PLANTING THE SHRUBS
While “shrub” sounds like it might echo the veggie cocktail trend, it actually goes back much farther—to the vinegar-based drinks, or shrubs, that our forefathers and foremothers imbibed in Colonial times. Now, shrubs are popping up everywhere as cocktail ingredients, from Capitol Hill’s Canon’s Campfire in Georgia ($18), which boasts a peach-habañero shrub, to Ballard-based Macleod’s North Berwick Fizz ($9), which counters with a blackberry-rosemary shrub, to seasonally changing choices (such as raspberry, cloudberry, lychee and cherry) at Rocco’s in Belltown (where they serve each alongside a particular spirit and soda water and let you build your own drink, $12). You can also find them on the nonalcoholic drink menu at Bar Sajor in Pioneer Square (barsajor.com) and at Ballard’s Stoneburner.
THE SALAD BAR
Today’s best bartenders are always looking for new flavors to add individuality to their cocktail creations. And now that search is taking them more and more into the P-Patch, hunting for fresh veggies to use in cocktails. My favorite example is the Arugulita ($9) at Rocco’s in Belltown. It muddles fresh arugula with gin and simple syrup, before pouring everything into a glass and topping it with freshly ground black pepper. It’s a salad in a glass! Other cocktails with vegetable influence include the Bell Boy ($8), with red bell peppers at Saint John’s Bar and Eatery on Capitol Hill, and the Spicy Tomaté ($10), which has both tomatillos and bell peppers, at Percy’s & Co. in Ballard. Pictured: The Arugulita at Rocco’s
I disagree with those who think super-chilly cocktails are only a summertime hit—and the number of slushy cocktails now available in Seattle demonstrates I may not be the only one who feels this way. Artusi first unveiled its slushy machine last year, but now an increasing number of bars have followed suit. Newish Capitol Hill bar Bait Shop’s cocktail menu is crowned by the two drinks dispensed out of what appears to be a convenience-store staple—the big slushy machine—with its Painkiller (rum, pineapple, coconut and orange juice, with nutmeg on top, $9) a top choice. But now the frothier treats have shown up at Capitol Hill’s Ba Bar, too, where a slushy machine was installed in August, and at TanakaSan downtown, where the sake slushies gleefully wreak brain freeze havoc. Pictured: Artusi’s slushy cocktail
ODD DRINK OF THE MOMENT: THE WHISKEY PICKLEBACK
This drink first became popular in New York City, and I have to admit, I’m usually against this particular transplant, which at heart is a shot of whiskey followed by a shot of pickle brine. But at Montana on Capitol Hill, which has perhaps the finest house-made pickle brine ever—and it’s available by the bottle to take out ($6 for a 16-ounce bottle)—the Pickleback is pickle-y but also spicy and with depth. I’m all for it.
A subset of the vegetable cocktails plot, cucumber in drinks certainly isn’t new, but now you can’t throw a stone without hitting a drink containing this particular salad favorite. You’ll find it mixed with Hendrick’s gin, lemon, Cointreau and tarragon in the Cucumber Mist ($11) at Frolik Kitchen + Cocktails in the Red Lion Hotel (Facebook.com, “Frolik Seattle”), as well as in the Kyuri Cooler at Nijo Sushi downtown (nijosushi.com), where it’s mixed with cucumber-infused vodka and soda ($6 during happy hour). You’ll even find classics that have been cuke-ified, such as the Minor Mule at downtown’s Still Liquor, which features vodka, muddled cucumber and ginger ale ($7). It’s a good time to be a cucumber salesman. Pictured: Frolik’s Cucumber Mist
BETTER NONALCOHOLIC OPTIONS
I know, this issue is focused on the top cocktails, and the bars that make them, but it’s nice to see the same care given to booze-free libations. Whether you’re the designated driver or taking a night off from imbibing, discovering creative alcohol-free drinks—such as the springy apricot cardamom fizz ($5) at Madison Park’s Café Flora, the delicious sour cherry phosphate ($6) at Stoneburner, and the Back to the Fuscia (Italian Sanbitter, grapefruit juice and fig vinegar, $3.50) at Artusi on Capitol Hill—is a welcome change. Pictured: Café Flora’s apricot cardamom fizz