1015bars_cocktail_hed, best bars in virginia
Highline RxR (Photo by Robert Merhaut)

The B Side
The B Side exudes cool. Diners can enjoy a music-themed spot (all the drinks are named after, what else, B-sides) that doesn’t overdo it. The speakers pump out vinyl albums ranging from modern artists like Band of Horses and classics like Joy Division. Specialty cocktails like The 59th Street Bridge, featuring a combination of Maker’s Mark, cabernet syrup, lemon and egg white for a smooth, crisp finish, are worth the money and rule this menu. / 8298 Glass Alley, Fairfax

Highline RxR
The Highline RxR features a long bar with an equally long drink list that caters to Crystal City’s after-work set. And the expansive Highline is a place to relax. Customers will find pinball games like Ms. Pac-Man, graffiti-style decor behind the bar and big-screen TVs. Specialty cocktails are a true highlight. The signature Highline cocktail is a dynamic blend of rye, fresh lemon, orange bitters and a housemade pomegranate syrup all served over ice. / 2010 Crystal Drive, Arlington

Look for the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it blue light on top of a white door frame around the corner from Eamonn’s, ring the doorbell, and a server will escort you up to the ultra-exclusive PX. The lights are low, the space buzzes with lively chatter, and the innovative cocktails rock. Consider trying the inventive Wet Money, a mix of grapefruit juice, lemon syrup, white rum, blue curacao and salt water. Reservations are recommended as space is limited. / 728 King St., Alexandria

Copperwood Tavern
Step back in time at this spot with a strong Western theme. Expect wood everywhere—pieces salvaged from a real barn were used to create the wall behind the bar—and taxidermy, too. Little details count here. Each patron is given a complimentary small bucket of spiced popcorn to munch on. Classic cocktails with regional ingredients like the Commonwealth (not Moscow) Mule are the highlight here. Drinkers who like it very strong can even order moonshine. / 4021 Campbell Ave., Arlington

Clarity (Photo by Rey Lopez) best bars in virginia, cocktail bars
Clarity (Photo by Rey Lopez)

This Vienna cocktail bar dishes out creative offerings in a sleek setting. Two bars provide two different views: bottles or the open kitchen. The bar is made with gleaming copper. Many cocktail ingredients, like the tonic, are made in-house, and guests can savor dynamic creations like the savory and, yes, a little salty Montana—a blend of Ketel One vodka, Aperol, cocchi American, bay leaf syrup, preserved lemon and a blow-torched bay leaf. / 442 Maple Ave. E, Vienna

Green Pig Bistro
A mostly local crowd fills the retro (imagine a classic Paris cafe) but modern Green Pig Bistro. Small touches make all the difference. Decor includes bowls of lemons and limes on the counter, an antique taphead and pages from James Beard and Julia Child cookbooks serving as wallpaper. Cocktails rotate seasonally and tend to feature fruit. A prime example is the Lavender in Blue, grapefruit-infused gin mixed with housemade lavender tonic. / 1025 N. Fillmore St., Arlington

Bartenders Tell Us What Makes a Good Bar?

Kristiana Hadley @ Jammin Java
“I like a more laid-back environment. I don’t like it to be one of those crazy packed clubs where you have to scream your head off to get attention. It always makes a difference to me when the bartender will acknowledge you or something like that so you’re not just a random face. If you can have a conversation with somebody, that’s always nice.”

Melissa Gerlach @ W.K. Hearth
“A good selection of different drinks, but also really an atmosphere of hospitality—that you’re welcome when you walk in and that the servers are paying attention to the details of what they’re doing.”

Katie Nigsch @ Mad Fox Brewery
“Selection and knowledge are huge. That goes for anything. That goes for cocktails. That goes for beer. And just knowledge, but also just being a nice person. You can joke around … Nothing is worse than walking into a place where they have no idea where the beer’s from and what it tastes like.”

(October 2015)