By Amy Trotter Houston
Utter the words “bar crawl” and images of frat boys wearing backward-facing baseball caps daring each other to do stupid stuff while yelling, “Hey, Bro, watch this!” come to mind. Bar crawls are great for some, but many of us prefer to get together with a small group of friends for something a bit more sophisticated. Classy, if you will. Hence, the idea was born for a cocktail crawl or, as we call it, a Christmas Tree Cocktail-a-thon, Drink-a-Palooza!
The concept is simple. Gather your friends, family members or fun people you’ve just met on the metro, pick a place to meet and let the good times pour.
Here we propose an itinerary that includes stops at chic hotel bars, seeing a few sights along the way and some spectacular chandeliers. Sometimes visiting a hotel bar in your own city is more fun than when you are out of town. We also feel that gathering your group for a photo in front of the Christmas tree or other decorations in the hotel lobby before moving on to the next stop is key.
Due to its proximity to public transportation, Metro Center is but two blocks away, start your party at the W Hotel (515 15th Street NW) directly across the street from the Main Treasury Building. The original glass awnings for the old Hotel Washington hang over the entrance making it easy to spot. A funky vibe permeates the lobby from the furnishings to the lighting, with seating areas grouped for easy conversation. The Living Room Jewel Box Bar is located at one end and they mix a mean Manhattan. Once your pals are gathered and a photo has been taken, head out for a bit of sight-seeing as follows:
Stroll over to The Ellipse to see the National Christmas Tree and the National Chanukah Menorah. These two highlights, along with views of the White House and the Washington Monument, are sure to put you in an even more festive mood, especially if there is snow on the ground and a nip in the air. Continue along past the White House, always a great place for another group photo, and cut through Lafayette Park to our next stop.
One of the most elegant hotels in town, The Hay-Adams (800 16th Street NW) boasts a classic bar called Off the Record. Located on the lower level, you can enter it from the corner of 16th and H Streets. Red walls are lined with caricature sketches of past and present influential political players that are fun to peruse. These witty drawings also appear on the coasters. Gather at the bar or amid the cozy banquette seating. Order a few nibbles from the great bar menu to pair with a pear martini or club soda with a twist. This is just the place where you can imagine running into a well-known politician and having a meaningful discussion about the state of US affairs. Or, it might just be easier to order another drink and turn your attention back to your friends. Once you’ve enjoyed yourselves and taken another group photo, climb back into your coats for a quick walk up the block.
The Saint Regis Washington, D.C.
The Saint Regis (923 16th Street NW) is as impeccable as it is inviting with a nice bar adjacent the lobby that sports classic yet hip furnishings and large light-filled windows. If you’re lucky, a pianist may be tickling the ivories of the baby grand. Gather in one of the comfortable seating areas and enjoy the sophisticated atmosphere. This is the place for a classic drink. The bar is known for its signature pre-prohibition cocktails, and offers a notable list of fine wines. Once your band of merry friends has enjoyed the scene and, you’ve guessed it, taken the requisite group picture, be sure to turn your gaze up – the carved ceiling and crystal chandeliers in the lobby are too beautiful to be missed. Once outside, take K Street NW across Farragut Square to Connecticut Avenue, turn right and walk one and a half blocks to our final destination.
The Mayflower Hotel
First opened in 1925, The Mayflower (1127 Connecticut Avenue NW) sports a refreshed vibe that is trendy while retaining its original allure. Stroll the long hallway and admire the enormous chandeliers. We recommend taking this stop’s group shot sooner than later, due to the blurry factor that might be seeping in, and because you probably won’t remember later. The best seating is at tables located along the balcony railing overlooking the lobby so you can watch those coming and going. The bar is known for its martini menu. Since this is our last stop, you may wish to grab dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, or download the new DC Metro+ app for a bunch of great recommendations. The Farragut North metro station is close by for when you decide to call it an evening.
These hotel bars aren’t going to have five dollar “well” drinks and for good reason; this isn’t a bar crawl. It’s a classy cocktail one. Once in a while, it’s fun to get a little dressed up and gather with friends for a fun afternoon of cocktails and conversation. Enjoy. Wear your chic but comfortable shoes for wobbly walking ease. Tip the bartenders. Ride the metro, take a taxi, or decide on a designated driver beforehand.