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How to Find the Best Whiskey Bar in D.C.

To find the best whiskey bar in DC, it can be helpful to have at least a basic understanding of what whiskey is and how it is made. There are also other factors that can affect how easy it is for you to locate the best whiskey bar, such as how familiar you are with the area. 

If you live there or have visited before, it can be beneficial. However, even if you are just planning a trip to visit, there are a lot of resources available that will help you have the most enjoyable experience in D.C.

The Basics

Many people are confused about the differences between whiskey, scotch, and bourbon, which is understandable. Whisky is any alcohol made from distilling grain. Both scotch and bourbon are also whiskeys; however, each is made with different grains and by varied processes. 

There are also a few other interesting facts related to whiskey:

  • Scotch Whiskey, by law, can only be called “scotch” if it is distilled in Scotland. There is a multigenerational tradition of using a single grain, malt barley, in its distillation. If produced outside of Scotland, it must be called “single malt whiskey.” 

  • Irish Whiskey is made using both malted and unmalted barley. The smoother taste of Irish Whiskey comes from a third distillation. Scotch Whiskey and other single-grain whiskeys are only distilled twice. 

  • Bourbon Whiskey was invented in America and is made primarily from corn. It must be distilled from greater than 51% corn to be called bourbon, although the process of making it varies between distilleries. The flavor, sweetness, and smoothness depend on the other grains used and fruit additives. 

Now, when you walk into a whiskey bar and order a whiskey, a proper server or bartender will ask what kind of Whiskey you want and how you would like it.

How would you like it? Here are some possibilities:

  • Whiskey shot: A standard shot pour is 1.5 oz (44ml). It is served in a shot glass as poured from the bottle.
     
  • Whiskey straight or straight up: this is another way of ordering a shot of whiskey.
     
  • Whiskey neat: another way to order at room temperature. A neat serving is usually 2 oz, more than a shot.

  • Whiskey up: The selected whiskey is stirred or shaken with ice and then poured through a strainer served without ice. The ice chills and dilutes the Whiskey a bit.

  • Whiskey rocks: The whiskey is served with ice but not stirred or shaken. It is typically served in a rocks glass without a stem.  

With the confidence that comes from knowing what and how to order, now you can seek the best whiskey bar in Washington, D.C.

Start with determining what features are determining factors in labeling the location as the “best.” Decide what is important to you for an enjoyable evening out. Some possible considerations are price, location safety, and the usual clientele. 

Are you looking for a neighborhood bar with a good selection or a high-end establishment staffed by servers in white tux shirts and ties?

Are you kicking back with family and friends or taking a client out and needing to impress?

Not all “good” whiskey bars are the same.

Word of Mouth

If you live in the area, the best way to find the best whiskey bar in D.C. is to ask around. Several people in your work and social circles will have similar interests. Their experiences and recommendations can be valuable, particularly concerning cost and safety.  

When listening, remember that almost every place will have a similar selection. Essential factors to listen for in word-of-mouth recommendations are aspects like server attentiveness, time between order and delivery, cleanliness, and availability.

A well-run establishment should have everything on the menu available, with rare exceptions.

Ask a Bartender or Server

Especially if you are visiting and staying in a hotel, stop into the hotel restaurant and bar and chat with the service staff. Hospitality workers are often in a tight-knit community. It is common for bar and restaurant workers to frequent each other’s establishments when off. As a result, people in the business are a good source of information when looking to find the best bars in Shaw.

Have an Adventure

This type of adventure is like participating in a treasure hunt. Pick a place from google at random. Have a designated driver or use a paid service. Go to the first bar and order one round.

Casually ask the bartender who their biggest competition is. Most bartenders like to talk; it’s part of the job. The response to their competition is like the clue in that treasure hunt. 

Venture to whatever place you were able to discover from your investigation. Order one round and ask about their biggest competition. Then, finish your drink and go to the next biggest competitor.

Repeat until you cannot drink anymore – by then you will have likely found the best whisky bar in D.C, and if you haven’t, you’ll probably be too happy to care.

Search Engines

Google, Firefox, Bing, or other search engines can assist you with your quest to discover the best whiskey bar in D.C. Read the reviews with a bit of skepticism as they can sometimes be inflated; however, if an establishment has greater than 30-50 positive reviews, it indicates legitimacy.  

Start by writing down parameters such as the distance you are willing to travel, neighborhood, price range, and reviews. Eliminate any whiskey bar that falls outside of your choices.

Next, narrow the list based on images posted and your “gut” reaction.  

Finally, search for the establishment itself and hit the news button. If there is a recent news post, is it about a charity function they supported or a recent drug bust? It is worth the few extra minutes to make that distinction. 

The Bottom Line

Whiskey is undoubtedly an acquired taste. However, given the varied ingredients and flavors, it would seem there is whiskey for every taste. 

One of the pleasures of a good whiskey bar is trying various whiskeys. If malt whiskey is not your thing, sweet corn bourbon may be the one for you.

Now that you know how to find the best whiskey bar in D.C., go out and explore. Take your time – enjoy the search! The journey can be just as rewarding as the destination.

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