The Knee High Stocking Company is yet another of Capitol Hill's literary-focused speakeasies, offering colorfully named drinks like Hemingway's Daiquiri, The Last Breath, and the Absconded French Girlfriend. These drinks and many more are garnished with snappy and charming synopses in a pristinely designed booklet that gives the sense of tremendous dedication behind the counter. Also, what bookish bar would be complete without a gin drink based on a Claude McKay poem?
The cocktail menu is divided into three fairly self-explanatory sections: In The Book, Stock Sauces and In Season. "In The Book" is dedicated to the classics; The Jack Rose, The Sazerac and the boastful Perfect Manhattan all make up a well-scouted Hall of Fame for the discerning drunk.
"Stock Sauces" focuses on creative in-house creations like the aforementioned Bourbon Dynasty and a fire-scorched scotch and Gunpowder Liqueur concoction aptly named the Gunpowder and Smoke.
"In Season" presents drinks made from the Knee High's rotating selection of particularly fancy liquor as well as cocktails catered to the weather -- right now you can expect to see a good number of tequila drinks and summer refreshers.
Whiskey drinks were prevalent through all three categories, so it seemed like a better gameplan than any to draw from all three wells.From "The Book," I chose The Cat's Meow. The Meow is prepared with Maker's Mark, Dubonnet, and Cointreau, shaken ice cold and served with a twist. Dubonnet is a wine-based appertif known for two things -- one is being incredibly bitter, and another is being one of the most historically successful treatments of malaria. Basically, French legionnaires had a bad habit of not getting their allotment of quinine until it was supported with carefully chosen herbs, spices, and -- most importantly -- fortified wine. This storied liquor combined with the citrus edge of Cointreau and the smooth yet substantial base of Maker's make The Cat's Meow a perky delight that keeps the Roman fever away (disclaimer: This cocktail review is not AMA-approved).
Moving on to "Stock Sauces", I chose the Bourbon Dynasty, an awesomely agreeable drink that blends Evan Williams, Lillet Blanc and Creme de Cassis. Creme de Cassis is a blackcurrant liqueur that, for no good reason, doesn't show up in half as many American cocktails as it does in their European cousins, so I was excited to see it in action on this side of the pond. The citrus core of Lillet and blackcurrant provide just enough of a fruity aftertaste to the humble comfort of Evan without letting you forget exactly which dynasty you owe your buzz to.
Finally, from "In Season," I chose the invigorating Preakness. As mentioned earlier, The Knee High advertises a Perfect Manhattan as though it were some kind of secret weapon -- which makes the Preakness drink like enriched uranium. The Preakness combines the smooth grasp of 18-year-old Elijah Craig Bourbon, Peychaud's bitters and fine Carpano Antiqua vermouth with the Knee High's seasonally held Benedictine herbal liqueur, turning the old Manhattan workhorse into a strapping crowd-pleaser.
This tiny bar might be one of the harder bars to find in Seattle, but the hunt is well worth it. At the risk of sounding elitist, the Knee High's "hiding in plain sight" approach seems to stem belligerent walk-in traffic. That said, skilled bartenders, a friendly atmosphere and a commitment to that perfect blast of booze and flavor keep The Knee High Stocking company on no small number of return patrons' radars.