Tucked in above the entryway and check-in desk of the Hotel Ändra and en route to the Hot Stove Society cooking school, the Ändra Loft and Bar (Belltown, 2000 Fourth Ave.; 877.448.8600; hotelandra.com) is a charmingly cool nook of the Tom Douglas empire. With a Scandinavian focus rarely found in other Seattle watering holes, it’s a singular spot for those craving aquavit and Nordic culinary treats.
A fairly misunderstood spirit, aquavit (think of it as a Scandinavian cousin to gin, substituting caraway for gin’s juniper—with many, many variations in flavor, much like gin has today) is often given short shrift in bars, with only one or two bottles being the norm. But the Ändra Bar stocks more than 40 different bottles, both imported and domestic—and the list is growing. It’s nice to try them solo, neat or on the rocks, or pair them with food. For example, local distillery Sound Spirits’ aquavit ($8), which has dill, coriander, fennel and anise socializing with the caraway, pairs beautifully with the Prosser Farm cucumber salad ($8), which is tangy and spiked with tomatoes, horseradish, salmon roe and tarragon.
The seasonally rotating cocktail list from bar manager and Tom Douglas beverage director Adam Chumas also highlights aquavit’s nuances. I had the Phyllis Diller ($12), which has Old Ballard Liquor Co.’s caraway-tastic Riktig aquavit (which happens to be the bar’s house aquavit) combined with Cocchi Americano aperitif wine, herbal liqueur green Chartreuse, lemon and dill. Its mingling of spices and herbs was refreshing and as memorable as a perfect summer day. The drink paired nicely with the graddost cheese with tarragon breadcrumbs ($9)—a deconstructed grilled cheese in a way. You’ll also find an assortment of wines and beer, including rare Norwegian Nøgne ø beers ($12 per bottle).
Modern, minimalist and earth-toned, with salon chairs by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto and some tabletops painted with a beautiful bottle design, Ändra Loft’s atmosphere manages to be both contemporary and relaxing. But don’t be fooled into thinking this is solely a spot for hotel guests and cooking-school students. Although it’s only open until 9 p.m., the space, which meanders around a corner until it reaches the doors of the school, features both two-tops for intimate tête-à-têtes and larger tables and smooth couches ideal for after-work gatherings. There’s even a chic fireplace to warm things up if it’s blustery outside. Of course, the aquavit helps one feel toasty, too.