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Photo: Courtesy of 2 Birds 1 Stone
Photo: Courtesy of 2 Birds 1 Stone

Drink In Style: 10 Instaworthy Bar Designs

Most people judge a bar based on the quality of its drinks and selection of liquors. But that is just one aspect of the experience. Design plays an influential role in making a bar memorable, with an impact rivaling that of the taste and service. DC’s list of visually stunning bar spaces includes everything from restored Irish architecture direct from Dublin to Wes Anderson-inspired cocktail lounges. Here are 10 of our favorites across town.


Photo: Courtesy of 2 Birds 1 Stone

Photo: Courtesy of 2 Birds 1 Stone

2 Birds 1 Stone
Mismatched glassware and hand-drawn menus welcome thirsty customers at 2 Birds 1 Stone. The underground cocktail haunt features a brick-backed bar accented with white cabinetry and chairs. White brick walls line the rest of the space, which has various seating nooks and benches for groups large and small. It feels lively and intimate all at once, as if you’re hanging out with a drink at your best laid-back friend’s house. 1800 14th St. NW, DC; www.2birds1stonedc.com


Photo: Courtesy of Chicken + Whiskey

Photo: Courtesy of Chicken + Whiskey

Chicken + Whiskey’s Speakeasy
There’s whiskey – lots of it – behind the decoy refrigerator door at this Latin American kitchen on 14th Street. Swing open the door and you’ll be met with dozens upon dozens of bottles of brown liquor from around the word, all lined up behind the long wooden bar. Another wooden ledge for perching drinks encompasses the cozy space and makes for easy, hands-free conversation. A chalkboard displays the selection of cocktails, beer and wine while vinyl on the speakers completes the lowkey experience. 1738 14th St. NW, DC; www.chickenandwhiskey.com


Photo: Farrah Skeiky

Photo: Farrah Skeiky

Cotton & Reed
The team at CORE architecture and design used industrial elements like exposed pipes, a large garage door window and baby blue metal shelving to make Cotton & Reed fit right in as a modern member of the Union Market neighborhood. The big design feature is the bar top, which is covered in wooden hexagon tiles featuring realistic sketch-style artwork of all types of flora and fauna. That artwork alone is Instagram worthy – and it pops even more when paired with one of the bar’s signature rum cocktails. Guest can also gaze back into the distillery and production space. 1330 5th St. NE, DC; www.cottonandreed.com


Photo: Andrew Cebulka

Photo: Andrew Cebulka

Dabney Cellar
This underground hangout – an offshoot of James Beard Award-winning chef Jeremiah Langhorne’s The Dabney – is an ideal spot for sipping wine with seasonal, local food. Edit Lab at Streetsense oversaw the design, which includes a spiral staircase and large chalkboard used for writing the day’s menu. Additional touches like the reclaimed wood bar and shelves and custom-made iron racks for wine and firewood add to the space’s intimate and rustic feel. 122 Blagden Alley, NW, DC; www.thedabney.com


Photo: Courtesy of the Left Door

Photo: Courtesy of the Left Door

Left Door
Each Left Door experience starts by entering its unmarked door off the corner of 14th and S and ascending the narrow staircase that leads to the bar. Drinking at Tom Brown’s speakeasy is a close-quarters affair, whether you’re chatting under vintage lighting at the bar or nestled in velvet arm chairs in the corner. It’s a fitting ambiance for the menu of both innovative and classic cocktails. 1345 S St. NW, DC; www.dcleftdoor.com


Photo: Courtesy of Morris Bar

Photo: Courtesy of Morris Bar

Morris American Bar
This airy cocktail bar from David Strauss is worlds away from dimly-lit speakeasies and underground hangouts, as you won’t find any leather couches or Edison bulbs here. Morris Bar’s two-level space was designed by Swatchroom with inspiration from director Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. Those visual cues come in the form of pastel shades of blues and greens throughout the room and local DC artwork from Dana Ellyn and Nicolette Capuano. The bar is seated only, leaving plenty of breathing room for enjoying a cocktail and the whimsical décor. 1020 7th St. NW, DC; www.morrisbardc.com


Photo: The Watergate Hotel

Photo: The Watergate Hotel

The Next Whisky Bar
Retro Washington vibes and modern styling come together at the Watergate Hotel’s Next Whisky Bar. The centerpiece here is a curving wall of shimmering liquor bottles that wraps around the lounge area and glass bar top. The gold color pops against the red chairs and area rugs, giving a contemporary touch to one of DC’s most notable addresses. 2650 Virginia Ave. NW, DC;
www.thewatergatehotel.com/the-next-whisky-bar


Photo: Courtesy of Nocturne

Photo: Courtesy of Nocturne

Nocturne
Shades of dark indigo, pink and blue join pops of vibrant neon in the dimly-lit Nocturne, the 17-seat basement spot hidden beneath Sugar Shack Donuts in Shaw. The bar concept was inspired by “The Abandoned Night in Paris,” which was one of the original cocktails at Nocturne’s Alexandria-based sister bar, Captain Gregory’s. Fittingly, Nocturne’s entrance is themed as a Parisienne salon, with the main bar designed as a garden under the night sky. Nocturne’s table and bar tops shine bright white, illuminating the flight-style cocktails. It’s a stark contrast with the rest of the room, which feels like stepping into a sleek, futuristic party after dark. 1932 9th St. NW, DC; www.nocturnebar.com


Photo: Courtesy of Delucchi Plus

Photo: Courtesy of Delucchi Plus

Rí Rá Georgetown
It’s more than just the beer and whiskey that are Irish at this Georgetown pub. Many aspects of the Victorian-style main bar – including the back bar – originated at Gerry Nangles Pub from Summer Hill, Dublin. Upstairs, the cozy whiskey room features bars and cabinets that were restored from Maddigans Watchmaker and Jeweler on Ellis Quay, Dublin and paneling from the Dublin branch of the Royal Bank of Ireland. 3125 M St. NW, DC; www.rira.com/georgetown


Photo: Courtesy of Tilt Bar

Photo: Courtesy of Tilt Bar

Tilt at Black Jack
Pass through the doors at the rear of Black Jack to find the colorful, graphic bar top and walls of the pinball-themed Tilt. There aren’t any physical pinball games here, but the feel is evoked through the pinball artwork on the bar taken from actual machines. The rest of the space is similarly vibrant and features nearly wall-to-wall posters and artwork, including the “Tilt” name illuminated in large-scale letters. 1612 14th St. NW, DC; www.tiltdc.com