McClellan’s Retreat is the District’s salute to American History’s most nonchalant General, best known for this trepidatious command approach - a disposition that endeared him to his troops. In the same vein, you’ll be easily charmed by this snug cocktail bar in the north Dupont Circle neighborhood, captained by a gang of spirited and bearded cocktail chefs who make one fine Old Fashioned.
OUR ARTICLEBY: Andrew Williams Contributing writer
During the Civil War Major General George Brinton McClellan, nicknamed “Young Napoleon,” became infamous for his excessive trepidation, a penchant that endeared him to his troops in the Union Army of the Potomac, while straining his relationship with President Lincoln. At one point, he expressed to his Commander-in-Chief during a face-to-face confrontation that his men needed to rest and refit, in response to Lincoln’s criticism of his cautious command style. He later lost his position and unsuccessfully delved into politics, running on an anti-war platform during a failed attempt to challenge the incumbent Lincoln.
McClellan’s Retreat is the modern-day manifestation of the General’s legacy: a quaint, laid back watering hole equipped to charm. Through warm dark wood, inviting red-accented leather chairs and stools, ornate low ceilings strewn with a criss-cross of colorful holiday string lights, and candle lanterns provoking just enough mood lighting, the bar exudes contentment.
We suggest setting the pace with a Mezcal-based drink because we’re suckers for that smoke.
With a cocktail menu that’s reimagined each month — a creative process driven by several spirited and bearded cocktail chefs, and arguably the best six-dollar happy hour Old Fashioned this side of the Potomac, McClellan’s Retreat gets it. If you stop in, it’s highly recommended to do things the “McClellan Way,” starting with that badass Old Fashioned and ending – once the sun sets – with a Belmont [piggyback rye, angostura amaro, Boomsma cloosterbitter, and crude big bear bitters] best described as “being wrapped in a red velvet robe.” However you move through the rest of the cocktail menu in-between is your prerogative. We suggest setting the pace with a Mezcal-based drink because we’re suckers for that smoke.
McClellan’s bartenders are loyal to the philosophy that delivering a great experience is 50 percent knowledge and 50 percent service, i.e. mastery of your craft and conversational dexterity. These self-described “purveyors of happiness” would make the lackadaisical General proud.
As one bartender describes it, the art of mixology “is like the difference between baking and cooking.” There’s definitely latitude to add ingredients when cooking, but baking (like a good craft cocktail) is about precision and an off-ingredient can completely change the flavor profile. This high standard makes McClellan’s Retreat a hero among its peers and CYTIES couldn’t be happier two history buffs decided to bring their concept to life.
The sidewalk seating is perfect for sipping and people watching
Order anything mezcal-based, cause they do it right
The Italian sandwich is stealthily amazing
Did we mention they have whiskey flights?