Seattle Happy Hours: A.J. Rathbun Picks Four of His Favorites

By: 
A.J. Rathbun
best happy hours in seattle happy hours seattle magazine
Teachers Lounge in Greenwood

There is nothing like happy hour. An hour, maybe an hour and a half, between the workday rigors and the calm of a nice evening at home; it almost feels as necessary as breakfast. To really be a great happy hour spot, in my opinion, a bar must fit a few criteria. First, it must have great cocktails (beer and wine, both of which I love, are neither historical nor ideal happy hour drinks). Second, it must have a friendly staff, who understands that happy hours are un-winding hours and not the time for drink-slingers who believe in their own awesomeness more than making you a drink you’ll love. Third, there must be an atmosphere that lends itself to conversation, as happy hours should be communal affairs. Finally, top happy hours take place in spots that might be get wacky busy in the non-happy-hour time-frame. This last one isn’t quite as ironclad as the first three, but it is nice to feel during your happy houring that the bar itself is also partaking in the necessity of a quieter, more convivial break before the hecticness hits. With all that, here are my top Seattle happy hour spots.

Rob Roy: If you don’t already know that Belltown's Rob Roy makes delicious cocktails–and has been for a good long time–then you must be new in town. But  I’m happy to introduce the two of you. It also has the ideal low-lighting, a friendly staff that’s not thrown off when you say things like “I'm in the mood for an herbally drink, maybe with rye,” a nice mellow mood until about 8 p.m. on most nights and never-ending little bowls of goldfish. Its happy hour cocktail menu is highlighted currently by the Prince Edward, a soothing mixture of Scotch, Lillet and Drambuie that will ease the workday away.

Rocco’s: Up the street from the Rob Roy (which is exceptionally handy) is Rocco's. Don’t be fooled by the pizza oven right when you walk in–this is a cocktail joint. Huddle into a back booth with a few like-minded happy hour-ers and enjoy the long, lean bar’s helpful and convivial staff, brick walls and old beer signs on those days when the man has beaten you down. You can get well drinks for a mere $4 during the happy hour timeframe, but I say pony up for a Nevermore with bourbon, house cherry bourbon and Fernet Branca. That certainly makes the evening more enticing (oh, and the pizza is quite good, too).

Teachers Lounge: Sometimes, it’s a good idea to get a closer to home before starting the happy hour. If your home is anywhere north of downtown Seattle, that makes the Teachers Lounge in Greenwood your perfect pick. With its entertainingly fun high-school décor providing lots of subjects besides the day to talk about, its well-curated and well-made list of cocktails, and its knowledgeable and approachable staff, it fits the happy hour bill with a straight A. Sip a refreshing El Diablo, with tequila, crème de cassis, ginger ale and lime, which is one of the many cocktails that is $2 off during its 5 to 6:37 p.m. happy hour.

Rumba: One of the few spots that has an actual happy hour (from 5 to 6 p.m.), this Cap Hill lounge provides a fantastic break between work and home–it’s like you’re taking a quick trip to a tropical paradise when sitting in one of the ocean-blue barstools, chatting with sociable genius bar manager Jim Romdall and sipping perhaps the best daiquiri in town. There are actually four types of daiquiri, all made in a classic style and all only $6 during the hour. Take friends and talk about vacations–but know it gets busy quick.