Dear PoPville – Best Liquor Store in DC?

Photo by PoPville flickr user NCinDC

“Dear PoPville,

Not sure if you’ve done a post but I thought a crowdsource of best liquor store could be interesting. Maybe even have ranks based on cost, variety or rarity?”

We did one in 2009 but it’s probably time for a refresh – so in 2014 where’s your favorite liquor store based on cost, variety or rarity.

For cost I’m going with Costco!

139 Comment

  • Guilford Liquors on 5th and RI NW

  • Calvert Woodley, hands down.

  • Anyone know where to find CHILEAN pisco in the District? Capel, Alto del Carmen, etc.

    • I’m pretty sure Metro Wine and Spirit, at Columbia rd and 17th had several different Piscos, including Chilean.

  • Paul’s for booze, Rodman’s for beer!

  • Lion’s on Georgia Ave.

  • Lion in Petworth has a great selection.

    • notlawd

      I love Lion. Not only do they have a great liquor selection, they have awesome beers and wine also. Plus the staff is knowledgeable. I went in looking for ingredients for a specialty cocktail, they didn’t have it, but were able to point me to an acceptable alternative. You are not getting that at the corner store.

    • also a huge lion fan. the new iteration is so great.

  • There needs to be an app that shows/compares prices laid out over google maps.

  • Roha liquors, they might have ply wood floors, but their prices are dirt cheap.

  • Selection-wise, I don’t think it’s even a close contest: ACE Beverage on N.Mexico Ave.

  • Based on price alone? CostCo.

  • Harris Teeter has surprisingly good prices and selection on beer — blows away D’vines and all the other massively marked up liquor stores.

  • Lion’s Fine Wine & Spirits on Georgia. No contest.

  • I’m a big fan of the re-done Lion’s on GA Ave.

  • I frequent the Barrel and find very good prices there. I’m a Vodka drinker and I can get Skyy and Ketel at the same price as Costco if not a a dollar cheaper. Quick in and out! Bonus no road trip across NW & NE to buy it.

  • Costco for hard liquor, Calvert-Woodley for wine.

  • justinbc

    This question has multiple answers, because there are a variety of scenarios in which it could encompass. For overall selection, I would say probably Ace Beverage. For knowledge, price, and selection overall, I would say Schneider’s. For uniqueness and hard to find items (including all the “extra” stuff to make your cocktails better), I would say Batch 13. And lastly, in terms of the bottom line lowest quoted prices I’ve gotten on special order stuff, I would say that’s Cairo Liquor.

    • The Frogette and I refer to Cairo as the “Magic Booze Closet”. No matter what we’re looking for, the wizards at Cairo will be able to find it…often by reaching behind 3 or 4 rows of bottles on an upper shelf or by disappearing into the back. Magical!

    • Batch 13 is great for really small-batch boutique stuff—not a lot of other places in town have $100-plus bottles of bourbon—and exotic bitters and such, but pretty much everything is priced really high, and they stock a lot of beer that’s been sitting around for a LONG time.

      • justinbc

        I did a recent comparison on bitters between Batch 13 and Schneider’s and for pretty much everything that they had the same bottles of Schneider’s came in $3-4 less. Batch 13 made up for it though by having nearly a couple dozen more to choose from.

    • Another vote for Batch 13. They have a great selection of harder to find spirits, and a more diverse wine selection. Smaller selection than other stores but some interesting harder to find regions represented (Georgia, Greece for example). BTW, I’m not the owner or a friend, just a wine nerd.

    • Cairo is on my boycott list ever since a living social deal that said you could get $60 worth of wine for $30. I bought into it and went there to get my $60 worth of wine and was told I could only buy the 3 bottles they had already picked out. Low and behold, each of those bottles retailed for under $10. Never going back.

      • Yeah, I almost got sucked into one of those wine groupons, too (not sure if it was at Cairo) but fortunately one of my friends pointed out the fine print, which listed the actual bottles that would be included. We looked up the prices online, they were all very low-priced. The groupon may actually have cost more than just buying those bottles at retail!

      • justinbc

        Yeah, I’ve only really ever used them to special order stuff, because when I call around to multiple shops on rare bottles they always come in the cheapest (and I used to be able to easily walk there). I wouldn’t ever buy a Groupon for wine from any store, that just seems like a setup for disappointment.

    • +infinity

  • accendo

    For selection and service, Schneider’s on Capitol Hill ( is my fave.

  • For beer, I think it’s the Petworth Yes!. Great selection and prices.

    The worst is S&S next to the Takoma Metro. Everything is about $3 more expensive there.

    • Come on, now. Yes! has a fairly good selection of beer and it’s very convenient to me so I like it, but really it’s not even as good Lion’s a few blocks south on Georgia, let alone any number of other stores in DC.

