Friday Question of the Day – Who’s the Best Bartender in the City?

Last week when Town & Country closed in the Mayflower Hotel (1127 Connecticut Avenue NW) I wanted to stop by to snap a photo before construction began (it’ll become a Pink clothing store which will move from it’s current location in the hotel.) Anyway, I couldn’t help but notice the faded sign on the outside featuring Sam the bartender. The sign says in part, “…Washington’s most famous bartender…” so it got me thinking about famous bartenders or at least bartenders I like in DC.

And since I’m also horrible with names you can answer the question – “the guy with glasses from Room 11 who used to work at Temperance Hall.” I actually do remember that name – Dan Searing (part owner of Room 11 in Columbia Heights) is one of my favorites. I like Dan because I can go in and say I feel like something with gin and he’ll fix up an amazing concoction that I’ve never tried before. It also helps that he’s a really nice guy.

I was just having a conversation the other night when I said that despite all the bells and whistles of a new bar, for me, what makes or breaks a bar is quite simply the quality of the bartender.

I suppose there can be two elements – fixing drinks and personality. So for the FQotD – who’s your favorite bartender (and what bar do they work at) in the city?

66 Comment

  • Dirty, I heard today he quit Bedrock! Oh Maaannn,,,

    But really, no one beat Brian, by far the most attentive ever, what you havin’ bro! Anyone on his team a close second.

  • I have two. Derek Brown at The Passenger’s “Columbia Room,” and Matt at Tune Inn. For very different occasions, obviously.

  • Jesse W. Biggers, George.

  • A friend and I went to the Columbia Room for the private cocktail night last Thursday, and Derek Brown blew me away with the most exquisite martini of all time. Then, he made us a drink that his brother made up and wrote down the recipe for me to take home! He’s just a really nice guy that happens to make the best drinks in D.C., and that kindness really sets him apart in a town where you can cut pretentiousness with a knife.

  • The funny thing is Town and Country was the real deal. What all the new hipster cocktail lounges mimic. Such a shame that a place like that with real history goes out of business while the posers flourish. The craft bartenders today are just playing dress up. None of them would get my vote for best bartender. Just show me an old school guy or gal with a strong pour who knows how to shoot the shit.

    • +1,000,000
      Nooooooooooo! I loved Town & Country. This was THE place to watch Presidential debates and election returns. Most famous bartender is definitely Sam and he deserves all the hype. He and the staff gave that place a great atmosphere. Really, this is kind of devastating news for me.

  • Tony T at the Pug is my favorite.

  • I have not met a single bartender in this city worth a damn. They’re either clueless and cocky kids that rotate every month or curmudgeons.

    Will study this list closely.

    • You’re going to the wrong bars. That was not meant to be snarky, take the advice in this thread. There are some fantastic professional drink-slingers in this town.

      They aren’t trendy, but the Clyde’s group (includes Old Ebbitt) turn out some of the best bartenders in town. You might not get innovative and trendy drinks, but they know how to run a bar. There is a reason that some of them have been there for decades.

      • I agree–my favorite bartender is Norm Taney. He used to work the Grant Bar at Ebbitt, but has since moved on the P.J. Clarke’s (16 & K, noon to 5pm, tell him Jen sent you). He makes the best cosmo I’ve ever had.

  • JoJo @Ris and sometimes Old Glory. Delicious, creative (but not pure sugar) drinks and entertaining to boot.

    Dana @Hank’s Oyster Bar. Classic curmudgeonly awesomeness with delicious cocktails.

    Derek Brown @The Passenger makes some mean cocktails. Loyal from his old days at Cork when he made me some phenomenal anise/boubon thing.

    • Derek Brown’s brother Tom bartended at Cork and is behind the main bar at the Passenger. Derek is usually in the Columbia Room.

  • Dan at Room 11 is a sweetie

  • I don’t do the mixy shit (overly fluffy and complicated way to get a drink. My simple brain prefers ales & whiskeys neat), but Dan (temperance/rm.11) has always been a great soul behind the bar. DC United supporter as well, so that proves integrity.

  • Gina at PS7 – one of the best! Actually, everyone at PS7 is great, and I highly recommend them.

  • While not in the same vein as everyone posting so far, I’m really a fan of the older bartender at The Diner in Adams Morgan. He makes probably 300+ brunch cocktails on a Sunday morning and never looks stressed. If you sit at the bar back there, your coffee cup never goes empty. I’ve never seen the man smile, but damn he’s efficient!

  • LOVE Dan.
    He is intelligent, has a great sense of humor and really made my guy and me feel welcomed in this city (which is hard!).

  • Susanne at Ruby Tuesday was pretty good. I miss her.

  • HUGE fan of Rob at Chief Ike’s. I’m not a believer in frilly or fancy cocktails (for the amateurs, I say, but what do I know?), so mixology is lost on me. Give me a freindly, funny, and easy bartender who’s attentive without being obnoxious and I’ll be back–and I’ve been going back to Ike’s for 6 years now because Rob is a paragon of this kind of bartending, and one of the nicest folks in DC, period.

