Thursday, March 10, 2011

In search of the perfect Seattle

Better known for microbrew beers, Seattle is becoming a hotbed for cool cocktails.

Something is going on in Seattle. Condos and grocery stores have opened in the downtown area where a decade ago no one would have considered living. Trendy restaurants and bars are popping up with killer happy hours that give suburban professionals a reason to hang out a bit after work. And people are creeping out of the traditionally hip Belltown neighborhood and turning down Westlake Avenue to South Lake Union, slowly but surely gentrifying the neighborhood from Pike Place to Whole Foods. 

Along with this shift is a renewed interest in the hand-crafted cocktail.  First it was coffee, and Seattle can legitimately make the claim that the best coffees in the world can be found in dozens of cafes around town.  Then microbreweries took on a serious nature and you'll find more locals asking for Manny's then any big name beer. Now bar-hoppers are getting a taste for sophisticated martinis. No cosmopolitans, thank you, but classics like Sidecars or creative cocktails like the Courting Rachel from Mistral Kitchen (see below).

So, to help fellow drinkers find the best cocktails on their next visit to Seattle, here is a tried and true list of places to imbibe.

Mistral Kitchen

I want to eat, drink and live at Mistral Kitchen.  It really is all that - great design, excellent food, knowledgeable and friendly staff, and most of all amazing, well-made, creative cocktails...with an emphasis on creative. Known for their hand-carved ice, many drinks come with a giant multi-faceted ice cube, carved by hand in the bar when you order. They also use alcohols most people have never heard of like Lillet, Agua Perfecta Basil Eau de Vie or Fernet Branca. The most interesting drink may be Courting Rachel, poured into a carafe of smoke, swirled around to pick up the essence of smoke and then poured into your glass.  You'll think it's a dry ice trick until you smell the potent smoke and taste the hint in your bourbon-based drink.  The house cocktail menu changes seasonally, and we'll be back every season to see what they come up with. (Mistral Kitchen • 2020 Westlake Ave • Seattle, WA • 206-623-1922)

It's safe to say no one thinks of Canlis for a cocktail.  Known traditionally as one of the best restaurants in Seattle, this is the special occasion place where a meal takes three hours and wine is the preferred libation.  But in the small bar a lot is going on, most notably creative drinks made very well.  Our favorite is the Red Pepper Delicious, made with fresh red peppers muddled with mint and shaken with gin.  Refreshing, balanced and totally unique, this is a drink that most people would never dream of ordering but once they taste it,agree it is outstanding.
(Canlis • 2576 Aurora Avenue North • Seattle, WA • 208-283-3313 •

Zig Zag Cafe

No list of Seattle bars would be complete without Zig Zag Cafe. In 2010, it's well-known bartender Murray Stenson was named best bartender in America. The reason for this is that he seems to have the uncanny ability to figure out a unique cocktail that will perfectly suit your tastes.  Like Manhattans?  How about a Satan's Soulpatch instead - Bourbon, Sweet and Dry Vermouth, Grand Marnier, Orange, and Orange Bitters?  Or maybe some secret concoction that Murray creates in his mind.  Between the creative and extensive cocktail list and helpful suggestions, you may just find your new favorite cocktail here.
(Zig Zag Cafe • 1501 Western Avenue • Seattle, WA • 206-625-1146)


  1. The red pepper cocktail you mention is great and was highlighted on the Food & Wine website:

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Mistral Kitchen is adding even more goodness to its cocktails! Check out plans for the new cocktail bar coming in Nov 2014 -