Classic Manhattans, flavorful shrubs, fruity rum punches and herbaceous gins. When it comes to first-rate beverages, the Emerald City has them in spades. Why, then, does the city’s coffee scene receive all the attention? With a slew of local bartenders utilizing groundbreaking creativity and out-and-out whimsy in their approach to drink menus, the city’s cocktail scene deserves its fair share of the limelight. We’re here to set the record straight with our guide to some of the best craft cocktail digs around Seattle!

Knee High Stocking Co.

Relive the Roaring Twenties with a visit to Knee High Stocking Co. Credit: Joe Holdsworth Photography

Honoring the Prohibition-age tradition of being hidden in plain sight, finding the entrance of Capitol Hill’s Knee High Stocking Co. is half the fun. One step inside the subterranean space and you’re transported to another era. Between the rich baroque wallpaper, ornate chandeliers and tufted black leather booths, this intimate spot perfectly recreates the 1920s vibe. Alongside their extensive spirit selection, you’ll find a frequently-rotating craft cocktail list – currently in its 39th iteration!

Knee High partner Pamela Miller says of their current selection, “Recently we’ve begun to evolve and experiment with ingredients and flavors from our Filipino heritage in both our drinks and food. This season we’ve introduced a range of drinking vinegars, otherwise known as Shrubs, using popular SE Asian ingredients such as Ube, Jackfruit, Calamansi, Ginger and Lemongrass.”

Need to refuel before heading back out on the town? Swing by Jeepney Cap Hill, their new late-night walk-up window, for Filipino-style American comfort food on the go.

Oliver’s Twist

Broaden your beverage palate with a unique concoction from Oliver’s Twist. Credit: Flickr user clappstar

Perched atop Phinney Ridge, Oliver’s Twist offers up a menu full of inventive cocktails featuring components as familiar as bourbon and as exotic as epazote-infused gin. Known just as well for their flavorsome drinks as they are for their crave-worthy bar bites (just try and skip their garlic truffled popcorn), duck into this cozy neighborhood haunt to feel like an instant local!

Deep Dive 

Ambiance is the name of the game at downtown’s Deep Dive. Credit: Haris Kenjar

Helmed by local culinary superstar Renee Erickson, a visit to nautical-themed Deep Dive is an immersive experience. From the antique maritime treasures on display in every nook and cranny, to the marine blue velvet coating the seats and plush booths, the space perfectly evokes an undersea vibe without tipping into “theme bar” territory. Settle into a cozy corner and sip on one of their wryly-named cocktails like the fruit-forward Chill Pill or an effervescent Rope Climb.

Bar Director Jermaine Whitehead says of their drink menu, “We aim to pay homage to the traditions of the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned, but also incorporate the modern classics such as the Trinidad Sour or the Penicillin.”

Whitehead adds, “We also provide our guests with house originals that are inspired by the region. For example, we highlight the Nordic backgrounds of Ballard by using Aquavit as a main ingredient in our Mixtape cocktail. The spirit is infused with strawberries and includes Ancho Reyes Chipotle Liqueur, local Scrappy’s cardamom bitters, egg white and citrus.”

Bathtub Gin & Co.

The inconspicuous entrance to Bathtub Gin & Co., tucked away in a Belltown alley. Credit: Kirk Yoder

With an address that includes the phrase, “look for the wooden door,” Belltown’s Bathtub Gin & Co. completely embodies their speakeasy-style concept. In a cozy space that once housed a boiler room, the ten-year-old bar serves up skillfully-executed cocktails with compelling ingredients. Try the bourbon-focused Death Star, featuring fig and maple syrup or the playfully-named If It Ain’t Broke, finished with a dash of lavender bitters.

Canon 

Proprietor Jamie Boudreau stands before one of Canon’s liquor-lined walls. Credit: courtesy of Canon

As soon as you set foot inside Capitol Hill’s Canon, you can literally see their dedication to the craft of cocktail creation. Glimmering bottles line nearly every available inch of wall space, fitting décor for a bar that’s won the title of World’s Best Spirits Selection! Despite Canon’s lofty accolades their menu is anything but stuffy. Sample their cocktails with whimsical presentations, such as the Transfusion for Two served in an IV bag or a Banksy Sour poured out of a cocktail shaker masquerading as a can of spray paint.

Proprietor Jamie Boudreau says of Canon’s mission, “We’re looking to give people a unique experience by offering some of the world’s more complex cocktails surrounded by one of the world’s largest collection of spirits (including the largest collection of American whiskey in the world), all in the unusual setting of a 450 square foot, six-table restaurant.”

