The craft cocktail is making a comeback, or perhaps it's finally coming to the forefront. In either case, all around the Washington, D.C., metro area, you'll find creative cocktails and libations to suit every taste, along with bars and restaurants that have created entire experiences around the art of imbibing. When you're looking for something beyond the gin and tonic your favorite neighborhood watering hole offers, embark on the following adventures.
Barmini - 855 E St. NW, Washington, D.C.
Touted as the culinary cocktail bar and extension of José Andrés' famous Minibar, the newly opened Barmini has an extensive cocktail list in the hundreds. The cocktail menu is sorted by the chief spirit in each beverage, with ingredients to suit any eclectic or classic taste. After working up an appetite with a round of cocktails, it'll be a wise move to enjoy a smattering of the delicious and inventive Minibar-style plates that are offered. Reservations are required and will hold your seats for two hours.
The Columbia Room - 1021 Seventh St. NW, Washington, D.C.
Derek Brown's Columbia Room offers an intimate 10-seat bar with a prix-fixe-style arrangement. Each guest pays for a $69 drink-tasting menu, which includes an opening drink to welcome you, a seasonal drink paired with a small amuse bouche from the kitchen, and a third drink crafted by the bartenders suited to your preferences. Reservations are required and can be hard to come by during prime hours. A la carte cocktails are available if requested when making a reservation.
PX - 728 King St., Alexandria, VA
The D.C. area's very own speakeasy, PX, from Todd Thrasher, may be more responsible for the emergence of the craft cocktail in and around Washington, D.C., than anywhere else. All hand-squeezed juices and seven seasonally changing house-made bitters are just the start for a collection of original cocktails with back stories as intricate as their ingredient lists. Guests are invited to "find the blue light" on King Street to step inside this hidden lounge.
Range - 5335 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. (Chevy Chase Pavilion)
At Bryan Voltaggio's Range, a massive restaurant that engulfs an entire floor of the Chevy Chase Pavilion, the high-end food may be the star attraction, what with the raw bar, wood oven and wood grill, house-made baked goods and charcuterie, and much more, but the real action is at the bar. Post up and watch the bartenders toil away at their craft with an array of spirits, bitters, accompaniments, and tools you've probably never heard of, but which result in an excellent and unique assortment of thirst-quenchers.
Wisdom - 1432 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Washington, D.C.
Wisdom has a cocktail list that could lead to a dangerous flashback to chemistry class. That's because each libation on the menu is demarcated with up to five different symbols, grading the drink based upon its Essence, Texture and Clarity, Subtlety, Finish, and Spiciness. Craft liquors, inventive combinations, and exotic ingredients will help you step outside your comfort zone and try something new.
The Gibson - 2009 14th St. NW, Washington, D.C.
Another of the D.C. trendsetters for creative craft cocktails, as well as speakeasy-style settings with dark, vintage decor, The Gibson has an unmarked entrance near the corner of 14th Street and U Street. There's an extensive cocktail list, but the bartenders will also create something special just for you, the Gibson Gamble, based on your preferences. Reservations are a prerequisite for the weekends.
Have I missed your favorite spot for top-notch cocktails in the District? Leave your comments below and add to the conversation.
Jake Emen is a freelance writer based in Bethesda, Maryland, with experience covering local news stories and events for a number of online publications.