MistralKitchen

Canlis Lounge
A cocktail bar may be measured by the quality of its drinks and service, and by a third less-easy-to-pinpoint criterion loosely defined as ambience. Did we expect less, of the Canlis lounge, than to excel in all three areas? Drinks are designed for lingering—sit with your old fashioned for an hour and the ice will have scarcely begun to slip into a liquid state. A fleet of servers flits about unobtrusively, replenishing water glasses and replacing crumpled napkins, and the overall sense of throwback class is reinforced by the jaunty jazz soundtrack emanating from pianist Walt Wagner’s gleaming Steinway. Extra points go to the family Canlis for selecting James MacWilliams, a barman known as much for esoteric experimentation as he is for attention to detail, to oversee it all. Canlis, 2576 Aurora Ave N, Queen Anne, 206-283-3313; canlis.com


Moscow Mule: vodka, ginger beer, lime

Image: Ryan McVay

MistralKitchen
It takes a confident bar to feature the 4d6 on its cocktail list. The invention of MistralKitchen booze manager Andrew Bohrer, the 4d6 requires a roll of the dice—four six-sided dice, in fact, carved from wood and each bearing words representing one of the four components of a cocktail (spirit, wine, liqueur, and bitters). So your 4d6 may be a combination of whiskey, acidic wine, cordial, and fruit bitters, or a mixture of mezcal, dry sherry, a syrup, and the house bitters. And while that may sound like a gamble (“no mulligan,” cautions Bohrer), the bar at this steely-accented haute eatery is so intently focused on core ingredients and proper technique, you’re all but guaranteed a great drink every time. MistralKitchen, 2020 Westlake Ave, South Lake Union, 206-623-1922; mistral-kitchen.com 

 

Moshi Moshi Sushi
Okay, yes: Moshi Moshi is a sushi restaurant—a sushi restaurant with some of the best cocktails in town. Bartender Erik Carlson slides from one side of the bar to the other with the graceful low-center-of-gravity gait of a boxer, delivering liver-hued slices of tuna sashimi, topping off chardonnays, and stirring up drinks in between. Carlson says he loves experimenting with Sauternes, a French dessert wine he mixes with gin, dry vermouth, hibiscus, and grapefruit bitters to create an elegantly balanced concoction called the Fluted Barrel. Moshi Moshi Sushi, 5324 Ballard Ave NW, Ballard, 206-971-7424; moremoshi.com

 

Are garnishes hand-cut and made to order? We’ve all seen those metal containers of languishing maraschinos and browning limes behind the bar. Not delicious. If the bartender is making fresh garnishes for each drink, however, you’re in

Image: Ryan McVay

Naga Cocktail Bar
In the chromey lounge in the back of Chantanee Thai Restaurant in Bellevue, Naga manager Evan Martin and staff are quietly kicking some serious cocktail butt. Naga may not get a lot of shine in the local press, but decidedly spectacular drinks like the Brazilian grog, a punch made with aged cachaca from locally based Novo Fogo, speak for themselves. Naga Cocktail Bar at Chantanee Thai Restaurant, 601 108th Ave NE, Ste 100A, Bellevue, 425-455-3226; chantanee.com

 

Sambar
Bartender Jay Kuehner is all about imbibable improvisations, on-the-spot cocktails anchored by smoky mezcals and herbaceous amari, tequila drinks with a sandy, desert-evoking finish, and effervescents blended with exotic eaux-de-vie. These subtly complex concoctions he makes at Sambar, a sliver of an east Ballard bar chock-full of lovely things—rosy blossoms bursting forth from a wall painting, twinkly tabletop votives that flicker across the faces of fellow drinkers, and herb-flecked potages brought in from sister restaurant Le Gourmand. Sambar, 425 NW Market St, Ballard, 206-781-4883; sambarseattle.com


Sun Liquor
Tiki, you think, perusing the fruity menu at Summit Ave’s Sun Liquor, where bamboo-stick lettering spells out “bar” on the door and monkeys scurry about in a wall mural. But Sun Liquor is also a top Seattle spot for old-timey gin drinks—its owner and manager are so obsessed with that spirit, in fact, they’re distilling their own at a second location a few blocks south. Sun Liquor, 607 Summit Ave E, Capitol Hill, 206-860-1130; sunliquor.com

 

The Last Word: gin, lime juice, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur

Image: Ryan McVay

Tavern Law
Tavern Law attracts a comely crowd that sips expertly wrought flips, slings, sours, and punches while snacking on small plates (foie gras, fried oysters) rich enough to hold up against those potent pre-Prohibition potables. But the real magic is upstairs at Needle and Thread, the bar’s second-level spirits sanctuary. Lined with artisan bottles and sepia-toned nudie photos, this 30-seat “speakeasy” benefits from the undivided attention of one silk-vested, mustachioed barman who crafts each drink to order. (There’s no menu, so prepare for a conversation). Tavern Law, 1406 12th Ave, Capitol Hill, 206-322-9734; tavernlaw.com

 

 

Vito’s Restaurant and Lounge

Vito's Restaurant and Lounge
For years Vito’s on First Hill was a dingy dive of disrepute, frequented by a mixture of irony-addicted hipsters and the trulydown on their luck. Then last year, Hideout owners Jeff Scott and Greg Lundgren bought it, renovating the grisly kitchen and reupholstering the booths that line the lounge. The sexy-seedy atmosphere they maintained—the lights are so low at Vito’s, bartenders use flashlights to locate bottles—the watery drinks they did not. Vito’s now offers 18 specialty cocktails, among them popular oldies (the Corpse Reviver No. 2) and contemporary options like the Red Hook, a rye-based mixture invented at Milk and Honey on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Vito’s Restaurant and Lounge, 927 Ninth Ave, First Hill, 206-397-4053; vitosseattle.com

 

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Fresh simplicity
defines chef Renee Erickson’s food at the Walrus and the Carpenter. It also describes the cocktail menu—the creation of her partner Jeremy Price. A lightened-up version of Le Perroquet, traditionally a dash of gin, orange juice, Campari, and champagne, omits the gin and mixes house-squeezed blood orange juice in with Campari and prosecco, a dry Italian sparkler. The result is a rosy, roundly flavored concoction that tastes just right with a late-night nosh of local cheese, honey, and tangerine. The Walrus and the Carpenter, 4743 Ballard Ave NW, Ballard, 206-395-9227; thewalrusbar.com


Is there a juicer within the bartender’s reach? Ooh, good sign. That translates to fresh-squeezed juices in your drink.

Image: Ryan McVay

The Zig Zag Café
What the world learned in the last 10 months—when Tales of the Cocktail named barman Murray Stenson Bartender of the Year, when GQ dubbed it the best cocktail bar in the country—Seattle has known since Zig Zag’s early days: That the bar stools here are sacred spots, worn-in by aspiring drink slingers scribbling away as Stenson and his support team espouse wisdom on everything from maraschino to Mangalore liqueur. That the Murray quote you hear passed around by local bartenders (“there’s no such thing as the cocktail business, we work in hospitality”) sums up the service philosophy of all the employees at the red-lit bar carved into the Pike Place Market Hillclimb. To our out-of-town guests we present the Zig Zag the way we do the Market, Mount Rainier, and gloomy-gray-gorgeous Puget Sound itself—secure in the knowledge that there is nothing else like it on earth.  The Zig Zag Café, 1501 Western Ave, Pike Place Market, 206-625-1146; zigzagseattle.com

This article appeared in the March 2011 issue of Seattle Met Magazine.

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