Craft Cocktail Bars are Shaking Things Up

A neighborhood-by-neighborhood guide to some of Seattle's best cocktail bars
A.J. Rathbun  |   August 2013   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
Canon seattle best cocktails in seattle seattle magazine
Canon’s Jaime Boudreau puts a modern spin on the classics

Clever Bottle

A welcome oasis of simplicity and style off the chaotic Second Avenue corridor, this bar leans toward hardwoods, chalkboard menus and cocktails with house-made ingredients, which are buoyed by a food menu of small bites and local faves, such as Beecher’s mac and cheese. The drink menu from owner Kristen Burns (former manager at the Space Needle’s SkyCity restaurant) has some seasonal changes and some standbys—all well balanced and made with care. The Jamestown cocktail, which combines mezcal, Salizá amaretto, curaçao and house clove spice bitters ($10), is a dandy example. Sip it slowly and relax a little. 21 + only. 2222 Second Ave.; 206.915.2220;

Rob Roy
A dimly lit 1950s lounge atmosphere, very friendly bartenders, cozy leather-backed bar stools, a boar’s head on the wall and impeccably tip-top cocktails that change with the season under the watchful eye of amazing owner and bar star Anu Apte (formerly of Vessel) make this bar ideal after a long day of work. Have a cup of the renowned Gunpowder Punch (a house rum blend, gin, citrus, sugar, mystery spices and, yes, actual gunpowder; $10), chat about this and that with your bartender, have one of the small snacks or a handful of Goldfish (the cracker, that is), and the day’s worries rapidly vanish. 21+ only. 2332 Second Ave.; 206.956.8423;

At this long and lean establishment, with its throwback tin-plated ceiling above a bar, which sits about 12, plus a few small tables and booths, the bartenders, under bar manager Leroy Thomas (previously of Mercato Ristorante in Olympia), make the standards flawlessly—including excellent old fashioneds with High West or other fine whiskey (price depending on the type of whiskey you choose). But also try one of its more daring mixtures, such as the Arugulito, with arugula, gin, simple syrup and fresh black pepper ($9). A pizza place with full pies and other pizzeria fare, it also always has slices available. 21+ only after 9 p.m. 2228 Second Ave.; 206.448.2625;


It’s nice to know that one can revel in a bit of Italian-inspired friendliness and bella taste in a glass (grazie, bar manager Adam Fortuna) without leaving the city. And while sitting at the white-tiled bars, nibbling on a piece of Columbia City Bakery filone with artisan olive oil (from a rotating selection) or another Italian-inspired treat, exchanging pleasantries with the bar staff, and sipping one of the trusty drinks, such as a Punctured Bicycle, with its trio of Italian stalwarts, Campari, Cynar and Prosecco ($13), isn’t exactly the same as getting on a plane and flying to southern Europe, it will transport you. 21+ only. 1535 14th Ave.; 206.678.2516;

Even though it can be a bit clamorous at times, don’t think this south-of-the-border stalwart is solely about the tacos and the clattering crowd. A fairly dependable rotating list of drinks, such as the Marmalade Sour—a combo of tequila blanco, orange marmalade, lemon, lavender bitters and egg white ($11)—demonstrates in a tangy, frothy fashion that the bar staff, under revered bar manager Casey Robinson, has a devotion to inventive and clever Mexican-inclined cocktails. 1420 12th Ave.; 206.588.8105;

This place emanates elegance, from the dark wood bar to the iron accents to the Eater Award–winning bathroom, harking to a bygone era without being stuffy. It also has a changing menu of fine cocktails from maestro bar manager and co-owner Jaime Boudreau, who utilizes modern techniques to create classical drinks. Take the Canon Cocktail, which brings rye, Ramazzotti amaro and Cointreau foam ($10) together in perfect harmony. The food, ranging from angostura-bourbon nuts to flatbread à la greco with braised lamb, niçoise olives, feta, oregano and arugula, is nearly as intriguing as the drinks. 21+ only. 928 12th Ave.; 206.552.9755;

Knee High Stocking Company
This intimate spot, in the hands of Jack Valko, offers plenty of cocktails on a changing list that completes a 1920s mood, like the savory and tangy Midnight in the Garden. Classically-minded, this drink’s provocative mixture of Hendrick's gin, lime, cucumber, and rhubarb bitter ($12) is a keen match to a bar that you’ll need to buzzed in to, in somewhat mysterious style, before even opening the menu. To provide a bit of base for the cocktails, the food leans toward snazzy comfort food, such as the “tots” with coriander ketchup and garlic aioli. 21+ only. 1356 E Olive Way; 206.979.7049;

Liberty is one of the most comfortable bars on the Hill, a true neighborhood joint with commodious couches and an affable personality that reflects those of its convivial co-owners and bartending geniuses, Andrew Friedman and Keith Waldbauer. Liberty is an early adapter of any and all imbibable innovations that translate to better drinks on its seasonal list. A recent example are its barrel-aged cocktails, such as the Emerald City, a provocative number with cognac, Carpano Antica vermouth and green Chartreuse that’s been mixed and aged in oak before serving ($12). Though it seems an odd pairing at first, there’s also some delicious sushi on the menu to accompany your cocktail. 21+ only. 517 15th Ave. E; 206.323.9898;

The drinks here, concocted under the guidance of bar charmer Veronika Groth, equal Jerry Traunfeld’s celebrated thali cuisine, in mixing fresh ingredients into stimulating combinations. Take the Wild About Saffron: vodka, brandy, rose geranium, saffron, lemon and angostura bitters ($10). It’s a heady sample with its floral, bitter, citrus and spice notes all coming together in layer after layer of flavor. Cocktails are served in a bar area of brick and light wood, a setting that’s as understated as it is fun. 622 Broadway E; 206.324.1108;

From the ocean blue barstools to the vast assortment of rum and rhum (the latter with a fresh sugarcane base instead of the former’s molasses base) bottles twinkling, this south Capitol Hill bar’s singular dedication to island aesthetic is remarkable. Live the life by having a bite from the Cuban- and Caribbean-influenced food menu with one of the ’Ti Punches: rhum agricole, lime and cane syrup ($10–$14), or one of the other tropical favorites from bar manager Connor O’Brien (formerly of Vito’s). You may not have sand between your toes, but you’ll certainly capture the Caribbean essence. 1112 Pike St.; 206.583.7177;

Sun Liquor Distillery
The affection for house-made ingredients is taken to another level here, most tellingly reflected in the gleaming and working still, seen in a room behind the bar. Have a light, lovely Kite Runner to honor that dedication. Made by head distiller and operations manager Erik Chapman, or one of the other top-flight drink makers, with Sun’s own UNXLD vodka, Aperol, lemon, honey syrup and angostura bitters ($9), it’s a true treat on a late summer evening. If you’re feeling peckish, there is a small but tasty sandwich menu, too. 21+ only. 514 E Pike St.; 206.720.1600;

Tavern Law
After a long day, come in for happy hour, mosey up to a barstool and order a late-1800s favorite, the Pendennis Club—gin, apricot, lime and Peychaud’s bitters ($11)—in this beautiful homage to a bygone era. The drink’s fruit and juniper zing will entertain your taste buds, and you’ll be visually entertained by watching bar manager Amanda Reed or one of the other bartenders display classic cocktail chops as they whip up drinks from the seasonal and standards menu. Delicious as the drinks are, don’t let them distract you from the homey but yummy food menu, which includes such items as pan-seared trout. 21+ only. 1406 12th Ave.; 206.322.9734;