW. twistedhorndc.com.
West Coast beers arrive in force
Washington's local brewing scene is stronger than ever, but don't be surprised if you see more West Coast beers showing up in force in bars and at liquor stores. In 2016, New Belgium, the country's fourth-largest craft brewer, will open a production facility in Asheville, N.C.; Stone, the country's ninth largest craft brewer, will open a brewery in Richmond; and Green Flash, the 48th largest craft brewer, will unveil its brewery in Virginia Beach. But these new breweries will be good for more than beer-themed road trips: The hoppy IPAs we see in bars will be fresher and tastier, while the reduced shipping distance is more environmentally friendly.