All Souls Bar
Why It's Hot: Great prices, hot neighborhood, sleek space, chill vibe and knowledgeable barkeeps are an alluring cocktail and keep the crowds coming.
Must Drink: The No. 3 ($9) - a Negroni enhanced with Cynar; the No. 4 ($9), aka Juan's Chilean Afro - a blend of pisco, Aperol and Dolin sweet vermouth; or the All Souls ($11) - sparkling rose with a shot of Maker's Mark
Insider Tip: There's no food here yet, but snacks are in the works. It's small, so if you really want to sit and enjoy the cocktails and the space, go early. And if you don't like the sound of the cocktails on offer, they just might make you a custom creation during less busy hours.
725 T St. NW; 202-733-5929
Dram & Grain
Why It's Hot: Exclusivity always equals hotness, and with only 60 reservation slots available one day a week (Saturdays), this speakeasy in the basement of Jack Rose Dining Saloon is very, very exclusive.
Must Drink: The Ode to Omaha ($17) - a creation of Trevor Frye, who uses hickory chips in a dry smoker to infuse the Thomas Tew Rum, housemade blackberry-cinnamon syrup and Jerry Thomas bitters with smoke. The cocktail is served in an orblike vessel that's corked before serving.
Insider Tip: Text or call for a reservation, speakeasy-style, but be advised that they're booked through mid-April. They also claim to be the only place in the city where you can try pre-Prohibition whiskey.
2007 18th St. NW; 202-607-1572
Eat the Rich
Why It's Hot: Well-known mixologist and bar owner Derek Brown could already do no wrong. Then he went and paired up with oyster guru Travis Croxton of Rappahannock Oyster Co. to open one of three bars Brown owns in a row on Seventh Street NW. Next thing you know, we're all jockeying for bar space at the city's first heavy-metal oyster bar.
Must Drink: The oyster shooter with vodka and housemade clamato ($6); the Hollowed Apple mezcal cocktail ($12 for one; $42 per pitcher)
Insider Tip: As with most hot places that don't take reservations, early or late is the time to show up if you don't want to be jostled or stand for hours. Also, the grand Chesapeake boil of sausages and seafood, available at brunch, is a great value at $38 for two.
1839 Seventh St. NW; 202-316-9396
Why It's Hot: It seems as if everything offered up by the brothers Hilton - the dream team who also gave us places like Marvin, American Ice Co., Chez Billy and The Gibson, among others - turns to gold. When the weather heats up, this taqueria with a walk-up window that faces U Street NW will likely follow suit.
Must Drink: The margarita ($8; $40 for a pitcher) or a Mexican draft ($6), naturally; the Short Mexican Stiffy ($10), if you like things smoky
Insider Tip: The brothers wanted a beer garden feel but without the risk of getting rained out. So that twinkly, clear roof? It's retractable, exposing about two-thirds of the restaurant to the heavens with the push of a button.
919 U St. NW; 202-506-6418
Flight Wine Bar
Why It's Hot: With all the craft-cocktail dens and brewpubs, we're happy to see a place that caters to oenophiles. Its stunning decor and location in the always-on Chinatown 'hood doesn't hurt.
Must Drink: Try one of the wines from a place not normally associated with winemaking, like a Pinot Grigio from Slovenia ($8 per glass); a dry Furmint from Hungary ($45 a bottle); or a red blend from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon ($12 per glass).
Insider Tip: The wine descriptions require a legend - A is for aroma, P is for palate/taste, F is for Finish and N is for notes and fun facts on the wine, varietal, region or the estate and winemaker. Also, ask for an off-menu sparkling flight if you're feeling bubbly.
777 Sixth St. NW; 202-864-6445
Ivy and Coney
Why It's Hot: Beer and hot dogs - it's hard not to love a place that's so unapologetically simple. When Dacha Beer Garden is slammed this spring and summer, walk across the street and down a block, where you'll find unpretentious beer and a friendly bar staff.
Must Drink: A tight beer selection runs anywhere from Stroh's in a can ($3) to Bell's Two Hearted Ale ($6). There's also a can of Strongbow cider ($6) and a few bottles of good liquor - think Tito's Handmade Vodka, Jameson Irish Whiskey and Leopold's Gin - for those in the mood for something else.
Insider Tip: As the mural of Johnny Cash giving you the finger is trying to tell you, it's cash only.
1537 Seventh St. NW; 202-670-9489
Why It's Hot: Is it us, or is meat really in? Yeah, we thought so. But believe us - the drinks here are just as compelling as the butcher-inspired food menu.
Must Drink: What, you can't figure out what to order when faced with a list of more than 400 types of wine (25 of which are on draft), 17 drafts collected by one of the most well-respected beer directors in town and 10 original cocktails ($13 each) crafted by local spirits maven Jeff Faile? What's wrong with you?
Insider Tip: Look at the revolving selection of older vintages dispensed by the Napa Technology system, which preserves the wines and allows the bar to offer rarer options by the glass. Right now, these options are all listed in the Northern Italian reds section ($15-$35 per glass), and each one is 10 years old or older - and pairs well with charcuterie.
709 D St. NW; 202-524-5322
Why It's Hot: This Shaw bar makes its own beer and keeps it - as well as its Southern-accented bar eats - reasonably priced.
Must Drink: Whichever of the house brews, described like a fine wine on the menu, tickle your fancy; we like the Haxan porter ($6).
Insider Tip: We've seen this place packed to the gills at 6:30 PM on a Tuesday, so be sure to go early or later if you don't want to deal with standing-room only.
624 T St. NW; 202-607-2337
Why It's Hot: Derek Brown. Whiskey. Shaw. If you've been paying attention, you know this is enough said.
Must Drink: Your favorite whiskey, a Sazerac ($10) or some well-crafted cocktails like the Stone Fence ($7), a blend of Old Overholt rye whiskey, unfiltered soft apple cider and Angostura bitters, and the rum-spiked Blackstrap & Switchel ($7)
Insider Tip: Even much of the food has a whiskey or bourbon bent - such as the boozy, chocolatey bourbon balls and the bourbon-soaked chicken livers and gizzards.
1841 Seventh St. NW; 202-316-9396
Whiskey Room at Ri Ra
Why It's Hot: This Georgetown spot is a bit more upscale than some of the other Ri Ra locations you might have been to, and the upstairs Whiskey Room & Bar has its own whiskey sommelier. Plus, as we've said, whiskey is definitely having a moment.
Must Drink: Try one of the whiskey duels - like a wine flight with a little more burn. Choices might include “Irish Peat vs. Scottish Peat,” for which a Connemara single cask is pitted against an Ardbeg Uigeadail single malt ($18), or the “Atlantic vs. Pacific,” which allows tasters to compare a Highland Park 18-year-old with a Yamazaki 18-year-old ($30).
Insider Tip: Ask about the rare whiskeys, such as the Crown Royal Extra Rare, Balvenie 30-year-old, Macallan Fine Oak 30-year-old and Knappogue Vintage 1951, which the bar claims is the oldest and rarest Irish whiskey in the world.
3123-3125 M St. NW; 202-751-2111