When I first read George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, I imagined the battles and betrayals and spectacles playing out cinematically inside my head until the books turned into the smash HBO series Game of Thrones. Now Drink Company has turned that show into a pop-up bar that puts you right in the middle of seven desperate kingdoms vying for a crown.
The Game of Thrones Pop-Up Bar at 1839-1843 7th St. NW in Washington, D.C., is impossible to miss, if not for the painted windows that glow like stained glass from the inside, then for the epic line of fans that will often snake several blocks down the street. Steel yourself for a wait of several hours if you plan to take on this adventure. If you make it far enough down the line alive, a staffer with a shirt appropriately reading Night’s Watch will sign you up for a text alert to get a photo op on the Iron Throne. The wait for that is even more epic.
Once I finally stepped through that doorway, it was as if the outside world no longer existed. This was no city street at dusk. This was the Godswood. I now found myself beneath a tangle of twisting branches and blood-red leaves that reached across the ceiling from the eerie face of a weirwood that cried tears of crimson sap. Bartenders in leather and chain mail, who could have easily been extras on the show, rushed back and forth. The infamous three-eyed raven (this was more of a comical googly-eyed version) was perched on one branch, watching at an awkward angle. The Rains of Castamere echoed in the background. I really was in the Seven Kingdoms.
To further convince me I was in another realm were cosplayers who appeared to have been as much a part of the scenery as the dragons and wolves. There were several men who had obviously taken the black, along with a reflection of Daenerys Targaryen in her signature blue silk. I think I might be one of the rare female fans who has no interest in emulating Daenerys; I’m more of a Yara Greyjoy.
Even the wall behind me was not a wall, but The Wall, with a Wildling axe embedded in the “ice” above my head. On the other side of The Wall is the House of Black and White, where the creepy impressions of dead faces that the Faceless Men wear to morph into someone else are actually casts of Drink Company employees. The attention to detail that went into making this constantly transforming space into several scenes straight out of Winterfell, Braavos, the Red Keep, Mereen, King’s Landing, and the icy wastes beyond the Wall is astounding. A direwolf howls into the night from a shadowy corner of the bar. Skulls—one with a crown on as if mocking a fallen king—and the macabre gilded masks of the Sons of the Harpy line the shelves right next to dozens and dozens of liquor bottles.
Speaking of liquor, it’s not every day you trade in your daiquiri for a Dothraquiri. Every drop of the fantasy that went into the atmosphere is also infused into the drinks. Even the prep is something of a performance. It only makes sense to torch a pod of star anise before dropping it in the middle of a drink influenced by a fire-breathing beast. The Dothraquiri is not the only libation that makes an entrance. Order the tequila-and-grapefruit tonic otherwise known as Shame, and your bartender will ring the same bell that followed Cersei down her very public and very naked walk of shame, and shout Shame! Shame! Shame! along with half the patrons. The North Remembers and Lady Mormont are served in drinkware that could have been passed to you from a tavern in Westeros. Unfortunately, no amount of Lannister gold will buy such ware, so your ID will be held hostage until you hand the mug back.
Even the receipt says, "A Lannister always pays his debts."
You don’t even have to drink a Dracarys to appreciate the spectacle that is the dragon, though a mini dragon will be perched on the edge of your glass if you order this fiery concoction. Dragons are pretty much mandatory in a Game of Thrones bar. The (almost) living symbols of House Targaryen are kept in the back, and whether it’s the impressive head of Drogon breathing smoke in its purple glow or the mural of these fantastical beasts frozen in fire and blood on the wall, you will waste an excessive amount of time being mesmerized by them as you await that royal text.
The Red Keep is a no less awesome place to wait out your turn to sit upon the Iron Throne. Every color of every house whose flag is on that brick wall is also suspended from a ceiling lit by lamps that flicker like candles. Pass the time by taking a selfie next to your House. The blood of House Greyjoy flows through my veins, because tentacles. Not to mention my mother’s family name, which literally translates to “ironchild.” It was almost as monumental an Instagram moment as the Throne itself. Almost.
When my phone finally lit up with that magical text, I made my way through the masses to the Throne Room, both grander and darker than I expected, painted with symbols of the Great Houses on its walls and a wink to the Red Wedding that reads "Drink Company sends their regards" in a blaze of red. I asked the Night’s Watchman at the door whether the Throne was the same one that’s taken a tour of endless cities and conventions (and which I’d ruled from once before), and was surprised to hear that it was designed to Drink Company’s specifications, almost as if Tywin Lannister ordered it himself.
I had one minute to capture that moment as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, and slipped on the fur coat that made me look that much more imposing. I’m glad the one prop they didn’t offer was Joffrey’s crown. That would have given me the chills.
You would think this place would have viewings to remember, but they actually close early every Sunday so everyone can turn on their own TV to see who dies next.
If you can make it to D.C. before the Game of Thrones PUB vanishes forever on Aug. 27, it is worth every moment of the trek, and the wait just to walk into a realm that previously existed only between George R.R. Martin’s pages and on HBO. I mourn its tragically short existence, and implore Drink Company to bring this place here to NYC—I mean, the North.
If you won't be able to climb The Wall to get there, get a virtual tour with our photo gallery below.