  • Gary at Las Canteras. HANDS DOWN the best bartender in D.C., and perhaps the world.

    Anything he makes with (his own personally-infused) jalapeno vodka or avocados (YES) is fantastic! The downstairs bar is a small, intimate setting and if you stay long enough, he’ll tell you stories from when he was a travel writer at the Post while letting you sample experimental (and amazing) drinks.

  • Curtis @ 51st State,

    He is a crazy f-ing riot…One of my favs.

  • Lance Cook at Union Pub – go see for yourself on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday nights. The place is packed. Everyone goes just to hang out with him on those nights.

  • They’re not mixing fancy drinks, but all the guys at The Saloon are top notch.

  • Al B. at the blackcat is my favorite.

  • anyone that can pour a beer, not spill it on me, and can tell when i’m ready for another. i have no need for a special bartender.

  • JR and Kmart at the Bottom Line. While some of the clientele there aren’t my faves, I heart JR and Kmart. Been going there for over 10 years, and no matter how long I’ve been away, or however crowded it may be, a cold drink is ready for me as I walk through the door.

  • Dan @ Room 11. Ask him a question about whiskey or wine and start taking notes.

  • I can think of several: Krishna at Cashion’s, Drew at Meridian Pint (formerly of the Reef), Dirty at Bedrock (no longer there, it’s true), Shola at the Tabard (but he doesn’t work there anymore). All are masters of their trade, and friendly and knowledgable as well.

  • Has to be Dave Coleman at the Big Hunt. Want to know about beer? Check. Want a great bourbon recommendation? Check. Want someone who will play whatever music you want to hear at 5 on a Tuesday? Check. Fantastic guy all around.

  • Is Dan at Room 11 the big guy with the beard and the accent? That guy is very nice; cute, too.

    I had an excellent original concoction from one of the bartenders at the Passenger.

    Best bartender ever, though, was a fellow at Apothecary in Philadephia (I know, that wasn’t the question). He was the full package: knew his craft, happy to go off-book, chatty and informative but not intrusive. Oh, and he had sleeve garters and a real handlebar mustache to complete the effect.

  • Frankie James

    There used to be a great one at the old Frat House off of Pst – now Omega.

    MISS JUDY, without a doubt the best bartendar ever, kept me company through the years.

  • Rachel and Dallas at Wland and Michael at Blue Banana. They have all taken very good care of me!

  • Personally I don’t need fancy drinks or much beyond good convo and a game on TV, so I’m going w/ Rosie and Shauna at Stetsons.

    Dirty was great at Bedrock.

  • You guys are making me thirsty. I like Kent at Zatanya. He knows food and wine so we always just let him place our orders and he never disappoints.

  • Charles at Napoleon, duh.

  • Tate at Tonic!

    She is not there much anymore but she rocks! A hottie too!

  • Again, not the fanciest or nicest location, but in terms of knowledgeable bartender with great personality, Kathleen at BistroBistro in Dupont is it for the win. Rest of the place is soso on an awesome day, but she’s terrific.

  • I’ve always liked Kevin at Irish Times. I never ordered anything fancy from him (usually just Guinness, maybe the occasional show) but he always remembers me, and sometimes “forgets” to charge me for every drink I order.

  • Throwing a curveball and giving a shout out to the guys at Recessions. All of them. Super nice guys, do their job, and don’t f around. Almost done with your gigantic beer? Here’s one for you. And they’ll remember your name from your first visit, even if you somehow manage to get come back for a year or two.

    Hey! Cactus, Miller Lite? Yes, sir.

  • the owner (brian, if i remember correctly) tends bar on the roof at The Reef. he takes good care of you, especially when its a little slower. plus you can get the 10% discount for locals if you ask.

  • Anyone behind the bar at Red Derby. Fun, quick and serve a mean canned beer.

  • As a single lady who likes to explore new bars, I enjoy a bartender who makes me feel comfortable and welcome. For that, Kaleabe at the Saloon wins hands down.

  • Patrice at Tonic. She makes you feel like you are her best friend in the world.

  • Naheem (sp?) @ Churchkey. Always on his best game.

  • There was this guy named Josh at the Poste bar. That guy knew his way around some fine gin.

  • If you work near the White House, head over the Exchange at lunch time. Tiffany works Tues-Fri, and she has a rag-tag group of regulars who will keep you entertained. The place is under construction now, and it’s not fancy, but you never know who you’ll meet.

  • Mo at 701. Hands down.

  • Brad and Heather at Charlie Palmer Steak.

    Or Marc at The Laughing Man. He remembered my name and my drink the second time I came in. Now that’s service.

  • the 2 guys over at bourbon steak are top notch. the big black guy and a short white guy with glasses are awesome .great drinks great knowledge in a good time …

  • Ed at Ben’s Next Door. He’s definitely a mixologist – I’ve gone in quite a few times and asked him to make me something good (usu with a vodka base and only semi-sweet), and he’s always brought me something great!

  • Tracy at Little Miss Whisky’s!

  • Ann marie & Beth @ the red derby..xx00

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