1022 South isn’t an after-work happy hour spot…unless you live in Tacoma. But the New York Times-lauded cocktail bar in the city’s Hilltop district does happy hour every day from 4 to 8pm. This means you have a glorious four-hour window on Saturday nights during which you can enjoy the stylings of bartender-owner Chris Keil and his staff for a mere $5 a drink.
On my recent weekend visit, the space had just the right vibe during those hours—patrons at tables and on bar stools were bent together in lively conversation, with just enough seats to spare. 1022 has all the dark walls, Edison bulbs, and towering back bar shelves of spirits, liqueurs, and bitters you expect from the finest Capitol Hill cocktail dens. There are books on slender wall-mounted shelves and incoming calls are answered on a rotary phone. Ice cubes are works of art and the staff is equally friendly to cosmopolitan drinkers and tincture geeks alike.
But, oh, the cocktails. When the drink list contains creations like the
Holiday Hero Endgame (bourbon, chartreuse, damiana liqueur, and kava tincture) or the South of No North (Reposado, Cynar, cold press coffee, egg white and mole bitters, harmonizing to taste like the world’s best stout), you know happy hour won’t consist of well drinks.
Right now HH consists of three cocktails. The Hilltop New Yorker unites whiskey, lemon, red wine and house-made rhubarb bitters. Each sip takes you through layers of flavor, though the rhubarb remains surprisingly, pleasantly, forward. That’s an awful lot for a $5 libation to deliver. The other $5 HH items listed on the ornate Art Deco-styled board include the White Vulture (lemongrass, ginger soda, and white wine infused with jasmine) and the Liza Island (vodka, orange, ginger beer, and vanilla-citrusy Licor 43). Fair warning: You will want to stay long past 8pm to get better acquainted with the main cocktail list, which is divided into literary, classic, and apothecary segments.
Should your love affair with these drinks demand some sustenance, the food menu is rife with $5 plates, including cheese, grilled green beans, oeufs mayonnaise, pickles, a caprese salad. Larger salads and sandwiches ring in at $8.
The bar’s tagline is “better living through alchemy,” and an evening here does indeed feel like a superb fusion of magic and chemistry.