Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

[Travel] Cocktails in Seattle

If you look for recommendations for cocktails in Seattle, the answer often comes in the form of "wherever Murray Stenson is currently working. He was between jobs on my recent short trip to Seattle, leaving me without the chance to enjoy his work. Stenson had spent many years behind the bar at the Zig Zag Cafe, making it my first choice for a Friday cocktail in Seattle.

Zig Zag is nestled off a little plaza, just below Pike Place Market. It's extremely popular, meaning that I had to wait outside the velvet rope for a while before a seat opened up at the bar. Inside, it's cosily candle-lit and very comfortable. Friday Happy Hour was still in swing so I order a mixed bowl of salty, oily olives and settled in. A Spanish Monk (gin, chartreuse and egg white) is deftly shaken, while my later request for a local cocktail results in the creation of a smooth martini featuring the wonderful Portland-made Aviation Gin

Throughout my time perched at the counter, I watch the stylishly-groomed and very dapper bartender Erik Hakkinen create a range of drinks, chatting easily with customers and taking requests for special drinks. It's clear that Zig Zag is a special spot indeed, but soon it's regretfully time to depart and head back up the steep hills to my hotel and a beckoning bed.
The iconic Seattle Space Needle
Space Needle selfie
On Saturday I find myself with sore feet and tired legs following a day spent around Pike Place Market, the heights of the Space Needle and a rattly trip on the iconic Monorail. This time my choice of drinking location takes me back to Pike Place Market and the relatively newly opened Radiator Whiskey. It's located in a bright first floor space with an open kitchen and serves a wide selection of on-tap drinks and barrel-aged spirits. 

Once again, it's Happy Hour with a delicious bourbon margarita on offer ($8). I also sample a house special cocktail made with aged 2bar moonshine, dry vermouth, gomme and Xocolatl mole bitters. As it's generally not advisable to neck multiple cocktails without food, I order a salad of roasted beets with jicama, lime, coriander, smoked jalapeño cream and jalapeño chicharones ($10). It's absolutely delicious with a wonderful balance of sweet and earthy flavours with a spicy kick from the crackling. 
Barrel aged spirits on tap at Radiator Whiskey
Bourbon margarita at Radiator Whiskey
Bohr cocktail at Radiator Whiskey
Roasted beet salad
At this stage, the night is still young, so I decide to hop in a taxi and head to Capitol Hill cocktail bar, Canon. This bar is an incredible shrine to all things cocktail and was in the 2012 shortlist for the "World's Best New Cocktail Bar"at the prestigious Tales of the Cocktail event (it ultimately lost to London's Zetter Bar). If you have a burning wad of cash in your pocket, you can order a Vintage Brandy Crusta made with J.G. Monnet 1875 cognac, Cointreau 1930, Maraschino 1960, fresh lemon and Paychaud's bitter. The cost? A mere $1,100.

The interior of the bar is all pressed tin, vintage cocktail paraphernalia and floor-to-ceiling shelving filled deep with an amazing collection of spirits, including an extensive collection of whiskies. Personally, I was intrigued by the tequila and mezcal selection (which can be hard to find in Ireland), but more about that later. The shuttered windows mean that just the barest amount of daylight filters through, creating the perfect drinking environment.
Canon, Seattle
The stunning interior at Canon
The cocktail menu at Canon was one of the most exciting cocktail lists that I have ever read. I literally wanted to taste everything, not a wise idea given that I had a noon plane to catch the following day. If you want to torture yourself with cocktail porn, then the menu is available online here. I started with a tequila option, the Yakima Cartel made with falernum, grapefruit, cava and garnished with yakima applewood smoked salt (an attractive $11). Just like the Zig Zag on the previous night, my request for a local cocktail involved a local gin, this time Voyager from Pacific Distillery
The Yakima Cartel 
My local cocktail made with Voyager gin
Seattle is definitely a city for the cocktail drinker. Whether you prefer to indulge in the classics, or like to seek out the newest and best, there's a barstool waiting for you. When you add in the fact that Oregon and Washington states have a booming craft distillery industry, it's clear that Seattle bartenders have a magnificent range of ingredients to work with. 

Despite my best efforts, I still managed to leave Seattle on my scheduled plane the next morning. But as we lifted away from the runway, I promised to myself to return and take another bite of this apple. 

Zig Zag Cafe, 1501 Western Ave #202, Seattle WA 98101
Tel: +1 (206) 625-1146

Radiator Whiskey, 94 Pike St Suite 30, Seattle WA 98101
Tel: +1 (206) 467-4268
Twitter: @RadiatorWhiskey

Canon, 928 12th Ave, Seattle WA 98122
Twitter: @CanonSeattle

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