There are three things you could use when you go drinking in D.C. and want to blend in: a power suit, a photographic memory of who’s who on the political scene, and a generous helping of discretion.
Visit any of these three historic and upscale hotel bars, all a stone’s throw from the White House, and chances are you’ll recognize fellow patrons because they’re splashed across the news and/or are caricatures adorning the walls or a cocktail coaster. Expect to spend time matching famous faces to famous names.
Off The Record
The Hay Adams Hotel, 800 16th Street NW, 202-942-7
The elegant Beaux-Arts hotel is built on the former site of mansions belonging to two political heavy-hitters and old friends: John Hay, personal secretary to Abraham Lincoln and secretary of state for Teddy Roosevelt, and Henry Adams, kin to the second and sixth presidents of the United States. With such patrician roots, the hotel and its bar, Off the Record, was bound to host the great, the famous and the wealthy doing business in D.C. Under the unwritten rules that govern discretion, it is known as “the place to be seen but not heard.”
No shrinking violet, the bar’s lavish and rich decor takes it cue from the ubiquitous red tie; red, described by Victoria Finlay in her book Color, represents not only feelings of the heart but fire, anger, the god of war and, appropriately, power. It is also known to stimulate appetite and conversation.
Located directly across from the White House, Off the Record is tucked below street level and accessed down an unmarked interior staircase. It suggests a speak-easy, albeit a very upscale one. It is known for its hand-crafted cocktails and expansive wine list. It is also showing off clever, highly-collectable bar coasters featuring presidential hopefuls depicted as customers. The pop-art discs are like trading cards for adults – issued in limited runs and wildly popular – so you best get them before they disappear.
The Jefferson, Washington, DC 1200 16th St. NW Washington, DC 20036
The Jefferson refers to THAT Thomas Jefferson: third President of the United States, American Founding Father, oenophile, Francophile and foodie, an accomplished man with excellent taste.
Quill consists of three distinct areas: the lounge, the Book Room and the East/West Jefferson Cabinet rooms. The decor is all things Jefferson, drawn from Monticello, his residence which still stands (and is open for public viewing) in the hills of Virginia. The Book Room, with a fireplace, sofas and Jefferson-themed titles, is inspired by his private library, the contents of which he sold to the government to form the nucleus of the Library of Congress. Eighteenth century maps adorn the golden walls of the lounge, tracing his travels through the wine regions of France, Germany and Italy.
The atmosphere is upscale, genteel and cozy even when it is busy. Pianist Peter Robinson entertains guests from Tuesday through Saturday after 9:00pm. An outdoor patio, opening onto 16th street, is discreetly tucked behind a hedge, a welcome addition in the warmer months. Clients are invited to enjoy a cigar with their drinks on the patio. Quill is best known for its changing selection and variety of seasonal cocktails.
Guests are seated in the lounge area on a first-come, first-served basis, but the East and West Jefferson Cabinet rooms may be reserved for small parties of up to six people. To begin the week, there is Sunday Dinner at Quill, offering three courses and wine for $35.
Round Robin & Scotch Bar
The Willard Washington DC 1401 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004
The Willard refers to itself as “The Residence of Presidents.” Not only is the tagline catchy, it offers a pretty good idea of what to expect inside.
The Willard has hosted almost every U.S. president since Franklin Pierce in 1853 as well as numerous notables including Reverend Martin Luther King, Charles Dickens, Buffalo Bill, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, and P.T. Barnum of circus fame.
The luscious emerald green walls hint at Round Robin’s signature drink: the Mint Julep. In the early 1800‘s Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky introduced his own recipe to D.C. substituting the usual gin, rum or brandy for his particular favorite: bourbon. Two hundred years later it is being served in the same fashion.
Ask about the “44 for 44” a spectacular list of presidential cocktails of the alcoholic and non-alcoholic variety. Favorites include the Herbert Hoover (a long island iced tea to reflect the prohibition era inclination to camouflage liquor), the John Quincy Adams (a New England hot toddy with spices from the West Indies), and the Ronald Reagan (a glass of the sparkling California white wine served at his inauguration).
There are also more than 100 single malt whiskeys, organized by region, served up at the adjacent Scotch Bar.
Our Luxury Hotel Consultants Recommend:
Originally designed in the 1920s, the Hay-Adams offers the traditional elegance of a private estate and the gracious service of a premier luxury hotel. The closest hotel to the White House, this legendary boutique offers unparalleled views of both the White House and Lafayette Park, along with a range of services designed with both the business and leisure travel.
The Jefferson, Washington, DC is a Beaux-Arts jewel that offers the ultimate boutique hotel experience. This award-winning luxury property has a unique character and rich history. Offering impeccable service, and opulent amenities, The Jefferson creates an atmosphere of pure elegance that will suit even the most discerning traveler. Guests of The Jefferson, Washington, DC will enjoy incredible dining, a 24-hour Butler service and graciously-appointed accommodations.
A Washington, DC landmark, the Willard InterContinental has been at the center of DC’s social and political life since opening its doors in 1818. Today this luxury property offers a timeless elegance, thoughtful amenities and unsurpassed service. Guests will enjoy opulent, old-world design mixed modern eco-friendly practices. The Willard InterContinental is a hotel that has been leaving sensational impressions on guests for almost 200 years.
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