Seattle’s cocktail culture eschews the latest trends and instead focuses on house-made ingredients and local spirits lovingly mixed by dedicated, boundary-pushing barkeeps. Sometimes there’s an offbeat origin story and, more often than not, a cult following. These spirited sips capture the soul of the city’s drinks scene.
Gin, chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, lime
The city’s unofficial cocktail is widely credited to local bartending legend Murray Stenson, who revived the vintage drink during his tenure at Zig Zag Cafe in the early 2000s. The esoteric, pale-green cocktail dates back to 1920s Detroit but gained a following as a Seattle signature when word spread in bartending circles from coast to coast. While Stenson has since moved on, armchair mixologists in search of a properly made Last Word need only look to Zig Zag, tucked behind Pike Place Market on the Pike Street Hillclimb. 1501 Western Ave; zigzagseattle.com
Black truffles, tonka bean syrup, Angostura bitters, orange zest, Griottines cherry
Jamie Boudreau’s award-winning, pint-size bar in Capitol Hill is home to the western hemisphere’s largest spirits collection—3,500-plus labels—and a coveted cocktail that makes its return at the start of truffle season in November and lasts through March. As the story goes, Boudreau tended bar at a spot that preserved truffle nibs in a bottle of Armagnac (a distinctive French brandy), which inspired his annual 30-gallon batch of cognac infused with Oregon and Burgundy black truffles, topped with liquid nitrogen for a smoky finish. 928 12th Ave; canonseattle.com
Black Seal rum, Rachel’s Ginger Beer, lime
For a truly Seattle version of this moody Moscow Mule cousin, head to Pike Place Market or Capitol Hill to taste local ginger beer legend Rachel Marshall’s version. Listed on the menu as Storm Clouds, the handcrafted ginger beer gives the highball cocktail a noticeable kick. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to your drink for a soft-serve float, or order the Tropical Storm, a slushy coconut rendition, straight from the tap. Multiple locations; rachelsgingerbeer.com
There’s no shame in ordering sans alcohol at RGB. Fruit-forward ginger beer flavors range from caramelized pineapple to guava.
Bourbon, lemon, orange, pineapple, grenadine, Angostura bitters
The Emerald City has no shortage of island-inspired libations, but this storied Seattle restaurant boasts a cocktail predating the tiki era. Rediscovered by head bartender James MacWilliams, the Halekulani—a bourbon drink with tropical flavor and a pinkish tinge that belies its depth—was originally served at a restaurant called House Without a Key in the Halekulani Hotel in Honolulu, where founder Peter Canlis used to frequent in the 1930s. While it’s not the only tiki drink on the menu, this is the one to order first. *2576 Aurora Ave N; canlis.com
Bourbon, rum, apple brandy, eggs, cream
You haven’t had eggnog until you’ve had Sun Liquor’s boozy version. Head distiller Erik Chapman separates yolks and whites from a dozen eggs, adds heavy cream and house-made spirits, and ages the whole lot for more than a month. The result is a silky finish with a subtle punch that has fast become a holiday staple. Here’s the catch: The small-batch beverage is only served in Sun Liquor’s snug Capitol Hill bar for two days, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. 607 Summit Ave E; sunliquor.com
*Visit Seattle Partner