      • But they fill growlers.

        • Lions has a growler station now as well. I think they have about 10 on tap.

          • The Yes market growler station is a joke. Prices are 50-100% too high, which means the beer has probably been sitting around too long, which negates the whole purpose of growlers.

            Yes also gets another deduction for just filling them from the tap – unlike Lions, which flushes everything with CO2 and fills the growler in a manner that will allow you to keep it for a day or three before you get around to drinking it.

          • Lions make it difficult if your growler isn’t the exact same size as the ones they sell, so much so that it makes it not worth it. Theirs are 64 ounces (1.89L), if memory serves correct, and mine is 2L, so for essentially a tenth of a liter difference (or 3.3 ounces) it’s this big deal that they don’t know how to deal with. Just charging me a little more, or not filling it up all the way is apparently too difficult.

        • Growlers are a scam. But yet, people keep buying them.

          • justinbc

            They’re done really poorly here, yeah. But in other cities with a better local beer culture (San Diego, Portland, Denver, etc) they rock.

      • I just think Yes! is super convenient, always has some great beers and is priced competitively. Usually that’s good enough for me. I bought a growler there a couple weeks ago and they threw in a free cup.

        Lions is a great liquor store. No doubt. It is a better liquor store. They have so many great options that I sometimes I don’t know what to get and I often leave with way more than I intended to buy and more than I can comfortably carry.

        If I am preparing for a big party or a weekend of football then I would go to Lions. But if it’s Tuesday and I’m looking to pick up some beer then I’ll just stop by Yes! I buy the 4 pack of 16 oz cans of Bell’s Oberon for $8.50. That will suit me just fine.

        • Indeed, I like it too as I said. But the question was “best liquor store” and I don’t think you can plausibly claim Yes! is the best. Technically not even a liquor store for that matter. It shouldn’t even be in this discussion is what I’m saying.

  • Costco has a surprisingly diverse (and well-priced) bourbon selection. Plus, great prices and selection on vodka. I agree about Harris Teeter for beer. Not much is more than $9/6-pack.

  • Windows (RI Avenue NW) for IPA/Craft Beer Selection

    Guilfords on 5th & RI for everything else. Love that place.

  • I have the good fortune to be moving from right near Lion’s (Parkview) to right near Schneider’s (Capitol Hill). Two great liquor stores nearby means I haven’t shopped around.

    (Exception: I did go to the Montgomery County liquor store for lower prices, but I imagine Costco dominates).

  • Honestly, I’d suggest going across the line to any of the DLC stores in MoCo. The one in Friendship Heights has particularly good selection and MoCo has some of the cheapest booze prices in the country. Cross the line into PGC however and those savings vanish. For DC proper, just in terms of more obscure stuff, I’d suggest Batch 13 on 14th and 1 West Dupont Circle Wines & Liquors on P Street. Though a tad out of the way, Ace is also a strong contender for best in DC based on depth of selection.

    • Worth noting, those MoCo savings are only for liquor. Beer and wine are generally cheaper in DC.

    • If you shop the sales, MoCo liquor stores have some great prices on liquor. Often better than DC, including Costco, for name-brand stuff. Beer selection is not good and sometimes very old. Buy beer in DC.

  • It is bit of a drive but Total Wine on Little River Turnpike @ 395 is good. Obviously mostly wine but the do have beer though I don’t know wide that selection is because I go there for wine.

    • The beer selection at Total Wine is really good. I think they just expanded it as well. One long wall of domestic and another long wall of imports.

    • They have a huge beer selectio as well.

    • There’s one in Laurel too, and it’s amazing. Me and my friends still call it Corridor, because that’s what it used to be called.

  • I’m a big fan of Sherry’s in Woodley Park. They have a fantastic whiskey selection including some great scotches. For wine, Cork Market is probably the best in the city.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      They also have a really good beer selection!

    • The beer selection at Calvert Woodley is crazy good – if you’re looking for an American craft beer, no matter what region, there’s a decent chance you’ll find it there. Imports are mostly InBev tho. Prices are in line with other DC liquor stores, but a little cheaper than D’Vines/De Vinos and other higher end stores.

      • Haha, meant Sherry’s in Woodley near Calvert. Calvert-Woodley is also a good option with great selection.

  • Serious question – anyone know if one can buy Milwaukees Best Ice 30 packs in DC? Never seen a place in the city that sells them…

    • I refuse to encourage and abet such a purchase.

    • I think you can at the Liquor store on Wisconsin and R – near the Safeway. When I walk by I always see large displays of massive packs of shit beer for sale.
      You need to go to stores near college campuses.

      • anonymouse_dianne

        Wagner’s in Georgetown sells 30 packs of Natural Lite. My go to liquor store in DC, they carry generic brand rum which is just fine for my cuba libre. Most of the time I trek out to MoCo because it is so much cheaper. Whole foods has cheap wines, and the cool make-your-own six packs for beer.

