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December can be the merriest or most miserable time of year, but either way you’re going to want a drink. Why do you think Applebee’s is selling $1 Long Island iced teas through the end of the month? D.C. bars have stepped up their game to quench your thirst. Here are our picks for where to head when you want a tipple or two and a round-up of three bars serving boozy advent calendars.
Buffalo & Bergen
1309 5th St. NE
Union Market’s throwback soda shop best known for its boozy ice cream floats and knishes has been transformed into a metallic winter bar. Every drink on the special menu available now through Jan. 30 is either made with silver and gold liquors or spirits distilled in copper. Order the “Yellow Snow” and a drink containing silver tequila, orange sassafras, cinnamon, and lime arrives served in a snow globe complete with a penguin perched on a block of ice. Then there’s “All The Trimmings” with rye, bitters, cranberry, pine, and orange zest served in an ornament with savory popcorn and gum ball ornaments.
808 V St. NW
This Shaw hotspot just lassoed major drink talent. Nick Farrell, who has been shaking and stirring cocktails at Iron Gate, will do double duty at Hazel. His festive creations include the silky and savory “I Winter in Aspen,” with white hot chocolate, juniper, sesame, gin, and white cranberry. The picture-worthy “Winter X Games” is made with ginger absinthe, a candy cane, club soda, and a snowball. A low ABV cocktail called “On A Cleanse” combines sparkling unfiltered sake with cucumber, ginger, vodka, and lemon and comes garnished with two cucumber rounds you can put on your eyes for a spa-like experience. The bar and patio have been transformed into a winter wonderland.
1336 9th St. NW
Shaw’s newest wine bar is celebrating all things bubbly this month. Co-owner and sommelier Brent Kroll says it will serve 17 sparkling wines to send off 2017, ranging from Champagnes you know well to under-the-radar fizzy alternatives you don’t. Between Dec. 22 and Dec. 24, any guest that arrives in an ugly Christmas sweater will receive a complimentary glass of Lambrusco. For maximum enjoyment, grab a spot on the patio near the fire pits.
600 T St. NW
Try to get a seat near the wood-burning fireplace (which owner Stephen Lawrence claims is 130 years old) at this new Shaw spot.While you get warm, sip on cocktails served in antique glassware, including a rye drink that has a subtle pine flavor—the rye is infused with pine needles from Roosevelt Island. The brandy-based cocktail also feels seasonal thanks to the addition of apple cider, rosemary, ginger, and lemon. It’s easy to lose track of time here with the laid back soundtrack and cabin-in-the-woods feel.
1539 7th St. NW
Tom Brown’s beloved bar has always been popular with thirsty Washingtonians craving cocktails without a side of pretension. Head here now to try its updated food. New chef Matt Almquist, whose resume includes several hotspots in New York, reinvented the menu, which includes dishes like crispy Brussels sprouts with white balsamic, nutritional yeast, nori, black and white sesame, and togarashi spice. If you like Almquist’s fancy pub grub, you can also try it at sister bar Left Door (1345 S St NW).
740 15th St. NW
If you want to skip the holiday frills altogether, head to Union Trust, a new downtown bar with historical gravitas. The owners, who come from Solly’s and The Pug, proudly proclaim that their latest project is “just a bar.” The space is dimly lit and there are deep booths where you can hole up and hide from your problems. Just don’t try ordering snacks because there aren’t any.
1932 9th St. NW
If you think a cocktail bar accessed through a doughnut shop is already trying too hard, wait until you see the menu: It looks like the periodic table and includes a miniature bowl of luke-warm, Scotch-laced ramen. The “Strange Weather” is a boozy hit of bourbon, black sesame, and black walnut, while the “Sham Rockshake” combines gin, matcha green tea, black walnut leaf, and white chocolate for a sweet finish. It’s one of those places you need to see to believe.
Advent-ures in Drinking
Three D.C. bars are celebrating the season with boozy advent calendars. They could pour Jägermeister each night and still improve upon the stale chocolate that typically hides behind an advent calendar’s cardboard doors. But fortunately what they’re pouring—from whiskey to cocktails to champagne—is much tastier.
Hank’s Cocktail Bar
819 Upshur St. NW
The Petworth drink den is experimenting with a cocktail advent calendar. A new drink will debut nightly at 7 p.m., and customers who try at least 12, as marked off on a loyalty card, will be rewarded after Dec. 24. One sample sipper includes apple brandy, coffee, bittered whipped cream, and nutmeg.
4 F St. NW
Every night, bartenders at this storied pub will reveal a whiskey that’s being offered at half-price as a part of the first annual “Irish Whiskey Advent Calendar.” To find out what’s discounted before you go, check the bar’s social media accounts. The whiskeys being served are priced between $15 and $40 before the discount and pours are limited to two per customer. Try them now through Dec. 23.
501b G St. NW
This subterranean bar near Capitol One Arena is showcasing a different sparkling wine or Champagne revealed in advent calendar fashion. Bartenders will pour bubbles from California, Tasmania, and everywhere in between. Try them now through New Year’s Eve. If you want to save some money, visit during happy hour (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays), when each Champagne or sparkling wine cost $2 less.
Advent calendar photo by Flickr user tamadhanaval