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Experience the spirited side of Arlington with exquisite cocktails at these favorite local haunts.
If you appreciate the nuanced creativity of today’s mixology, you’ll love sampling the unique tastes, twists and local flavor of cocktails in Arlington. At these neighborhood establishments, you can observe the fine art of craft cocktail-making, and even pick up tips on how to create your own perfect libation.
For a speakeasy feel in Arlington’s Clarendon neighborhood, descend the steps into Baba, a retro-chic bar renowned for its mixology, Balkan small plates and desserts.
The fireplace-lit room, with its comfy leather chairs and black-and-white patterned floor, is classic and intimate. And the extensive cocktail menu features innovative new recipes daily that rely on “Baba's Secret-punch,” said Marijana Skerlić, owner. Fix Me Up is a vodka espresso concoction “set to zing and wake you up, served up with marshmallow and chocolate crunch.” Zastava Sidecar includes plum rakia, lemon, jalapeno orange liqueur and hibiscus syrup. It’s “gently spicy and aromatic with a sweet lemon hibisicus nish.”
“Baba is using unique techniques, rare liquors and fresh ingredients to bring to Clarendon flavors from all over the world,” Skerlić said.
With more than 50 board games, The Board Room in Clarendon lets you brush up on old-school classics like Monopoly, Pictionary and Yahtzee that play nicely with boozy drinks. It’s game on with Mules Against Humanity, a vodka lime juice and ginger beer mix. A mixture of tequila, grapefruit, lime juice and grapefruit soda is called Park Place Paloma.
On the first and third Monday of each month, you can play Drag Queen Bingo (“Honey... this ain’t your Grandma’s Bingo!”) hosted by the “beautiful and hilarious” Crystal Edge and Katrina Colby. Adults can win free cocktails and other prizes, and it’s $5 to play.
Fyve, at The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City, is known as Arlington’s “Best Cocktail Bar Secret,” says Arlington Magazine. Within walking distance of the Pentagon and named after its five sides, Fyve is home to renowned Head Mixologist and 20-year Ritz-Carlton veteran, Robert Taylor.
Referencing the Pentagon’s famous nickname, the hotel’s signature Puzzle Palace cocktail is sure to tempt bourbon lovers. You can try a Levitating Cocktail that changes color as the ingredients are mixed. Sample a special creation called FDR that’s a mixture of gin, St. Germain, butterfly pea tea and lemon juice. And if you’re ready to channel your own inner mixologist, sign up for a Cocktails by Robert Taylor afternoon class, offered monthly.
Made with a secret family recipe, the Sophisticated Margarita at Guapo’s is for those who love a cocktail with some zing. The recipe was perfected by the Rincon family, which founded its capital area Tex-Mex restaurants in 1988, and it quickly became the Shirlington neighborhood restaurant’s most popular cocktail. Guapo’s makes them by the gallon at the energetic bar that’s also known for mojitos and plates of fajitas, burritos and quesadillas.
Guapo’s appeal at cocktail hour is good drinks, the chance to mingle and inexpensive prices, said Sofinias Diaz, the restaurant’s manager and former bartender. The secret of Guapo’s margarita is its constancy, Diaz said. “Customers from other states come for margaritas because they know.”
SER, in Arlington’s Ballston neighborhood, features a wide array of specialty cocktails that complement its popular menu of authentic Spanish comfort foods. Unique specialties include mint-infused brandy and house-made vermouths, said Dimitri Brinza, manager. You can try the vermouths on the rocks or in a cocktail.
Or, indulge in Pippi Longstocking’s Sippycup, with rum and a sherry vinegar-strawberry shrub – the kind of drinking vinegar that gives a drink a summery flavor. Another special cocktail, The Campos Rose, has gin, elderflower, lime juice and rose bitters. Or, you can spice things up with the Nerva Quickstep, made with Absolut Citron vodka, white grape juice, and lime-, cayenne pepper- and black pepper bitters.
A quintessential gathering place in Arlington’s Columbia Pike neighborhood, William Jeffrey’s Tavern elevates the cocktail experience with special touches like liquor pickled with fresh ingredients. From its Corpse Reviver #2 (with gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, absinthe rinse and lemon, served up) to the XXX Adult Hot Chocolate (brandy, aged rum, spiced cream, honey and house-made marshmallow), you can sample a diverse range of specialties. For a take on Bermuda’s unofficial drink, check out the tavern’s Dark & Stormy – Demerara Rum, house-made ginger beer and fresh lime.
A make-your-own Bloody Mary bar during brunch also means you can mix it up just the way you like, with house-infused vodkas (pickled garlic, horseradish or habanero) and choices of 30 ingredients. And if you’re more in the mood for a draft, William Jeffrey’s offers a 16-tap bar with a wide-ranging selection of local, national and international brewers.
In the heart of Arlington’s Clarendon neighborhood, Wilson Hardware pays homage to the old Virginia Hardware store that occupied the location from the 1960s through early 2000s. This three-story venue – with a warehouse vibe, exposed brick and a rooftop bar – is a perfect spot for sipping on an eclectic selection of signature and slushy cocktails. For fan feedback, see reviews on EaterDC.
Hardware-themed specialties include the Adjustable Wrench (bourbon, rum, vanilla and chocolate bitters), Nailed It (bourbon, peach, lemon) and Permit Denied (Draft), made with tequila, watermelon, lime, agave and mint. These are alongside favorites like the Moscow Mule, Dark and Stormy, and more.
Author: Kathleen Murphy