    • I can’t say for sure, but Dixie liquor (at the base of the Key bridge) would seem like a good bet. Find the liquor stores adjacent to the college campuses, that’s your best chance.

  • Schneider’s for sure

  • If you’re looking for mainstream items, then another vote for Costco. We bought all our wine, beer, liquor, and champagne at the Costco in DC for our wedding. They pulled all of it for us when we called in the order ahead of time for no extra cost. It was on a flat cart, boxed up, and ready to go. We priced many places and Costcos in MD and VA. The DC one was by far the cheapest. The champagne in particular was cheap. So much so, my mom from Ohio bought a case to take home after the wedding. Costco also lets you return any unopened bottles, which was a huge savings and freed us to buy us much to be safe. They even took back bottles where the label was falling off from being chilled, but never opened.
    For selection and knowledge, I prefer Schneider’s.

  • Best prices – Costco (for house vodka, gin, bourbon, tequila and other standard spirits)
    Best wine/beer – Ace Beverage
    Best service – Plain Old Pearson’s – they give a neighborhood discount, lots of tastings, will order anything – their wine selection is impressive as is knowledge, plus they are such a friendly bunch!

    • Plain Old Pearson’s also has an excellent vintage cellar if you are looking for a specific regional or varietal that is more than a few years old. It’s in the basement and they won’t let you go down to browse, but they will bring up rare finds if you’re willing to pay a few extra bucks.

  • “Quick! What’s your local liquor store? Thus proving that your neighborhood is The Best.”

    • Seriously- I love all the definitive, end-of-debate statements like “no contest” and “for sure.” WELL THAT SETTLES IT I GUESS.

    • Yea, all the votes for Costco are really showing us something nobody previously knew about Fort Lincoln. Did you know that housing is pretty cheap there to boot? You can get an ENTIRE paper-mache townhouse for under 500k!

  • I love Lion’s Liquors on Georgia Ave!!! Great beer selection, plenty of liquors, and most importantly, great customer service. The transformation of that space was truly impressive.

  • I just went to the new Eye Street Cellars 425 I street in Mt Veron Triangle. Really nice store (design, layout). prices were very reasonable and spirit selections pretty comprehensive.

    • I work nearby and I really like this place! The staff there is nice and seemed knowledgeable (and interested in customer feedback).

    • I wandered into Eye Street a few weeks ago on the off chance they’d have the specific tequila I usually get from Tunnel. My eyes about fell out of my head when I saw their selection – around 50 different kinds! Cheaper than Tunnel, too. Great variety of other liquors, cold beers, and ciders – can’t speak for the quality of the wine selection.

  • Connecticut Ave Wine and Liqour. I adore Al. He is awesome! Beer Advocate agrees!

  • Schneider’s on Capitol Hill.

  • Can we get nominations for most knowledgeable staff for wine recommendations? Having great recommendations for less than $15 is also key, and I haven’t found a great shop for this.

    • Calvert Woodley has served me really, really well for this. I’ve gone there on multiple occasions to tell them what I’m eating and how much I want to pay, and they’ve provided me with some of the best wine pairings I’ve ever had.

      Duck liver pate? Braised, breaded, and fried veal with polenta and sweet garlic? Strawberry and champagne terrine? They’ve got you covered.

    • The store I’m dreaming of opening.

    • The sommelier at Safeway on Wisconsin in Glover Park is really good. They have a pretty decent wine selection, and she can communicate with me (when I ask for “something that tastes good”) and with my boyfriend (who knows wines and can use the lingo).

    • Bell’s on M Street has a great wine selection and very knowledgeable staff.

  • Does anyone know of a store in DC that sells Genesee Cream Ale? Or Old Milwaukee? These seem to be very hard to find around here.

    • not sure about six-packs, but showtime in bloomingdale will serve you up a fine can of genesee.

      • Thanks. I’ve found Genesee at Wonderland too, but I’ve had to drive like 30 miles out of the city to find a 30-pack of Cream Ale.

  • I’m a big CW fan.

    I’d say the best downtown wine and liquor store is Bell Wine’s and Spirits. If you work at Farragut or DuPont. They have a great selections, and good sales 2-3x a year. Also they have some great tasting events.

  • Emmaleigh504

    I like A B Liquor store because they are CLOSE.

  • Lion’s on Georgia Avenue in Park View.

  • Magruders on Connecticut is hard to top. Plus you can get your produce shopping done too.

    • +1 – great selection of bourbons and scotches. Prices are a bit high, but I’ve been able to find some rare whiskeys and great deals on gin.

  • Costco has very good prices but I find that Calvert Woodley (Connecticut @ VanNess) is comparable for liquor.

