The Five Best Places I Drank Last Year
Updated: Jan 22
From Seattle to London, here's the lowdown on the five best restaurants, bars and speakeasies I went to in 2022.
Now, of course — the craft of the cocktail is paramount — but I also look at the overall atmosphere of where I'm imbibing as well as the overall value of the drink. Below are the five best places I drank last year. Of note, these are not in any particular order.
#1 - Camparino in Galleria
Located in Milan, Italy, Camparino in Galleria is a beautiful and historic setting in the heart of the city. As the name suggests, the focus of the establishment is the aperitif Campari, which was developed outside of Milan, while the venue itself is within the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. This bar was voted as the #73 bar in the world last year by World's 50 Best Bars.
The cocktail: I got the Campari Orange, which is considered a Camparino in Galleria classic. I kind of wanted a Negroni, but thought since I was there I would try something new (when in Rome...or Milan). It was low ABV so after touring the Duomo, it was light and refreshing. Would order again.
The atmosphere: Elevated. All of the staff, adorned in white jackets working expeditiously to get patrons their drinks, was a great vibe. This bar really makes you feel like you're in the middle of it all, which you are. The only downside, though, is the foot traffic that tracks in a good number of tourists, which can make it crowded at times. The service was quick and attentive as well.
#2 - DLeña
Opening up in Washington, D.C., in 2021, DLeña joined the ranks as another sophisticated Mexican restaurant in the nation's capital. When I first went to the restaurant, I had a pretty good meal but was worried how the place would differentiate itself among its competitors. Well, a few months after the restaurant opened, I found my answer: Roja. While the restaurant itself is one one floor, Roja is situated beneath the restaurant and is a mezcal lounge. This speakeasy-esque addition piqued my attention, and I'm glad I tried it out.
The cocktail: As the only cocktail on the menu with activated charcoal, the La Luna certainly stands out given its color. The combination of the mezcal, charcoal and Cointreau gives this cocktail a balanced, earthy taste. I was a little scared to drink this drink over the bar (it's leather), but I'm sure I wouldn't have been the first to spill.
The atmosphere: When I entered Roja for the first time, I did not feel like I was in Washington, D.C., at all. I felt like I was transported to Mexico and was on holiday. The dimly lit lounge, combined with leather couches and wood accents, are definitely a vibe that I'm into. To add to this, Roja also offers live music a few times a week. They don't take reservations, so make sure to get there early.
#3 - Deep Dive
Located at the base of The Spheres in Seattle, this bar was a little hard to find...kind of like a speakeasy, but then again, I'm not the best at directions. Interestingly, this bar is also an art installation, but I felt right at home. Deep Dive has a large menu it rotates seasonally, and what I liked about it is that they categorize their cocktails based on their flavor profiles: clean/elegant, bold/complex and rich/sour.
The cocktail: Unfortunately, the menu has changed since I was there, but I can tell you that both cocktails I had were incredible. Both times, I took the bartender's recommendations after she asked me what I like and don't like. At $20 a pop, though, they aren't cheap!
The atmosphere: If I wasn't literally sitting inside an art installation enjoying the artist's work and the interior itself wasn't immaculate, I wouldn't want to pay $20 for a cocktail. But hey, you have to treat yourself once in a while, right? Given this place is at the base of The Spheres, I felt like I was on another planet here. In a good way.
#4 - Cahoots
With it being my first time in London, I was a little overwhelmed with how many restaurants and bars there were - along with finding the good ones! Set right in the heart of Soho, I passed this place many times before realizing what it was (and getting a reservation!). After passing the bouncer, you go down a couple flights of steps into what was once a bustling tube station from several decades ago. Cahoots is really cool spot.
The cocktail: With an extensive menu, I had trouble deciding what to get. Since I was in London, I decided to go with a cocktail with gin in it — Charles-Edouard's Blessing. The dryness of the gin and the sweetness of the grape-apple cordial balanced out nicely, and I was glad I got it.
The atmosphere: Sitting in an abandoned tube station from the 1940s was certainly an experience. With so much history there, Cahoots plays along with the theme and I felt like I was living in the past. The bartenders and wait staff were witty and quick, which added to the experience.
#5 - Denson Liquor Bar
Last but not least, Denson Liquor Bar is located across the street from Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. The cocktails and ambiance here are some of the best in the city, tucked away underneath the busy streets. You might have trouble finding it the first time you go.
The cocktail: The menu here changes seasonally among some perennial favorites. I typically order off the menu, but there are times that I'm talking to the bartenders and they might suggest something that's new to me or something they want to try out. Pictured below is a white Negroni, which was fantastic. If you haven't had a white Negroni, it's more floral and less sweet than the traditional bright red cocktail.
The atmosphere: With black and white tiles and a backlit bar, this bar reminds me of somewhere Jay Gatsby would hang out. The bartenders and staff are also dressed up in white shirts and vests, which adds a classy and sophisticated touch to the already elegant interior and craft cocktails. This place gets busy before and after concerts and games at the arena, so that's worth keeping in mind when planning a visit.