Prohibition (which made alcohol illegal) began in the 1920s, and it didn't take long for speakeasies to follow.
The people had to get their alcohol fix, and they wanted to do so without having to see a doctor first—understandably.
So, they came up with a solution: secret, illicit bars around town that remained hush-hush.
The bars, known as speakeasies, "bling pigs," "blind tigers," or gin joints, started popping up everywhere. It's safe to say the secret's out—we love speakeasies still today!
What are the best Washington DC speakeasies? Where can you have a drink in a place so private, it doesn't even boast a social media page?
Well, we did the leg work for you.
We scoured the internet, consulted with our friends and family, and compiled a list of the best of the best. Here, you can drink in dimly-lit corners of Washington DC while transporting yourself back to the 20s.
Drink up after hours—and don't you dare post a photo on your Instagram! Part of what makes speakeasies so amazing is how elusive they are.
Once you find this place, you'll be glad you did.
When in Shaw, you'll notice an unassuming doughnut shop called Sugar Shack.
Don't worry—this is only where the fun begins. Instead of getting your sugar fix, take an elevator downstairs.
Here, you'll find Nocturne, a French-inspired, underground (in more ways than one) bar.
They offer a variety of drinks that span the globe, and they serve them all in beautiful glassware.
Located at 1932 9th St NW.
2. 600 T. St. NW
Stay in Shaw and head to this address, which doubles as the name of this basement bar.
It's cozy, and we mean it! Not only is it in the basement, Nocture-like, but it's got a fireplace to warm you up alongside your cocktails.
600 T is perhaps the most speakeasy-ish of the speakeasies on this list.
Not only is there no name, no phone number, and no social media presence, but there's no sign indicating you've arrived, either. Rely on the word-of-mouth of your friends to ensure you've come to the right place.
Located at, well, you already know.
This dark, Alice in Wonderland-themed bar is intimate as can be.
First, make your way to Eaton Workshop, which is a progressive hotel/coworking space.
Then, make your way to the back of the said hotel, where you'll find a wall of inconspicuous books. Now, peek behind the bookcase.
And once you've done that, you can say you've arrived at the infamous Allegory.
The bar, like its entryway, is literary-themed (hence the Alice in Wonderland mural it displays). The cocktails are named after famous novels. If you're into books, this is your go-to spot.
Located at 1201 K St NW #1.
4. Left Door
When you come upon a set of two doors, make sure you don't take the right one—your evening will be a lot less adventurous.
Left Door is an aptly-named speakeasy. At 1345 S Street NW, you'll see double doors. Go right if you need to pick up your dry cleaning.
Or, you can open the left door and enter the 1920s.
This bar is intimate, filling up quickly, which only adds to its allure.
The bartenders are certified mixologists, making drinks that are anything but the staples you're used to.
Go here for creative takes on your favorite cocktail. Stay for the low-key, shadow-heavy vibes.
You know where it's located.
5. Off the Record
What a perfect name for a speakeasy, huh?
Off the Record is located right across the street from the White House—a fitting juxtaposition.
Go to the Hay-Adams hotel and stay for its bar, which is commonly filled up with politicians.
It feels like a speakeasy should—just the right amount of glitz and glam balanced out by table lamps, vintage rugs, and red booths. Even still, it's been named one of the "World's Best Hotel Bars" by Forbes. Here, you'll be seen, not heard.
Located at 800 16th St NW.
6. Harold Black
Want to feel like a spy on a secret mission before you grab a drink?
Then Harold Black is just the space for you.
First, you've got to find and then enter through a secret, sliding wall. Once inside, you'll find a dimly-lit bar (are you sensing a theme?), world-class cocktails, and a light fare menu.
Their "house rules" include things like taking a break from your phone, keep your voices down, and you can take photos—without flash.
We truly appreciate a place that values socializing (albeit quietly). Take a break from your work and your Insta-scrolling and honestly look at the person in front of you.
Located at 212 7th St SE.
7. The Alex Craft Cocktail Cellar and Speakeasy
Well, based on the name, you know this one's got to be on this list of Washington DC speakeasies!
Another hotel bar, The Alex, sits inside the Graham hotel. Their menu boasts "farm-to-glass" (that's a thing now, apparently), drinks served in dimpled glasses, and an extensive food menu to boot.
This little Victorian hideaway features patterned walls, sapphire-blue, velvet curtains, and candles on every table.
Located at 1075 Thomas Jefferson St NW.
These Are Some of the Best Washington DC Speakeasies—Can You Find More?
Put on your best flapper dress or suit and tie and head off to one of these illicit joints.
Sip cocktails, sit on plush leather couches and don't tell a soul.
Or, how about you make your own speakeasy right at home? Scout the best Washington DC speakeasies for inspiration, then go home and throw an elusive bash.
Click here to see how you can throw a grand party even in a small apartment.