Rumba

Get your mid-winter tropical fix with a trip to Rumba. Credit: Dave Lichterman

As the name suggests, Capitol Hill’s Rumba knows its way around a mean rum cocktail. Whether you opt for a classic Daquiri (a favorite of Ernest Hemingway, whose books are on display throughout the bar) or a tiki-style Tropical Itch, you’ll feel transported out of the gray PNW and onto a breezy, sandy beach.

Amble up to the polished wood bar for a guided flight of rum, or request a Rum Map to taste your way across the Caribbean through 60 rums of your choosing! A Caribbean-inspired menu, more than 500 sugar cane spirits and 1950s-era Cuban décor round out Rumba’s island atmosphere.

Barnacle Bar

Not one square foot of space is wasted at the petite Barnacle Bar. Credit: Aaron Leitz

Attached like its namesake sea creature to oyster-centric fave The Walrus and the Carpenter and yet another creation from the prolific Erickson, Ballard’s Barnacle Bar offers up Italian aperitivo-style cocktails and small bites in a snug space.

Though the bar has only 14 seats along the counter and one table tucked into an alcove at the back, don’t be fooled by its diminutive size! Barnacle punches above its weight with flavor-packed drinks like the piquant Bitter Fruit or their refreshing Gold Dust Woman, and an impressive wine list to boot.

Bar Manager Brady Sprouse states, “At its core Barnacle is modeled after the aperitivo bars all over Italy, so we are often inspired by that culture of food and drink as a relaxed, social affair. Beyond that, it’s the amaro that drives us. We have over 150 different amari and other bitter and herbaceous liqueurs on our back bar so we are constantly inspired by the unique and dynamic flavors that lie within those bottles.”

Zig Zag Café

One of Zig Zag’s skillful bartenders shakes up his newest creation. Credit: Flickr user heelslide

A sultry, red-tinged light beckons you into Pike Place’s tucked away treasure, Zig Zag Café. The spot that put Seattle’s cocktail scene back on the map in the early aughts hasn’t lost any steam when it comes to serving up tasty, balanced drinks. Choose from a lengthy list of beverage options (the peaty Smoking Goat is an excellent choice), or consult one of the knowledgeable bartenders to guide your selection. Grab a seat at the bar to toast your ascension up the Pike Street Hill Climb or settle into one of their candlelit tables for the perfect downtown date night.

Percy’s & Co.

Plant-lined brick walls and brass accents complete the atmosphere at Percy’s & Co. Credit: Suzi Pratt

Though there are plenty of worthy happy hour destinations in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood (which was once home to more bars than any town west of the Mississippi, per the bar’s website), you’re unlikely to find a spot with a more appealing atmosphere than Percy’s & Co.

The space itself dates back to 1893 and in the intervening years, it’s served as a dry goods store, a menswear store and a rumored speakeasy. In 1940 it was turned into a bar and never looked back! With lush foliage nearly everywhere you turn, it’s a fitting environment to sip on one of their herbaceous cocktails like Simone’s Love, enlivened with aromatic dill-infused vodka.

Bar Director Bode Craig adds, “All of our signature cocktails are made with infusions that I make in house, as well as a large amount of bitters and tinctures. The infusion process is not only fun for me, but really opens the guest’s eyes to what herbs/vegetables/fruits mix with different spirits and juices. It’s almost like a culinary class!”

Lucinda Grain Bar

Gain new appreciation for glorious grains at Lucinda. Credit: Suzi Pratt

Venture over to Ravenna for acclaimed chef Edouardo Jordan’s newest creation, Lucinda Grain Bar. An ode to grains of all strains, Lucinda finds a way to serve up familiar elements in  unexpected ways – both in your bowl and in your glass. Tuck into a wholesome bowl of buckwheat bucatini finished with lemon oil and sage or nibble on cheese from around the globe paired with house-made “everything” crackers. One sip of their Barley Old Fashioned or a stiff Long Grain Iced Tea and you’ll be a ride-or-die fan of the humble grain, too!

Bar Manager Tremor Arsenault says, “The idea behind our beverage program is simple. Take a favorite classic cocktail and give it the ole’ razzle dazzle. Turn it on its head and make it our own, allowing each component of the drink to shine. While still being approachable and recognizable for our guests.”

Whether you’re looking for a straightforward Prohibition-era classic or you have your heart set on sipping a drink straight out of a pineapple, Seattle has a bar to fit the bill. Perhaps one day cocktails will unseat coffee as the city’s reigning beverage! After a few happy hours at these spots, it isn’t so hard to imagine.

 

 

Feature image: courtesy of Canon