Oh, the Seattle craft cocktail bar. Incognito temples of back-lit bottles, all amber in color and unrealistic in price point. Bartenders that know more about the geographic history of the Corpse Reviver #2 than you know about literally anything, setting down a highball glass filled with six ingredients, at least one of which you thought was something used to fertilize a lawn. It tastes incredible. It gets you pretty drunk. It costs $16.
Bars like Canon are brilliant jewels of the local beverage scene, setting a standard in craftsmanship that betters cocktail menus around the city. What these bars don't necessarily do, however, is invite people who aren’t precious about their drinks.
Enter Cursed Oak, Belltown's newest crafty cocktail locale that, intentionally or not, achieves a sense of approachability over venerable mystique. The requisite parts of a capital C Cocktail bar are all right there on the menu. Exhibit A: barrel-aged concoctions. Exhibit B: the green tea old fashioned, a twist on a classic. Exhibit C: the cocktail that is almost gross but works in the end, like my reverse engineered peat flavor drink with two types of amaro, irish whiskey, and rosemary. Exhibit D: a deep and educated spirit list. The wood bar is stately and presided over by bartenders who can explain tasting notes but probably wouldn't be caught dead in a vest and tie.
The main difference is in the space. Where as Canon strives for intimacy, Cursed Oak is open arms to Belltown. A chandelier hangs over a spacious dining area more akin to rowdy taverns than places of contemplative cocktail observance. The music is Top 40—adjacent and loud, made louder by the tall, echoing ceilings and the general bustle of a full house. What I'm getting at here is it would not be absurd to imagine a spontaneous 11pm dance party erupting on the floor after a Sounders game. That, if nothing else, is not something that can be said about Foreign National.
This all made it a perfect spot for the group next to me, a trio clearly celebrating something and not too picky about where to start. What may have normally been a round of cabernet sauvignon or martinis was instead three coupe glasses containing something coral-colored with a razor-thin slice of lime floating on top like a flower pedal. The drinks may have well been an exotic gift some lands unknown, and the three visitors took ecstatic sips, marveled at the color, and bounced to Chance the Rapper as the place began to fill up.
Best of all, Cursed Oak's happy hour runs an extra hour than most (4–7pm), so when the coups were finished, $2 tall boys of Rainier took their place. It goes to show that when in Belltown, a neighborhood full of dives, cocktail dens, and loud bar lounges alike, sometimes it's best to find a place that can do a little bit of each.