Mint julep bourbon, simple syrup, mint

Image: Ryan McVay

Barrio
Grandly scaled, candle-bedecked locations on both sides of Lake Washington have a touch of corporate chill, but the tequila-focused bar program is on par with the best in town.
Try A Tequila Por Mi Amante: a 74-year-old recipe in which Corralejo Reposado is infused with strawberries for 21 days. Barrio, 1420 12th Ave, Capitol Hill, 206-588-8105 and 10650 NE Fourth St, Bellevue, 425-502-5021; barriorestaurant.com

 

Are the ice cubes crystal clear? The best bars produce ice under pressure in a fancy machine or carve it out of a frozen filtered block. Ice this clear is a sign your cocktail will be created with care.

Image: Ryan McVay

Bathtub Gin and Co.
The most easygoing of the speakeasy set, rollicking Bathtub Gin—and especially the subterranean back room—is where icy Seattle finds its inner friendly.
Try Something strong and simple like a sidecar (cognac, orange liqueur, and lemon juice). Bathtub Gin and Co., 2205 Second Ave, Belltown, 206-728-6069

 

Cicchetti
The liquid offerings at Serafina restaurant’s sister bar across the courtyard benefit from the endless infusions, tinctures, bitters, and brandies concocted by longtime “bar chef” Chris Bollenbacher (at both spots) and team.
Try The Gintrification’s a good one for converting vodka stalwarts. It’s gin, Nardini Tagliatella liqueur, grapefruit, and Angostura bitters. Cicchetti, 121 E Boston St, Eastlake, 206-859-4155; serafinaseattle.com

 

The Copper Gate
Aquavit cocktails, a viking-ship-shaped bar pinned with antique pornography photos, and dill-flecked French fries: a few of our favorite things at this oddball Scandinavian spot in Ballard.
Try Heldig’s Own aquavit, made in the neighborhood. The Copper Gate, 6301 24th Ave NW, Ballard, 206-706-3292; thecoppergate.com

 

Do you see a mallet?
Unless kept on hand for purposes of self-defense, a mallet is an auspicious instrument indeed. It means the bartender is hand-crushing ice for drinks like juleps and swizzles.

Image: Ryan McVay

Hazlewood
In an era where craft-cocktail bars are 
too-often bedeviled by fastidious exactitude, wee Hazlewood employs a refreshing lil’ bit of this, lil’ bit of that approach to mixing drinks…and everything else.
Try A grandma-chic Hazlewood: Bushmills, peppermint tea, and 
amaretto, served up with a cigarette and a chocolate truffle on the side. Hazlewood, 2311 NW Market St, Ballard, 206-783-0478

 

The Hideout
Crowds come and go, but as far as we’re concerned, the Hideout will always be in style. Attractions include good, strong drinks with fresh-squeezed citrus but no futzy stuff, and a wall of floor-to-ceiling paintings—locally made and almost all available for sale.
Try Any bartender employed here can make a mean Manhattan. The Hideout, 1005 Boren Ave, First Hill, 206-903-8480; hideoutseattle.com

 

The Hunt Club at the Sorrento
The Hunt Club at the Sorrento, along with its heavily brocaded Fireside Room, has evolved into Seattle’s best spot for cocktail learning. This is thanks to Drinking Lessons, a series of classes and events at which bar luminaries hold forth on everything from sherry cocktails to pisco brandy.
Try Next up, a night with the green fairy. The annual absinthe soiree occurs April 18. The Hunt Club at the Sorrento, 900 Madison St, First Hill, 206-343-6156; hotelsorrento.com

 

Is there a bottle of Fernet-Branca hanging around? Belting this oily Italian digestif after a shift is a regular rite of the serious cocktail maker. It signifies allegiance to a code of drink making that values ingredients, education,

Image: Ryan McVay

Il Bistro
This twinkly Italian restaurant first made it onto the cocktail map during Murray Stenson’s (see the Zig Zag Café) long tenure behind the bar; the booze glory returned with the hire of stoic and stylish David Nelson (formerly of Tavern Law, Spur).
Try A Negroni (gin, Campari, sweet vermouth) before dinner, an Armagnac after. Il Bistro, 93 Pike St, Ste A, Pike Place Market, 206-682-3049; ilbistro.net

 

Liberty
Whiskey expert Andrew Friedman co-owns the little lounge called Liberty with talented pal Keith Waldbauer, whom you may know from Union, Vessel, and (the early days of) Barrio. There’s a sushi station, and by day it’s a coffee shop serving up Stumptown. Go with it.
Try Asking the nice man behind the bar for something brown and bitter. Liberty, 517 15th Ave E, Capitol Hill, 206-323-9898; libertybars.com

Oliver's Twist
With in-house ingredients informed by the kitchen (black-pepper tincture, rhubarb-tarragon syrup), this comfy slice of Greenwood Ave storefront remains the northern quadrant’s best bet for cocktails.
Try The Barney: applejack, thyme-infused maple syrup, walnut liqueur, and bitters. Oliver’s Twist, 6822 Greenwood Ave N, Phinney Ridge, 206-706-6673; oliverstwistseattle.com

How many bitters bottles are in sight? Angostura is a good start, but a collection like this one—with homemade, local, and recherche bitters in regular rotation—speaks to an experimental spirit behind the bar.

Image: Ryan McVay

Quoin
Fremont crawls into the cocktail light with Quoin (say “coin”), a minimalist bar attached to Revel, the new street-food spot from the owners of Joule. Bottles are limited but everything you want is there.
Try Taking a toe-dip into the vegetal world of Cynar artichoke liqueur with the Quoin 75: Hendrick’s Gin, Cynar, prosecco, and lemon. Quoin, 403 N 36th St, Fremont, 206-547-2040; revelseattle.com/quoin 

 

Is there a bar spoon in sight? Some drinks are to be shaken, others stirred. A bartender with one of these long instruments in his arsenal knows when to do what.

Image: Ryan McVay

Rob Roy
It’s the cocktail crowd’s clubhouse. Rob Roy’s skilled staff churns out impeccably crafted concoctions. But they’ll also step aside to let us sample the skills of bartenders from other cities, who do shifts behind the stick whenever they swing through town.
Try Bartender’s choice. It’s all good. Rob Roy, 2332 Second Ave, Belltown, 206-956-8423; robroyseattle.com

 

The Saint
Everything is fun at the Saint tequila bar—even the restrooms, which are decked out like Day of the Dead dioramas.
Try A shot of Sauza chased by spicy housemade sangrita. The Saint, 1416 E Olive Way, Capitol Hill, 206-323-9922; thesaintsocialclub.com

 

Spur Gastropub
Tavern Law’s sister bar can feel acerbic in the early evening, but things sweeten up as the night goes on. Late at night, the communal table by the bar spurs true camaraderie among strangers.
Try A Boulevardier: rye, Campari, and sweet vermouth. Spur Gastropub, 113 Blanchard St, Belltown, 206-728-6706; spurseattle.com

 

Toulouse Petit
Strange stucco-ey walls notwithstanding, Toulouse Petit has a lot to recommend it, including an insane array of spectacular happy-hour nibbles (foie gras with pear conserva, escargots, steak tartare), and a real-deal let-loose party vibe that is far too scarce in this city.
Try If you’re eating—which you should be—whet your appetite right with a Lillet rocks and a twist. Toulouse Petit, 601 Queen Anne Ave N, Queen Anne, 206-432-9069; toulousepetit.com

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

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