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The Hay-Adams

Off The Record at The Hay-Adams - Historic Bar in Washington, DC

Historic DC Hotel Bars with Character & Cocktails

Belly up to storied, since-way-back-then hotel bars for nostalgic trips and sips

In its more than 200-year-history, DC has been home to hotels from humble 18th-century rooming houses to grand 19th-century overnighters. Raising a cold glass of something at a historic hotel bar is a time-honored tradition, and it’ll land you both in good company and in atmospheric surrounds.


From bars to dining to spa treatments, discover DC-area hotels that are right for you. 


Try a julep at the Round Robin

Though the building housing the Willard InterContinental Hotel only dates to 1901, a hotel has been operating on site since 1850. Figures from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King Jr. stayed - and maybe tippled here - in the round, wood- and leather-heavy cocktail lounge with views of Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Expect throwback drinks like Mint Juleps and Lime Rickeys served beneath sketches of famous patrons including Mark Twain and Woodrow Wilson.


Bask in 1920s glamour at the St. Regis Bar

Historic, flapper-era details - an ornate, Renaissance-inspired carved ceiling, mammoth arched windows - mingle with modern bites and drinks at the swanky bar and lobby lounge at this 1926 landmark near the White House. It all goes down in a space with a glowing, curved bar and plush leather chairs. Try the Red Snapper, a Bloody Mary variation said to have been invented at the hotel’s New York City branch, or a bit of bubbly by the glass.


Make The Next Whisky Bar your last

Cuddle up to a nice “Kentucky hug” amidst the glow of whiskey bottle-lined walls and garnet-hued chairs at The Next Whisky Bar inside the historic and luxurious Watergate Hotel. If it feels like you've been transported to a bygone era, that's because the costume designer for the hit television show Mad Men designed the staff uniforms. The bar specializes in high-end Scotch and American craft whiskies and features a rotating menu of specialty cocktails.


Hide out near the White House

Just across Lafayette Square from the White House, The Hay-Adams started as a residential hotel in the 1920s. Its clubby, lower-level drinking hole, Off the Record, feels like a secret hideaway - think red, tufted banquettes, political caricatures on the walls and crowd of lobbyists, locals and well-dressed tourists. Sample the spot’s long Scotch list, or try a classic highball like a Manhattan.


Enjoy the grandeur of the Waldorf Astoria's Peacock Alley

Situated in the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue, the Waldorf Astoria's lavish Peacock Alley provides an unparalleled experience in one of the District’s most historic buildings. Settle down and choose from the extensive food and drink options, or just gaze up at the building’s incredible nine-story, glass-ceiling atrium.


Raise a pint at Capitol Hill’s The Dubliner

Open since 1974 (but appearing far older), the Phoenix Park Hotel's Irish-style pub pours Guinness, Harp and a long list of whiskeys. You’ll also find a comfort-chow Gaelic menu (pot pies, corned beef sandwiches) and live music nightly in cozy digs with loads of wood-paneling and stained glass accents.


Kick back in elegant English style at the Blue Bar Lounge

The faux Tudor, circa-1918 Henley Park Hotel just north of the White House holds this snug-yet-swanky bar where curving leather banquettes, brocade-upholstered walls and exposed brick set an elegant scene for drinks and nibbles. A weekday happy hour has deals on wine, beer and snacks, and there’s live jazz on Saturday nights.


Drink up by the fire at the Tabard Inn

In Dupont Circle, DC’s oldest continuously operating hotel (since 1922) shelters a dimly lit, granny-chic lobby lounge for wines by the glass and old-timey drinks like Sazeracs. Victorian sofas, Oriental rugs and portraits up the romantic vibe, and there’s a welcoming fireplace in colder months.


Unwind at one of Hotel Washington’s snazzy lounges

In a storied 1918 building, one of DC’s trendiest overnighters boasts two hip bars. The VUE, their rooftop restaurant and bar, overlooks The White House, the Washington Monument and the National Mall. Discover a truly iconic setting with floor-to-ceiling retractable windows which showcases breathtaking panoramic views. On the first floor is the high-ceilinged Lobby Bar, where modern meets luxury - tufted leather, lush velvet and violet-hued lighting - and blends with historic details like a black-and-white checkerboard floor and oversized arches. Both boast light fare menus and lure a trendy crowd, including many locals.


Cozy up by the fire at Quadrant Bar & Lounge

Relax beside the roaring fireplace and enjoy craft cocktails and delicious apps at Quadrant Bar & Lounge in the Ritz-Carlton Washington, DC. This luxe bar and lounge also hosts live jazz music every Saturday night, a perfect complement to the swanky setting. For the ultimate in fine spirits tasting, request a rare reserve from the Vault – a six-foot-high safe which requires the hotel’s lead mixologist to don white gloves while pouring your $250 to $5,000 per-two-ounces pour.

Want more DC-area hotel bars with historic pasts or buzzy futures? Check out these these great hotels and continue your exploration of Washington, DC.



Pay homage to great power players at Edgar Bar & Kitchen

When it comes to relishing history, the old fashioned is the literal embodiment of bygone days. The potent drink gets the seasonal treatment at The Mayflower Hotel’s Edgar Bar, named after J. Edgar Hoover who is said to have eaten at the hotel daily for two decades (and would bring his own salad dressing!). Today, the menu has everything you could want, and that includes savory bar bites like an evening-friendly take on bacon and eggs, wings with DC-born mumbo sauce and a hulking house burger.


Sip on suds at The Alex

Located in DC’s oldest neighborhood, The Graham Georgetown sits on the Historic Hotels of America registry and celebrates inventor Alexander Graham Bell. Dial up a strong cocktail in speakeasy confines, like a Gatsby with plum bitters, Old Forester 1920 bourbon and vermouth or the Bathtub Gin & Tonic, with house-steeped gin.


Imbibe within the original General Post Office

After the nation’s capital was established with the Capitol and White House, later came three major structures, reflecting a growing national confidence – the Treasury Building, the Patent Office and the General Post Office, now home to the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Washington DC. In contrast to the 200-year-old building is the edgy bar and restaurant, Dirty Habit. Sip on seasonally inspired craft cocktails among the film noir-inspired venue and urban patio. 


Enjoy dynamic drinks among historic elegance at Quill

What started as a block of apartments in 1923 was later renovated with modern elegance and historical influences into the luxurious Jefferson Hotel. Pop into the upscale cocktail bar, Quill, to sip on elevated cocktails featuring flavors of fig, smoked cherrywood, bitters and more that change with the seasons.

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