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Bar owners Matt Weiss and Joe Englert wanted to create an old timey feel in their new north Dupont cocktail bar, which replaces Veritas Wine Bar. And so they took inspiration from the guy with a statue just up the street on Connecticut Avenue: George B. McClellan, a Union commander during the Civil War.
“He was very famous for training his troops really well but not always going into battle—or thinking he was outmanned and retreating back, so much so that [Abraham] Lincoln actually fired him,” Weiss says. “But his men loved him, because they didn’t get killed.”
Hence the bar’s name: McClellan’s Retreat.
“Retreat” also has another meaning. “This would be his officers’ retreat,” Weiss says of the low-ceilinged room decorated with weathered wood, lanterns, tin ceilings, and flannel-covered banquettes. The only hitch? It turns out that McClellan was not a big drinker. In fact, he thought whiskey was a scourge for all his men. But never mind that. McClellan’s Retreat is first and foremost a drinking establishment.
General manager and head bartender Megan Barnes, formerly of the Columbia Room, has revived some cocktails dating back to the Civil War era, including hot spiced rum and a sherry and brandy concoction called “sherry cobbler.” Gin & Pine—historically made of gin infused with a piece of pine wood—is instead comprised of gin, a pine liqueur, mandarin gastrique, and sparkling wine. Classic cocktails like a sazerac, negroni, and old-fashioned also have their own menu section. All the wines by the glass are left over from Veritas, which closed in August. Beers come from states that were involved in the Civil War.
McClellan’s Retreat doesn’t have a full kitchen, so Haute Saison Catering makes the limited food menu. The snacks include edamame, small sandwiches, mini quiches, charcuterie, and some dips.
Check out the drink menus below.
McClellan’s Retreat, 2031 Florida Ave. NW; (202) 265-6270; mcclellansretreat.com
Photos by Jessica Sidman