Developing a molecular view of the thermodynamics of DNA recognition is essential to the design of ligands for regulating gene expression. In a first comprehensive attempt at sketching an atlas of DNA–drug energetics, we present here a detailed thermodynamic view of minor-groove recognition by small molecules via a computational study on 25 DNA–drug complexes. The studies are configured in the MMGBSA (Molecular Mechanics-Generalized Born-Solvent Accessibility) framework at the current state of the art and facilitate a structure–energy component correlation. Analyses were conducted on both energy minimized structures of DNA–drug complexes and molecular dynamics trajectories developed for the purpose of this study. While highlighting the favorable role of packing, shape complementarity, and van der Waals and hydrophobic interactions of the drugs in the minor groove in conformity with experiment, the studies reveal an interesting annihilation of favorable electrostatics by desolvation. Structural modifications attempted on the ligands point to the requisite physico-chemical factors for obtaining improved binding energies. Hydrogen bonds predicted to be important for specificity based on structural considerations do not always turn out to be significant to binding in post facto analyses of molecular dynamics trajectories, which treat thermal averaging, solvent, and counterion effects rigorously. The strength of the hydrogen bonds retained between the DNA and drug during the molecular dynamics simulations is 1 kcal/mol. Overall, the study reveals the compensatory nature of the diverse binding free energy components, possible threshold limits for some of these properties, and the availability of a computationally viable free energy methodology which could be of value in drug-design endeavors.