  • MacArthur bev. In the palisades has one of the largest selections and their staff is as knowledgeable as they come. And not as sales driven as they seem at Schneider’s.

  • I find that Giant Liquor on Georgia Ave. has much better prices on liquor than Lion.

  • Lion’s is a pretty large store, so I was surprised when I finally went to check it out and it turned out that they don’t carry those little Kahlua pre-mixed drinks (White Russian, Toasted Almond, etc.). I used to go to a grocery store in Alexandria that had a much smaller selection but carried those Kahlua mixed drinks.

  • tonyr

    No love for Big Ben Liquors – thought not – as you were.

  • I know this “technically” count as DC, but the Montgomery County liquor store at the Friendship Heights station (under the Giant), has a great selection and prices about 30-40% lower than DC:

    • For some reason Bulleit bourbon is perpetually on sale there for $17, vs. like $25 in DC. I always stock up when I’m in MD.

  • While I have honestly not been to every liquor store in DC, I have to stick to my old favorite, Barrel House…good prices and selection and great staff…

  • Morris Miller!

  • Irving Wine and Spirits in MtP!!!

    • This place is amazing. Let’s just say that I live ridiculously close to this place. Everyone there from the unforgettable Herman, to the young owner Jesse, are fantastic, friendly, and knowledgeable. They have a really fantastic selection, at great prices. And the best part is that at Irving Wine & Spirits you can order online, and if they don’t have something, they’ll happily order it for you.

  • skj84

    MoCo Liquer Store for hard stuff. I live in Bethesda and have one within walking distance of my house. Or Costco when I can get out there. Their house brands are actually legit. I know that the Vodka is distilled by Grey Goose and much cheaper.

    I try to purchase beer and wine in DC if I can since Montgomery Country prices are way higher. I like Calvert Woodley, Divine’s and Divinos.

    • I tried to get into their “premium” brand vodka. It’s swill, honestly. I don’t know what Grey Goose has to do with it, but taking shots of Costco premium vodka hurts the soul.

      • bfinpetworth

        Skip their premium brand. Just buy their regular Sally Kirkland brand of vodka. We were hard core Ketel one or Grey Goose drinkers and I consistently choose the costco brand over either of them in blind taste tests. And I don’t mix, I drink it on the rocks. Just brought home a case of six 1.75 l bottles for a grand total of $88, including sales tax. That is so ridiculously cheap that it makes a Costco membership worth it all by itself.

        • skj84

          Yeah, its the Kirkland product I was talking about. I remember once seeing the Costco stuff on sale next to Grey Goose and it was a huge price difference! And most people don’t realize its pretty much the same thing.

          • The one with the red bottom is from the same distillery as Grey Goose, the other is from the Belvedere distillery.

        • Costco sells Tito’s now so GAME OVER!!

  • Potomac Wines and Spirits on M Street NW. This is the only place in DC that sells Paxaran – the sloe berry infused anisette from Spain. I am eternally grateful for this.

  • Lion Liquors on Georgia ave

  • TempleCt

    You’re all wrong! The best liquor store in DC is Costco hands down.

  • What? Y’all ain’t got no love for Sylvia’s and Roses? Well let it be known then! ; )

  • Good ol’ reliable just because of the name

  • Batch 13 is great! The 2 for $20 bin is solid, they have great small batch liquors, and the staff is super friendly and gives great recommendations. The staff is all from Georgia (the country) and they often have unique wines from other places than you typical California/France/Italy deal.

  • The folks at Lion’s are very nice and the prices can be good, but they often don’t have the ingredients I’m looking for (and while I’m a cocktail geek my needs aren’t always arcane). For examples, they tried to sell me two different fruit flavors of Cruzan when I wanted the blackstrap (which is a traditional style, not an added flavor), they didn’t have any Rhum Agricole other than 10 Cane (of which I’m not a fan), and twice they’ve had the other Chartreuse than the one I needed (when I needed Green they had Yellow, and vice versa).

    For price on common brands, Calvert-Woodley is hard to beat, but I haven’t been too impressed with their recommended substitutions for things they didn’t have. For overall selection and service, I go to Ace. And for booze by the handle I get Buffalo Trace and Beefeater at Costco. For Sunday hours I go to Cleveland Park Wines (AKA Cleveland Park Liquor), which has good service and a nice selection of specialty liquors – but prices run a few bucks over Ace and C-W, so I usually only end up there when I’m in Cleveland Park and in a hurry, or when it’s a Sunday, I need a particular ingredient, and Ace is closed.

    So yeah, Lion’s is a decent neighborhood liquor store and a much more pleasant shopping experience than any of the dingy places with a wall of bulletproof glass that line Georgia Ave, but it’s not the best liquor store.

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