We Love Drinks: W Wine Bar

Barscape, W Hotel Washington

"Barscape, W Hotel Washington" by Jenn Larsen on Flickr

It took me a while to return to the W Hotel after my first look back in July. Katie’s second look confirmed it was going to be a sleek and chic scene. But what about the drinks?

When I ask people what they think about drinks at the W, I tend to get the same response – “Love the view. Hate the line.” They’re referring to POV and its roof terrace, of course, both featuring a killer view of our fair city. POV is still going strong, even as the weather turns chilly. The hotel plans to keep the roof terrace open year-round, thanks to heat lamps and a new awning. So if you don’t have a reservation up top, most likely on peak nights you will end up waiting in a labyrinthine line snaking through the Living Room. That is, unless you just do the sensible thing – plan in advance and make a reservation.

But the most important thing to remember about a night of drinks at the W – it’s not just about POV. There’s a snug little bar tucked away beneath J&G Steakhouse that’s perfect for a rendezvous or two. Biggest surprise? Shssh – the drinks experience may actually be better.

On my visits to the W Wine Bar, I keep noticing the outside. There’s a large expanse of sidewalk space just begging to be transformed into an outdoor patio. A long marble bar lines the windows, which on balmy nights are opened allowing you to sit on either side. It feels rather European. Word is that the outside space will indeed be revamped for seating, which if done right could make this little wine bar a hot spot to rival upstairs.

Wine Bar, W Hotel Washington

"Wine Bar, W Hotel Washington" by Jenn Larsen on Flickr

But for now, it’s small and cosy, warmly lit to make everyone beautiful and populated with a charmingly attentive staff. With a choice of long communal table in the center or intimate side tables, it morphs from boisterous dinner party to quiet relaxed date night depending on the crowd.

The cocktail list here is a little different than the list at POV and is also more expansive. The W wanted to differentiate between the two experiences. Contrary to what one might expect, I’m not a heavy drinker, so in order to try as many cocktails as possible I enlisted the help of a friend – let’s call him The Librarian – to help give you a taste.

First off, the Calvados Sidecar.

Calvados Sidecar, W Hotel Washington

"Calvados Sidecar, W Hotel Washington" by Jenn Larsen on Flickr

Made with Dupont Fine calvados, cointreau and lemon juice, with a rim dusted with cinnamon and sugar, I found this immensely sippable and pretty as well. I’m not a fan of sweet drinks, so I admire any cocktail that manages to slip the sweet on the side without overwhelming my tastebuds.

The Librarian went for the Pisco Sour, which delighted us both with its visual design. At $9 it’s also one of the more affordable on the list, featuring BarSol pisco, lime juice, egg white, Angostura bitters and nutmeg.

Pisco Sour, W Hotel Washington

"Pisco Sour, W Hotel Washington" by Jenn Larsen on Flickr

Egg whites are really coming back on drinks list, but many straddle the line between luscious and, well, disgusting. The use of egg whites in this cocktail is perfect, not too whipped, not too flat.

Anytime I see chartreuse on the menu I jump. I love the return of old-fashioned ingredients and just had to try the Yellow Jacket – Partida Reposado tequila, St. Germain elderflower, yellow chartreuse, Reagan’s No. 6 orange bitters, and prosecco. There’s a lot going on in that glass. I was slightly disappointed it wasn’t served in a flute or tulip – bring out the bubbles! But, I loved the combination and anything with bitters makes me happy.

The Librarian took a sip and declared, “Redolent of Ricola.” But what does he know? Get back to the stacks! He was much happier with the Lychee Raspberry Bellini (currently the most popular on the menu according to our server) with lychee raspberry purée and Zardetto prosecco. It had a lovely scent as well as flavor.

I’m eager to return to the W Wine Bar as my downtown happy hour spot, and hopeful that promised outside patio is in place for next spring. It’s doubtful there will ever be a velvet rope or a line for this intimate bar – there’s no crazy sexy scene, no breathtaking view – just a cosy nook to enjoy some interesting cocktails and catch up after a long slog at work. Just what we downtown workerbees need.

Wine Bar at J&G Steakhouse, W Hotel Washington
515 15th St NW
Washington, DC 20004

As one of the founding editors of We Love DC, Jenn’s passions are theater and cocktails. After two decades in the city, she’s loved every quirky, mundane, elegant, rude minute of her DC life. A proud advocate for DC’s talented drinks scene, she’s judged the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s ARTINI contest, the DC Rickey Month contest, the Jefferson Hotel’s Quill Cocktail competition, and is a founding member of LUPEC DC. A graduate of Catholic University’s drama program, she toured the country as a member of National Players, and has been both an actor and a costume designer before jumping the aisle to theater criticism. Writing for We Love DC restored her happiness after a life-threatening illness, and she’s grateful to you, dear readers. Send your suggestions to jenn (at) welovedc (dot) com and follow her on Twitter.

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9 thoughts on “We Love Drinks: W Wine Bar

  1. When I was there for the second look piece, I asked about that patio space and they said (and this was summer) that they were having a hard time with zoning, and how many feet from the bar DC allows you to have alcohol, but that they do want to turn it into a patio eventually.

  2. Yes indeed, Katie, and they are still committed to it. Earlier this month I was told by the W that they are working through the paperwork and hope to have outdoor seating soon. Fingers crossed, we know how permits can go in this town!

  3. I think it’s criminal to give business to the W Hotel in DC. Their door practices for letting people into the bar are ridiculous. I was meeting friends staying at the hotel on a Saturday afternoon at 2 pm. Despite there not being a single person in line, I was told that I needed to be put on a list to go up to the roof. And I was repeatedly questioned if I had a reservation, even though I indicated I was meeting hotel guests who were already there. The funny thing was that POV was almost empty according to my friends who were waiting for me. This isn’t the first time I’ve had issues with this. Their customer service, combined with outrageous drink prices, means I won’t be returning…and I won’t be recommending any out of town guests stay there anymore. Sad really, as I LOVE the other W properties around the country.

  4. Thanks for the comment, netwerqq. I do want to reiterate though that this is a review for the wine bar, not for POV. But I’m curious to hear others’ experiences of both.

  5. Sorry, should have clarified. I understood your point, but being part of the same establishment, I wanted to offer that POV (pun somewhat intended). But, to clarify and in fairness, I have not been to the wine bar.

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