HERE’S THE THING: You can’t judge local liquor the way you do all your trusty old booze brands. Our distilleries are almost all brand-spankers, one- or two-person productions subject to tricky regulations and tight budgets. Still. There are some tasty examples among Seattle’s new crop of spirits, grappas, and bitters. You can order many of them at your neighborhood liquor store, but a lot of the new distilleries have tasting rooms, too—should you prefer to sample at the source.
Absinthe and Gin
Pacific Distillery’s earthy Pacifique Absinthe Verte Supérieure is crafted from an 1855 recipe; distiller Marc Bernhard cultivates the traditional herbs—wormwood, green anise, fennel—in his home garden. His Voyager dry gin, meanwhile, is a versatile cocktail anchor that he makes with juniper, naturally, but also coriander, licorice root, cardamom, aniseed, lemon, orange, orris, angelica, and cassia. Contact the distillery to schedule a visit. Pacific Distillery, 18808 142nd Ave NE, Ste 4B, Woodinville, 425-350-9061; pacificdistillery.com
Bitters are essential for creating balanced cocktails, and a few drops mixed with soda make for a refreshingly light (and lightly alcoholic) drink. Local bartender and Scrappy’s Bitters owner Miles Thomas is now offering sweet little sample packs of his orange, celery, lavender, lime, chocolate, grapefruit, and cardamom bitters, so you can experiment with flavors before committing to a full bottle. Scrappy’s are stocked at Bottlehouse, DeLaurenti, and 12th and Olive Wine Company.
In Brazil, where it is ubiquitous, sugarcane-based cachaca is often thought of as a coarse, cheap spirit. The gold (aged) and silver (unaged) cachacas from Novo Fogo, however, show just how smooth and refined the spirit can be. The distillery is deep in the Brazilian rain forest, but Bellevue is HQ for sales—which explains why so many local bars serve them on the rocks or in tasty new twists on rum drinks. 425-256-2527; novofogo.com
Made from a barley mash (as opposed to wheat, far more common among domestic vodkas), vanilla-noted Ebb and Flow, crafted in Interbay by Sound Spirits, surprises vodka sippers by actually tasting like something. Something delicious. Distiller Steve Stone will be bottling his gin in the coming weeks; call him at the distillery to set up a tour and tasting. Sound Spirits, 1630 15th Ave W, Interbay, 206-651-5166; drinksoundspirits.com
Soft Tail’s Sangiovese grappa starts with pomace (leftover grape bits) from wineries that neighbor the Woodinville distillery—reduce, reuse, refill our glasses, please. We love this easygoing take on the traditionally abrasive Tuscan beverage. Visit the tasting room from noon to 5pm, Monday through Saturday. Soft Tail Spirits, 12280 NE Woodinville Dr, Ste C, Woodinville; 425-770-1154; softtailspirits.com
Made under the tutelage of longtime Maker’s Mark luminary David Pickerell, Woodinville Whiskey’s citrus-forward Headlong white dog (unaged) whiskey is now behind the bar at the distillery from noon to 5pm, Wednesday through Sunday. We can’t wait to taste the barrel-aged version when it’s ready. Woodinville Whiskey Co., 16110 Woodinville Redmond Rd NE, Ste 3, Woodinville, 425-486-1199; woodinvillewhiskeyco.com