It almost seems redundant to mention why you might want to sneak away for a cocktail come winter: the slashing rain and soggy traffic, the shopping bills, the relatives. Whatever your reason, here are a few options for brief chemical respite.
Lock the Gate at Canon
A warm-milk cocktail is as unimpeachable is it is misunderstood; it's wholesome and corrupt, a simple contradiction. Bourbon and milk is the classic, but brandy sits nicely too. Bartenders at Capitol Hill cocktail haven Canon clearly know this, which is why they’ve layered Portland’s Burside bourbon with Park cognac, Fernet Vallet, Chinese five spice, and an Eggo-hemp milk. The last is made from, you guessed it, Eggo waffles toasted and steeped in hemp milk. Both comforting and a little weird—and served hot, of course—it’s as close as you can get to a fuzzy sweater without actually wearing one.
Redrum at Hazlewood
Even on the bustling Market St, Ballard stalwart Hazlewood feels tucked away. All tea candles and chandelier lighting and oddball decorations—zebra smoking a cigar, animal skulls on the walls—it offers constant shelter from any storm. As do consistently solid drinks. Sure, the Redrum sounds more Halloween than winter, but this cocktail—a layered concoction of gin, Ancho Reyes chili liqueur, Gran Classico, and Laphroaig scotch—hits a certain spot. Warming without being spicy, smoky but not even slightly campfire-like, it’s a testament to making a subtle cocktail with straight booze, and all the good cheer that imparts.
Dirty Boulevard at Teachers Lounge
While the negroni is perhaps the perfect summer cocktail, its sibling the boulevardier (sub whiskey for gin) matches that perfection in winter months—the bourbon softens and deepens Campari’s bitter punch. Teacher’s Lounge, the neighborhoody in the right way Greenwood cocktail bar, highlights the classic’s powers with a hit of pimento dram. (Pimento here meaning allspice, not the red peppers that impregnate green olives and rouge the southern cheese.) And what says Christmas better than a cocktail named after a Lou Reed song about 1970s New York brutality?
Night’s Watch at Quoin
Fremont’s Quoin, and restaurant Revel next door, are solid places while away a winter night. No, I kind of doubt any standard yuletide nogs will appear on the menu. But everywhere in this building there’s plenty of warmth: a fire pit out back, chef Rachel Yang’s chili- and kimchi-studded food, and bar manager Joe Friderici's cocktails which tend to kick in a few senses—booze and frequent spice. In the Night’s Watch, mezcal brings some smoke and gets an avocado oil rinse, a couple Spanish sidekicks (manzanilla sherry, saffron bitters), and a black pepper and cuttlefish ink tincture, which aside from looking nicely menacing adds brine and spice. It’s a dark drink for the dead of winter; I’ll leave the Game of Thrones jokes to you.
Selvstarter at Damn the Weather
In the cold, I tend to turn toward rich brown liquors: rum, whiskey, cognac. But aquavit—essentially a Scandinavian take on gin, caraway and dill supplanting the juniper—is an excellent alternative for the winter months, evocative of places far more arctic than our drizzly corner. In the Selvstarter at Pioneer Square's Damn the Weather, aquavit comes with a cast of other bold flavors: apricot brandy, Cocchi Americano, and Salers—the latter two being aperitif wines. The result is layered and aromatic and transportive in just the right way, a thing to make you heed the bar's name.