In the late 1700s, Alexandria, Va., was one of the 10 busiest ports in the fledgling United States — even serving as an official point of entry for ships from foreign lands. While Alexandria’s maritime traffic subsided long ago, the impact of being a nautical culture endures in Old Town, especially when it comes to that favorite pastime of sailors — enjoying a good stiff drink.
Here are five of Old Town’s top spots for just that:
Speakeasy-inspired PX is a must visit from mixologist Todd Thrasher and chef Carthal Armstrong, who have teamed up to create some of Alexandria’s best-known eating and drinking establishments. If you want to lounge in PX’s 1920s ambiance, sipping custom-made cocktails at a staple of “best bars in America” lists (and you do!), make your reservation here ASAP. Like right now. This article will be here when you get back.
Situated in the Hotel Indigo Old Town Alexandria, the breezy Hummingbird (also created by Thrasher and Armstrong) has quickly become a favorite happy-hour spot for both locals and travelers alike. On weekdays, happy hour at the bar runs from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. and even guests with their backs facing the Potomac River get a water view due to strategically placed mirrored bar cabinets. While the focus here is on classic cocktails with high-end ingredients, you may find a slushie-style piña colada or Cosmo too alluring to pass up.
Mason Social opened in 2015 as a gathering spot for the diverse new community that was moving into and revitalizing the one-time industrial area of Old Town called Parker-Gray. Its bustling bar scene shows that it’s been well received. Eight house-signature cocktails cover the major liquors, usually pairing them with a bit of fruit flavor, such as the Mason Punch with vodka, house-made honey tarragon syrup and grapefruit juice. The classic cocktail leans heavily on whiskey-based drinks, like the Old Fashioned, Sazerac and Boulevardier, with a mojito and Pimm’s cup offering lighter touches.
Magnolia’s on King
If plush fireside seating in a bright red room with potted palms in Magnolia’s on King’s Palm Lounge doesn’t transport you to the South, then a sip of one of its signature drinks — such as The Charleston, Southern Hospitality or a mint julep — surely will. Located on the second floor of a 200-year-old historic building on Old Town’s bustling King Street, the lounge’s whiskey-focused cocktail menu features creative concoctions alongside classics. If you’re in town on a Wednesday, Magnolia on King’s half-priced whiskey flights provide a great opportunity to compare different varieties of the brown liquor.
This bistro and market are from the same team behind PX, so, yes, Society Fair demands a visit — especially if you weren’t able to land a spot at PX but want to taste what the fuss is all about. Society Fair’s whiskey and wine cocktail — Sauternes (a French sweet wine), whiskey, bourbon and lemon bitters — is one of the rare instances where you should mix those alcohols. Drinks here are just $5 during happy hour (4 to 9 p.m. on Mondays, 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays). If you’re looking to bring back a taste of Old Town’s cocktail scene to your friends (or for your own bar), Society Fair’s market sells artisan cocktail mixes from the mixologist behind PX.