The Best Cocktail Bars in Seattle

Seattle’s cocktail scene has always marched to the beat of its own drum. Though speakeasy culture leaked in for a moment, the city’s drinks scene has otherwise remained blissfully ignorant of passing fashion, taking its time to adopt everything from tiki to barrel-aged drinks in its own time and in its own way. From Jamie Boudreau’s boundary-pushing Canon to Zig Zag Café’s roster of tenured barkeeps to newcomer Rumba’s rum-soaked retreat from the soggy Seattle weather, here is a short list of some of the best places to grab a cocktail in the city.

  • 1

    Barnacle

    Looking at a two-hour wait for a seat at the oyster bar at The Walrus and the Carpenter next door? No worries. In the narrow annex just a few steps away you'll find a copper-topped bar with just over a dozen stools where you'll be rewarded for your patience with the most extensive amari lists in the city. A small chalkboard menu offers austere, chilled and room temperature bar bites like anchovies with Calabrian chili butter and octopus terrine, making Barnacle a worthy dining destination unto itself.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • amaro
    • bar food
    • good wine
    • happy hour
  • 2

    Canon

    With the launch of his award-winning bar Canon, Jamie Boudreau set a new standard of service in Seattle's already thriving cocktail scene. Once you've secured a seat at the Angostura bitters-stained bar prepare to stick around with options like chilled Chartreuse on tap, hard-to-find whiskey, barrel-aged cocktails and carbonated and bottled boozy drinks. Still can't decide? Ask to see the 100-plus-paged Captain's List of rare and vintage spirits and take a dip into the "Hardcore Porn" section for triple-digit tastes of Chartreuse through the decades or a circa-1890 sip of Amer Picon at $950 a pour.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • lots of whiskey
    • lots of tequila / mezcal
    • lots of rum
    • Chartreuse
    • full menu
    • outdoor / patio
  • 3

    Essex

    Bartender Brandon Pettit has long been experimenting with creating his own small-batch shrubs, bitters, ginger beer and liqueurs at Delancey—the popular pizzeria he runs with his wife, writer Molly Wizenberg—but when the vintage umbrella shop next door closed up, the couple turned it into a 12-stool craft cocktail bar called Essex. You’ll find sparkling Americano cocktails on tap and many of the drinks are doctored with housemade amaro (Pettit makes his own Fernet and gentian liqueur) along with small plates of salumi, cheese and housemade pickles. You may even regret coming off the wait-list for a pizza next door ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • amaro
    • bar food
  • 4

    Knee High Stocking Company

    Though the speakeasy theme might be dated, Knee High Stocking Company remains as charming as it was the day it opened in 2009. Behind the bar's unmarked doors, the drinks change with the seasons and the bartenders can execute all the classics, so don't be afraid to ask for something tailored to your preferences.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • bar menu
  • 5

    Liberty

    Tucked away on Capitol Hill, Liberty remains an industry favorite since opening in 2006 (and they haven't closed a single day since they opened their doors). Equal parts coffee bar, cocktail bar and sushi bar (yes, sushi), their spirits list runs deep with special attention to scotch and Japanese whiskey. Owner Andrew Friedman, President and VP Emeritus of the Washington State Bartender's Guild, spearheads the continuing education of Seattle bartenders and cocktail geeks by hosting master classes from visiting distillers and spirits world VIPs.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • lots of whiskey
    • lots of tequila / mezcal
    • full menu
    • happy hour
  • 6

    Rob Roy

    It's not just the free Goldfish crackers on the bar at Happy Hour that keep the crowds coming back to Anu Apte's Rob Roy—it's the entire vibe of this bewitching Belltown bar. Attracting a mixed crowd of downtown bar crawlers, baseball-cap-sporting beer-and-shot dudes and serious cocktail geeks, it's one of the coziest, clubbiest rooms in town. Even better is that it's decked out like a late-1970s rec room, with an inspiration board of leather, stone and dark wood. The vibe even extends to the restrooms, where citrus wheels and piles of ice fill the urinals and the graffiti on the wall might include a recipe for an ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • full menu
    • happy hour
  • 7

    Rumba

    When the weather gets drizzly and the mist rolls in, Rumba is Seattle's rum-filled remedy. The dark wood interior—which is meant to evoke mid-century Havana—is punctuated with bright turquoise bar stools and booths and Cuban postcards plastered along the walls. A long menu of swizzles, punches and Daiquiris (served up or over crushed ice) feels right at home in the polished, Caribbean-inflected space.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • lots of rum
    • bar menu
  • 8

    Tavern Law / Needle & Thread

    One of the many byproducts of  America's obsession with Prohibition-inspired cocktail bars, Tavern Law's faux-speakeasy aesthetic is complete with tufted leather couches, chandeliers and many strong cocktails. Whiskey, Fernet Branca and aromatic bitters reign over the menu of proprietary concoctions, each of which is attributed to its creator.  Needle & Thread, an upstairs bar hidden behind an old bank vault door, requires reservations, but if you're hanging at Tavern Law and express interest, they may be able to find a space for you.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • bar menu
  • 9

    Zig Zag Café

    Years from now, Zig Zag will be remembered for famed bartender Murray Stenson's tenure here. But following his departure, Erik Hakkinen and Benjamin Perri have picked up where he left off, making all the classics with style. As such, the bar remains one of the best classic cocktail joints in the city (nay, the world), the revivalist home of the Last Word cocktail and one of the better whiskey bars in town.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktail
    • full menu
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