Seattle: Bar Hopping to Ba Bar, Liberty, Bathtub Gin, Coterie Room, Tini Bigs, Tavern Law & Canon
Day Two in Seattle started off with bright skies but it gradually became a bit gray and moody. Michael Kostin of Paratii Craft Bar started our bar tour off at Ba Bar. I ordered a Pisco Sour thinking it would cheer me up from the chilly day. Sitting at the bar, I took in the warm soupy smells and wish I hadn’t just eaten a big dim sum brunch at Purple Dot. I could have taken down a bowl of oxtail pho.
I loved the look of the bar, with the tall shelves, various bitters and friendly bar keeps. I learned the secrets of their spicy Bloody Mary (shhh…don’t tell them I told you it’s a hefty dose of Sriracha).
If I had more time, I would have liked to have tried the Bizzy Izzy (bourbon, Amontillado Sherry, pineapple syrup, lemon) which seemed to be the only original cocktail on the list. Most of the list are classics like the Mai Tai, Hemingway Daiquiri and Moscow Mule.
Next we headed over to coffee shop, sushi counter and most importantly, bar- Liberty!
I wanted to get the barrel-aged Good Dog (Woodinville Whiskey Co White Dog, Chamomile grappa liqueur, lemon bitters) but they were running low and suggested I have the barrel-aged Novo Fogo. They made me an Old Fashioned with it.
I never did ask if you’re aging a white dog cocktail, does it become a regular whiskey cocktail?
If I lived in Seattle, I can imagine coming here often – grabbing a comfy spot for sushi and cocktails. And it smelled so good because of the brewing coffee.
Next we headed to another cute spot, Bathtub Gin & Co. We sat at the tiny upstairs bar where I watched our bartender free pour the cocktails. I know there’s a great debate about free pour versus jiggering and I have to say I prefer measured pours. My Sacramento Sidecar (brandy, Averna, maple syrup, lemon) was fine though it didn’t “sing” to me. I was more enchanted with the hand drawn receipt.
After chasing cocktails all day, I wanted to get something off-list but not quite ready to do bartender’s choice yet. I didn’t think much of the rather basic list at the new Coterie Room but it is a restaurant more than a club so I forgive them. I did expect some original cocktails, or at least one like Ba Bar considering the chef- owners also own Tavern Law (and Needle & Thread), some of Seattle’s premiere cocktail bars. I probably would have ordered classics like the Seelbach (bourbon, Cointreau, bitters, champagne) or maybe the Pendennis Club (gin, apricot, lime bitters).
Deciding to go off list, I asked for a Negroni. Head bar man Phil Thompson startled me by rapidly asking what gin I wanted, what vermouth, back to what gin, again with the vermouth…so finally, I just helplessly told him to choose. I didn’t know what they had so it’s hard to spout off things. He came up with Boodles Gin and Cocchi Vermouth di Torino and of course, Campari. It was really one of the best Negronis I have had.
We were getting close to dinner time at Staple & Fancy (and oysters stop at Walrus and the Carpenter) but we couldn’t resist the poutine with braised pork shoulder gravy, Beecher’s cheese curds and herbs.
It wasn’t all craft cocktail bars on this bar tour. We made a stop at iconic Tini Bigs. I imagine this was the popular place to be in the 90s with colorful martinis. The promise of you can get a good drink here made me curious. I decided to order the Lopez (Barcadi 8 rum, Lillet, Dolin Rouge vermouth, orange and peach bitters, lemon wheel), one of the few palatable things on the menu (I was afraid if I ordered a Manhattan this might be sort of place that’d shake it).
I could not finish it. I am really not a drinks snob. Okay, maybe just a little. It was time to go.
After dinner, we stopped at Tavern Law. As mentioned above with Coterie Room, I had some rather high expectations. The room was very nice though a little bit too “new” looking. It used to be an old law firm so I thought dusty books would accomplish the look more. The upstairs “speakeasy” Needle & Thread was busy so I didn’t have a chance to have a cocktail upstairs but did sneak a peek. Ah, now there’s a lovely space. There are a couple of high-back chairs that reminded me of the ones at Violet Hour in Chicago. It doesn’t have a list and you just tell the bartender what you’re feeling. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be a spirit but perhaps a mood. Michael told me he once heard someone ask for something like rainbows and unicorn tears (now that would be a cocktail!).
After a bit of a wait, we snagged a couple of barstools. Ah, this list was what I was looking for. It’s huge. After debating some merits, I opted for the Tiger’s Paw (rye, lemon, allspice, Peychaud’s bitters).
While Tavern Law may not be home to the world’s most expensive cocktail, I did find some rather pricey ones.
Japanese Old Fashioned- Yamazaki 18, Demerara, bitters $33
The Final Word- Don Julio 1942, Chartreuse VEP, lime, maraschino $42
Sazarac & Champagne- Larressingle Armagnac, Demerara, bitters and half a bottle of Drappier Carte d’Or $60
I lucked out that my Tiger’s Paw was only $9. Most cocktails actually range from $9-11 at Tavern Lawn which is consistent with other Seattle bars.
In my bar crawl post that included Zig Zag, I mentioned Murray Stenson made that bar famous and he’s generally acknowledged as Seattle’s best bartender. Michael told me he was getting so many gigs, he would tell people to call Seattle’s second best bartender. Enter Jamie Boudreau who you may know from Raising the Bar, his show on Small Screen Networks. He recently opened Canon which he instantly made famous by staining the bar with Angostura bitters and keeps 750 ML bottles of it with speed pours at the bar. I heard it took 3 cases of Ango that he had boil down to a syrup in order to stain the bar.
Murray left Zig Zag a few months ago and rumors were flying fast and furious where he was going to land. About a week before I headed to Seattle, news broke that Murray would tend bar a night or two at Canon. And they weren’t saying which nights just in case the bar got too slammed. It was pretty cool he was there when I went but it seems every bartender from all around the country was there as well since they were planning on taking the train together to Portland Cocktail Week. I watched Chris Bostick of the Varnish in LA study Murray’s every move, the the point Murray eyeballed him rather sternly. It was rather comical.
I already knew what I was going to order before I got to Canon. I wanted the Vermouth Project which are 3 rye Manhattans made with 3 different vermouths; Dolin, Punt e Mes, Chinato. I thought the one with Dolin was the softest. I liked the Punt e Mes but my favorite was the Chinato.
I had been doing one cocktail per bar but since we did skip Needle & Thread and Murray was behind the stick, I decided to go for a Hanky Panky but with Bols Genever instead of regular gin. Ah, what a night and the best way to close out Seattle.
928 12th Ave., Seattle, WA 98122Read about my first Seattle bar crawl here with Bastille, Sambar, Paratii, Rob Roy, Il Bistro & Zig Zag.