Best Speakeasies in DC

David Hatef

While there are plenty of bars across the DC area and Prohibition is long gone, there’s something alluring about heading below ground or behind a false door to sip on crafted cocktails inside trendy and lively bars. While there are a few longstanding speakeasies in Washington, we’ve got your list to the top five hideaways in DC, all with an air of exclusivity and a soupçon of mystery.


With no clear signage to lead the way—like a true speakeasy—The Gibson is an anti-scene scene in Washington’s U Street corridor. Behind a simple black door, you’ll find Edison bulbs hanging over a black saddle leather bar and a mix of bar, booth and table seating in the two-room lounge. Highly-trained bartenders are invested in your tastes and interests, suggesting and curating drinks to satisfy your craft cocktail craving. Perfect for a low key date night or a spot to grab drinks before heading out to bar hop on U Street, The Gibson has become a DC legend. 


Located in the lower level of a Chinatown building and marked by a light globe emblazoned with Denson” at the top of the stairs, Denson Liquor Bar is an art-deco style bar with a strong speakeasy vibe. Inside, the bronze inlay tables and black and white tiling will make you feel like you’re in a scene out of The Great Gatsby, while the classic cocktail menu and elevated classic and comfort food menu will keep you hunkered down in one of the bar’s deep leather booths. If you want a dazzling scene and to drop in on the 1920s for a few hours, Denson Liquor Bar is the place.


Converted from a 127-year-old row house into a neighborhood Peruvian chicken joint, Chicken + Whiskey is an authentic South American restaurant with a whiskey bar tucked in the back. After enjoying this trendy spot’s signature chicken dishes, rinse your hands in the conveniently placed communal sink and push past the refrigerator door in the back of the restaurant to access the trendy bar serving nearly 70 whiskies and playing retro music from its collection of 1,500 vinyl records.


The Sheppard is a discreet second-floor bar in the heart of Dupont Circle with intimate lighting and minimal seating, making it feel like a true local’s spot. The menu-less format allows bartenders to curate twists on classic drinks, serving you something unique yet familiar and in line with your tastes. In speakeasy fashion, the Sheppard is tricky to locate, but if you look for a green light outside, above a relief of Senator Morris Sheppard, you’ll be led to a lobby and an escorted elevator ride to the small, dark, sexy space; enjoy the moment and leave your phone in your purse or pocket—no photos allowed.


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