Here are seven new after-work destinations to have on your radar, whether you want to meet friends for a cocktail on a sunny rooftop or are looking for a dark, cold basement to hide out with a beer.
The cluster of LGBT bars along U Street and Florida Avenue expanded on Aug. 18 with the opening of this cocktail-focused lounge with a compact rooftop space. The Dirty Goose is slightly more upscale than Nellie's or Town -- check out the display of neckties in shadow boxes on the wall -- but it's also casual enough that customers in suits wind up sipping cocktails next to groups in T-shirts and flip-flops.
Most of the menu is given over to a list of $13 "Select Martinis," which run the gamut from classic and dirty vodka martinis to Godiva chocolate and strawberry mimosa martinis. There are also mojitos, a sweet "New Old Fashioned" that combines bourbon with orange-infused sweet tea, and a small selection of craft beers from RAR and Denizens. There's nothing on draft yet, but the bartender told me that Denizens beers would be on tap soon.
The minimalist dining room and bar is fine, but it's nicer on the roof, which has a small bar and a number of tables with views of Shaw landmarks. Happy hour specials rotate daily: Tito's cocktails are $5 from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, while Thursday brings $3 rail drinks during the same time.
The first thing you should know about the new distillery at 14th and U streets NW is that it isn't producing its own booze yet. If all goes well, District Distilling's vodka will be released in early October, with more to come after that. Until then, this is a beautiful bar and restaurant with above-average cocktails and food (former Bar Pilar chef Justin Bittner is in the kitchen).
The drink menu focuses on small-batch producers: The excellent Gibson ($13) uses Kopper Kettle's barrel-rested gin, Vya vermouth and a brine of a pearl onions aged with Thai chilis; the original Rickhouse ($12) combines High West's Double Rye whiskey with the citrus-and-pine flavors of St. George's Bruto Americano aperitif, Yellow Chartreuse, a touch of lemon juice and a sprig of mint. A trio of simple punches are sold by the shot ($8) or in carafes of 8 ounces ($40) or 17 ounces ($86).
The space itself, in rowhouses that formerly held Utopia and Coppi's, is attractive, with long drink rails on exposed brick walls and low semi-circular couches beneath bay windows.
There is nothing fancy, novel, or even cool about this rooftop bar, which opened in June at the Hyatt Place hotel on K Street NW. But if you work within the orbit of McPherson and Farragut squares, you might be glad to know it exists -- it's one of the rare rooftop spaces open to the public on this busy corridor.
The space itself is plain: a small bar with four seats, a number of all-weather lounge chairs around low coffee tables and tall bar tables in groups of two or four. There are views up and down K Street -- hello, Washington Post -- but despite the name, there are no views of the White House or any famous monuments, other than the Cairo apartment building. Happy hour runs from 5 to 7 p.m. on weekdays, and includes $5 beers and $6 glasses of wine.
Any bar that promises beer-and-a-shot combos, bad movies and free popcorn is going pique my interest. Kingfisher is all of that, in a no-frills one-room basement space under the Sav-On Liquors at the corner of 14th and P streets NW. The drink options include 15 beers in cans ($5-$9), a pair of canned ciders from Texas's Austin EastCiders and a half-dozen beer-and-a-shot combos. The $10 Regular Joe pairs Devils Backbone Gold Leaf Lager and Evan Williams Single Barrel; for $20, you can get the Smoking Monkey, with Victory Golden Monkey Tripel and a shot of High West's Campfire Whiskey. Three wines by the glass are available, served in either 8- or 12-ounce pours. The six cocktails include a gin rickey, Pimm's Cup and an Old Fashioned, plus a $7 glass of "Boring Rail Stuff," if that's what you're looking for.
The TV behind the bar might be showing a bad kung fu film; when I was there, it was streaming endless episodes of the "Daredevil" TV show. Ask for a free basket of popcorn, and top it with Sriracha, garlic powder or lemon pepper. What else do you need? Happy hour, which runs from 4 to 8 p.m. on weeknight and 5 to 8 p.m. on weekends, and includes $3 Narragansetts, $4 DC Brau and RAR cans, $5 rail drinks and cider, and $6 glasses of rosé.
The clue to the theme behind Sakerum's cocktails is in its name: a fusion of Japanese and Caribbean ingredients, all created by local cocktail celebrity Gina Chersevani. I Don't Know Where We Are Going, But It's Going To Be Fun is a glammed-up French 75, based around Ford's Gin and cava, while utilizing yuzu sake in place of lemon for an interesting citrus texture. The grassy, fruity Unsensored combines unfiltered sake, smoky mezcal and blueberry shrub with orange and Jamaican bitters. You'll have to head to the second-story lounge, which features a retractable glass roof, for the stars of the summer drink menu: a pair of frozen daiquiris that can be "upscaled" with sake, 151 rum, champagne and other elixirs, and are served in heavy hammered copper cups. (Read more about Sakerum's beverage program.) Happy hour should begin in September, along with brunch.
This New Orleans-themed cocktail palace near 14th and K streets NW has a high concept: The narrow front bar is supposed to represent "an alley between two houses" in the French Quarter. Behind two heavy doors in the back is "a New Orleans courtyard," with a long bar and dining area. More seats are overhead in a mezzanine wrapped with wrought iron railings.
Okay, so I wasn't magically transported to the Crescent City by the decor. But I did get a taste of it through some very good cocktails, including one of the best Ramos Gin Fizzes in recent memory. It was a textbook version, balancing the lightness of cream and froth with just the right amount of citrus from lemon juice and orange blossom water. The menu is filled with other drinks that call New Orleans home, from the Absinthe Frappe to the Vieux Carre. While daiquiris and Sazeracs can be found across the city, this is the only place I know of with a Roffignac, a zippy mix of raspberry shrub, whiskey, sugar and soda water that goes down like a berry-flavored soda.
Not everything goes smoothly: I've watched an obviously wet-behind-the-ears bartender be coached through making my order, a less-than-stellar Cocktail a la Louisiane, but I'm willing to give Vieux Carre another shot, especially between 5 and 7:30 p.m. on weekdays, when all cocktails are $9.09.
Last summer, "pop-up" was the right way to describe this venture from an owner of Adams Morgan's L'Enfant Cafe: It was little more than rows of long Oktoberfest-style tables and a beer truck plopped in the middle of a rocky 22,000-square-foot lot near the NoMa Metro. This year, Wunder Garten has moved a block away, to the corner of First and L streets NE. It's been open for less than two weeks, yet the vibe is cooler and feels more permanent, with large, shaded picnic tables for seating, Astroturf under foot, and a central fire pit that's put to good use for making s'mores. It's decidedly family friendly, and dogs are welcome on Tuesday nights.
Once again, the central bar is basically a refrigerated truck with a dozen taps. Three-quarters of the offerings are German or Austrian, from Spaten Oktoberfest to the thirst-quenching Stiegl Radler; the others are Goose Island, Devils Backbone and D.C.'s own Hellbender. Wine and cider are also available; all drinks are $7 or $8, including tax. While the beer garden is open daily, happy hour runs from 4 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays.