“What can an ex-president of the United States do except get drunk?”
– Franklin Pierce
My intention on a three-day trip to the nation’s capital was to see more than just the Smithsonian and monuments that I’ve come to know on previous trips. I’ve been in Washington, DC a few times, but all I recall is the National Mall and some monuments nearby. This time around, I sought out some life that included cocktails and beer (though Mother Nature scuttled some plans that would’ve made the weekend more enjoyable).
As soon as I arrived, my friend told me to get to Meridian Pint, which was not near my hostel. Rather than spend 45 minutes on a bus (the metro would’ve taken just as long with all the walking), I opted for Lyft. Along the way, I had a fun conversation with my Ukrainian driver about life in China — turns out a few of his friends are working in Kunming.
At Meridian Pint I drank local with a Diamond Back Brewing Green Machine, which is a solid IPA that felt great after a long drive through traffic. After that I tried Aslin Beer’s Awkwardly Sweet, which was a much better choice. This sour farmhouse IPA has a tropical citrus tart flavor to balance out the hops. It was a great way to end my first night out in DC.
From Beer to Cocktails
The following day, after wandering through the Phillips Collection, another friend and I walked around Dupont Circle and found a bookstore and bar (alright, she spotted it and I agreed). How could two English majors go wrong with a drink at a bookstore unless we got drunk and bought all the books?
Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe was the perfect end to the afternoon. We avoided the temptation of buying books partly because we weren’t allowed to browse the books with drinks in hand. But we still had fun choosing from the selection of literary-themed cocktails.
We settled on War & Pisco and Fahrenheit 1517. I couldn’t pass up a pisco cocktail, even if it was almost pink because of the Aperol and pineapple. My friend’s cocktail was my second choice because a margarita with jalapeno sounded delicious (yes, it was). These were my top picks for cocktails in Washington, DC.
After our cocktails, my friend headed back to Baltimore and I headed south through the city. I had originally planned on going to a Nationals game, but the weather didn’t look so good (and I had no one to go along). But I was told to pay a visit to Bluejacket Brewery nearby. Unfortunately, just before the game, the brew pub was packed with nowhere to sit.
I ordered a beer because I didn’t want to walk anywhere else. It was a fantastic brew. Turnstiles is a New England-style IPA — a hazy beer that masks the hops to make it a bit smoother. I definitely would’ve enjoyed it more had I had a place to sit. I also would’ve ordered a second beer.
My disappointment with finding a restaurant I really wanted for dinner, sent me on my way to a classy cocktail to relax for the evening. A block from the White House is the Hay-Adams Hotel. This elegant historic hotel is home to Off The Record, a dimly-lit basement bar full of political caricatures and history.
Of course I ordered the Trumpy Sour. It’s made with Filibuster Boondoggler whiskey, lemon, thyme, and honey. It’s a tasty and refreshing cocktail, but I wasn’t about to order a second at $18 plus tax and tip. I should congratulate Off The Record for serving my second most expensive cocktail. The Raffles Hotel bar in Singapore retains its record.
It was still early and the hostel was quiet, so I walked a few blocks down the street to Capitol City Brewing, which did not have a crowd for a Friday night. Their Czech Dark Lager was nothing to write about either. Had a store been open, I would’ve bought something to drink back at the hostel lobby.
After another day of too much walking (I would’ve rented a bike, but it was supposed to rain and didn’t), I headed to a couple bars before heading back to Bluejacket to meet my friend. Staff at the hostel recommended Lost & Found near the metro while my friends back home recommended Churchkey, which was a little farther of a walk. While enjoying a decent Alewerks Brewing Superb IPA at the former, my friends pushed me out the door via texts to Churchkey. And that’s where I had Bluejacket’s Favorite Things imperial milk stout on cask. This was one of the best stouts I’ve had in a long time — and the rich flavor with vanilla, cinnamon, and maple masked the 9% ABV.
I would’ve enjoyed that beer much more if I hadn’t been running late to meet my friend near Navy Yard. Drinking a beer that strong in a short amount of time is not a good idea.
My final beers for the weekend weren’t worth mentioning, but the last bar was. My friend insisted on going to Songbyrd Record Cafe. In the basement, they hosted a funk concert with a lot of bands each playing for about 20 minutes. They played a lot of covers and it was great fun. And then Godzilla came on stage. He played the keyboards and I had to wonder just how much I had to drink. There is grainy photographic evidence courtesy of my friend who pushed through the crowd to get a shot.
The trip through Washington, DC was great. I found so much more to enjoy besides the usual the sights. And what I found gave me incentive to head back for more fun — though I would prefer to not drive again.
What are some of your favorite bars and drinks in the DC area?