In early December, the Weekly started a column titled Legal Speedballs as a sort of "in your face" to the people who got canned, caffeinated alcoholic beverages banned. Considering our standing as a well-respected coffee hub, and our love for bars, Seattle would seem like the city of choice to start a study like this. Logically, it's a place where a concept such as "espresso cocktails" should be flourishing, right?
The Diller Room.
Wrong. Here's something funny I've recently discovered about coffee cocktails in Seattle: Most places don't offer them. At least, not on the menu. Setting out at the beginning of January on a mission to find the Top Five Coffee Cocktails in Seattle (with so many of my colleagues New-Year's-resolving temporary fasts from both coffee and alcohol, I figured somebody needed to prop up the market), I ended up instead on a mission to find places that served coffee cocktails at all.
I won't even pretend to have five favorites nailed down . . . or even to know the names of most of the concoctions I've tried. But I have started a list of locations where fabulous bartenders have good coffee on hand and aren't afraid to get creative. So far, then, these are Seattle's Top Five Bars for Coffee-Themed Cocktails. Featuring coffee from our own Seattle-based roasters, of course.
1. B&O Espresso. Most famous for its desserts, B&O Espresso has been serving Capitol Hill long enough to be considered a city staple. Their cocktail menu features several classics made with coffee from Caffe Umbria. Start here, with the Coffee Nudge and the apple crisp. 204 Belmont Ave. E., 322-5028.
2. Café Presse. Located next door to Seattle's Stumptown Coffee roastery, the unrelated Café Presse actually serves excellently prepared coffees from Caffè Vita. Their Espresso Martini packs a serious kick with a whole lot of finesse: not too sweet, just sweet enough, garnished with a lemon twist and ground cinnamon! Live acoustic sets are a highlight here as well. 1117 12th Ave., 709-7674.
3. Liberty. Capitol Hill coming in a clear winner on this scene, Liberty Bar serves Stumptown Coffee and has brilliant barista/bartenders who thrive on opportunities to get creative. Try ordering on the bartender's whim, and enjoy the unique beverages that result. 517 15th Ave. E., 323-9898.
4. Knee High Stocking Company. One of our city's well-loved and not-so-secret "speakeasies," Knee High is a great place for a date, a visit, or anytime you want to have a conversation with someone without shouting over music or noise. Spanish Coffee is on their seasonal menu, but the bartenders will be familiar with all the classics. 1356 E. Olive Way, 979-7049.
5. The Diller Room. Formerly also the location of Stella Coffee Roasting Company, and under the same ownership, The Diller Room now small-batch roasts for its own espresso, espresso cocktails, and espresso-infused vodka. Great service, phenomenal atmosphere, and truly delicious espresso cocktails; there is nothing to be disappointed by here! 1224 First Ave., 624-1299.