A fair number of cocktail transactions don't involve a menu. Drinkers don't need to see what's listed if they're bent on ordering a dry Tanqueray martini or ceding their drink decisions to a bartender trusted to create something fantastic. But liquor pros spend long hours devising menus which showcase a wide range of flavors and techniques. Here, we present 10 local bars that consistently assemble cocktail lists so enticing that even beer and wine devotees are swayed to request a mixed drink.
As always, Erin Thompson's compiled the comments, and the ordering of the runner-ups has no significance whatsoever. The winner's on the last page.
Bar manager Erik Carlson brings a colonial interpretation of French cuisine to Bastille Cafe & Bar, emphasizing Haitian and other West Indian rhums on his cocktail menu for the Parisian-style bistro. The menu does include Benedictine, Chartreuse and absinthe. But many of Carlson's drinks have a definite island tilt, including a bourbon cocktail accented by grapefruits and lemons; a rum and grapefruit punch and a Sherry Cobbler made from Jamaican rum, orange, Demerara sugar, bitters and seltzer.
The Los Angeles-themed Chino's on Capitol Hill serves up a mix of Mexican and Taiwanese bites to soak up a slew of festive tiki drinks--there's the classic mai tai and pina colada, but there's no reason not to get more adventurous with the Cocoa Passion Sling (Appleton Estate rum, Crème de Cacao, passion fruit syrup, Pernod, orange, lime) or the Voodoo Grog (Don Q Gold rum, St. James Rhum Agricole, Navy Grog mix, honey, passion fruit syrup, lime, egg white). Go with a group and you can turn any of the tiki cocktails into a flaming Volcano Bowl for all to share.
Jamie Boudreau's Capitol Hill bar has a lovely list of cocktails, including a smart trio of Manhattans made with different vermouths. But it's the captain's list that's bound to rivet serious hard liquor drinkers, who rarely have the chance to spend big bucks on decades-old bourbons while they're eating pork buns. The impressive list is a virtual tour of American whiskey-making.
7. Moshi Moshi
This is one happy, happy place. Moshi Moshi keeps the booze flowing at crowd-pleasing prices with two happy hours daily in this stylish Ballard sushi spot. Try the Naughty Sven, a gin and aquavit-based nod to Ballard's Scandinavian history, or the punchier Death Poem, which is all rum, rye, cinnamon, and citrus.
6. Sun Liquor
Sun Liquor is a ready-made rendezvous spot on a relatively sleepy street. Bamboo bar stools, wall-climbing tin flowers that glow red, and tasteful Southeast Asian accents set the scene for serious drinking. Serious meaning top-shelf liquors, hand-picked herbs, and freshly squeezed juices in concoctions like the Punetazo, whose multiple rums are topped with a float of 151 and a tiny orchid (a garnish that appears on every drink).
5. Tavern Law
Tavern Law makes a point of searching out old, dead, lost, and forgotten mixed drinks and bringing them back to life in as close to their original incarnations as possible, sourcing all manner of super-artisan or ridiculously small-batch liquors and mixers and making everything else from scratch. The resulting drinks are not only some of the best you've ever tasted, but inarguable proof that dedicated, bookish bartenders can be just as creative and artistic as the greatest chefs out there. And also that your great-grandma really knew how to party.
4. Rob Roy
Stepping into Anu Apte's cocktail lounge in Belltown is kind of like walking into a hip version of Mike Brady's den: tasteful mid-century lounge furniture greets you; eclectic, well-framed art lines the walls; there's even an analog hi-fi set in the back. Shelves behind the bar are stocked with common and rare spirits, and lined with every shape and style of glassware that may possibly be needed: copper mugs for Moscow Mules, stainless-steel julep cups, brandy snifters, cordial glasses, and more. Named after the classic scotch and vermouth concoction, the Rob Roy recalls an era when the cocktails were strong, the furniture was well-made, and the ambiance was decidedly masculine.
Artusi has a clean and minimalistic space--delicate chandeliers dangling from the ceiling, bright abstract paintings that line the pale walls--and some of the most delicious, well-crafted cocktails in the city. In fact, the Italian food served here is created as a complement to the grappa, amaro, vermouth, and plethora of cocktail concoctions. Some of the most memorable are the tropical Anti-Fascist Aesthetic (cachaça and vermouth mixed with lime juice, maraschino, and bitters) and the glamrous Cindy Crawford (your choice of vodka or gin, plus Cocci Aperitivo Americano, grapefruit juice and bitters, and a sprinkling of peppercorns).
Paratii isn't kidding about the cachaca: The Brazilian-leaning bar even uses emptied bottles of the national spirit as water carafes. This is easily the best place in town to order a caipirinha, but the talented barkeeps here don't limit themselves to standard South American drinks. Paratii also makes its own liquor infusions in-house -- including banana rum, which smells and tastes like freshly baked banana bread - and infuses beers with Brazilian herbs and spices.
A few things set Hazlewood apart from other establishments with "prohibition" on their menu: accessibility, originality, and lack of pretension. A fruity-drink enthusiast can show up with a booze-and-bitters type and neither will be disappointed. Libations like Marguerite's Punch, a pineapple/almond/rum concoction far better than standard tropical emetics, share a menu with old classics like the Sazerac and originals like the Edith Macefield (rye, Punt e Mes, and Aperol). All will be prepared with skill, precision, and respect for old-style craft, and none will be more than $10.Hazlewood is laid-back enough to have a "house-endorsed shot" (Hussong's tequila with a sugar-and-coffee-coated lime), yet classy enough to add a truffle and a Nat Sherman cigarette as accessories to their eponymous signature cocktail.
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