Canon

nameless cocktails

On Tuesday of last week, we had driven to Issaquah to pick up my work from an art show and decided to go home by way of Seattle. We ended up in Capitol Hill exactly at 5 o’clock, just in time to get a seat at the bar at Canon, Jamie Boudreau’s new place (which is in the old Licorous location, btw). And if that weren’t cool enough, our bartender turned out to be none other than the legendary Murray Stenson, previously of Zig Zag Cafe. He said he had only worked half a dozen shifts or so at Canon, and he was still feeling his way around the bar, but it was a true pleasure to finally get to watch him at work.

The cocktail menu had some interesting drinks on it, but none of them seemed quite what we wanted. Murray pierced us each with a penetrating stare and asked a few pertinent questions (clear or brown? bitter or sweet?) After a short interrogation, he determined that what I wanted was a drink made with either bourbon or rye, bitter or herbal in tone, but soft and easy. He whisked away and poked around in the shelves, returning shortly with a cocktail. A version of the Currier (this was the only drink name we were able to get out of Murray all night), it had Buffalo Trace bourbon, Rose’s lime juice, fresh lime and kummel, a caraway-scented liqueur. Really interesting, balanced and complex.

Jon’s first drink was a gorgeous concoction of excellent rum and amaro and I forget what else. It was delicious. I have no memory of his second drink, except that I know it had Campari in it. Dang, I knew I should have been taking notes. I do remember that we had a plate of ricotta gnudi with kale and shiitakes that was truly delightful and paired rather well with our first round.

Canon

As we sat admiring the liquor collection, my eye was caught by the tequila selection almost immediately over my head. I asked if I could have something with tequila for my second cocktail, and Murray’s eyes lit up. “Oh yeah!” he said, and dashed off. The drink that appeared before me definitely had tequila and green Chartreuse, but I’m not at all sure what else. Some sort of juice, and a bit of lime zest. It paired perfectly with the Barron Point oysters we were eating.

Barron Point oysters

Needless to say, Canon is an amazing bar (dare I say, even on a night when Murray isn’t working). We are SO going back as soon as possible.

Canon

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happy hour

happy hour

When you’ve just spent a substantial amount of time quietly freaking out about something, getting unexpected good news may well send you straight to the nearest bar to try to process the emotional reversal. Last week, after spending the afternoon at Virginia Mason Hospital and being reassured by a reliable source that my husband would most likely NOT need a horrible sounding medical procedure, we headed right for Barrio and began consuming celebratory cocktails, including one made of extremely ferocious ghost-chile-infused tequila. Plus a lot of their most excellent guacamole.

Then we went to Volunteer Park and sat together, enjoying the view.

Volunteer Park

amer picon

Brooklyn cocktail

Oliver’s Twist, a cocktail bar on Phinney Ridge in Seattle, was one of the places that helped kick off our cocktail obsession – it was the very first place that we ever tasted a Corpse Reviver #2, considered one of the great “gateway” cocktails. That was several years ago, and yet we hadn’t been back. Mostly because the place is always crammed full of hip young things, but still. I guess we got distracted by Liberty and Barrio. Anyway. We finally made it back there last week, and the first thing I saw as we settled ourselves at the bar was a slightly weathered looking bottle of Amer Picon.

Amer Picon

A French bitter liqueur, this stuff is not easy to find these days. It used to be available in the states, and many classic cocktails call for it. But now I hear the only way to get it is to buy it in France, or find a bartender or other cocktail geek with a personal stash and attempt to buy it off of them (good luck). One of our favorite drinks, the Brooklyn, is technically supposed to be made with Picon, but we’ve always used Amaro Nonino as a make-do, and I’d never tried the cocktail made to its original recipe. So when I saw that bottle, my first thought was to ask the bartender for a Brooklyn.

His first reaction was to say “I really should hide that bottle” – but then he not only made me a Brooklyn, he also gave me a sip of the Picon so I could experience its taste undiluted. I would have loved to try it side by side with other amari, but it seemed most like Averna to us – lots of caramel and orange, but not too sweet. The cocktail was perfectly balanced and delicious, but didn’t taste extremely different than our adapted version. It was, however, nicely built and quite large. And excellent with truffled popcorn.

If we ever have the opportunity to get a bottle of Picon, we definitely will, but I’m reassured to know that the cocktails we make at home are acceptably close. And I can always go back to Oliver’s Twist for a reminder, at least until that bottle runs out.

pomegranate cocktails

diva quaranta

The other night we had the honor of attending a rather lively party that started out at the Chapel Bar (a funeral home in a previous incarnation) in Seattle. I’m always hesitant about ordering a mixed drink at a new place until I know they know what they’re doing, so I started with a Hendrick’s on the rocks with cucumber, always a safe choice.

Chapel Bar

But once I had tasted someone else’s The Carpenter and the Walrus (bourbon and sweet tea with bitters, surprisingly good), I realized Chapel seemed to have a grip on their cocktails, so I ordered a Pomegranate. It was tequila, lime and pomegranate juice – a very nice combination, and one that kicked rather a wallop. The ladies next to me were drinking the same thing but with vodka, basically a tart Cosmo – it didn’t really do anything for me, I preferred the tequila. Soon after this, we made our escape, needing to sober up before the drive home.

pomegranate juice

But the notion of pomegranate juice in a cocktail was an excellent one, inviting further experimentation. Continue reading

Smith in the morning

Smith
Smith

CAPITOL HILL, SEATTLE: Stumptown coffee, dead animals nailed to the walls, mimosas served in juice glasses, and some of the ugliest portraits I’ve been lucky enough to see – this is my kinda brunch place. Actually, Smith seems like more of a bar than a restaurant, but if they’re cool with being open at ten on a Saturday morning then I’m happy to eat there.

Smith

It’s not one of those sunny, yellow, cheery brunch places. The walls are dark, the woodwork is dark, the main windows face west, and the waitstaff had a humorously morose air at being awake so early. Plus the aforementioned dead animals. The coffee was insanely strong. Continue reading

drink of the week: Dragon's Toe

Liberty bar

I’m not always a big fan of cocktails. I love the idea, and the fun of watching a bartender put something together for me, but so often the end result just makes me wish I’d ordered a glass of gin on the rocks. Too sweet, too bitter, or just plain weird – what’s the point? I generally stick to one of a few old-style drinks (whiskey sour, sidecar, gin martini, etc) unless I feel like the bartender really knows his or her business.

Last week we stopped into a bar on Capitol Hill called Liberty. We were on our way to Poppy for dinner (more on that later) and wanted to spend some quality time with a good drink first. Liberty has one of the longest cocktail lists I have ever seen, and it’s real stuff – not just sugary vodka in martini glasses, one of my major peeves. It looked promising, so we boldly ordered off the menu. Being the gin hussy that I am, I ordered the Aviation Old-fashioned (gin, two kinds of bitters, a big honking strip of orange zest), and Jon ordered something called a Dragon’s Toe.

Liberty bar

I liked my drink; in fact, it grew on me as I drank it to the point that I really missed it once it was gone. But the Dragon’s Toe was love at first sip. See the ingredients on the menu in the picture? Bourbon, ginger water, ginger ale, and cucumber. Sounds weird, tastes magnificent. The spicy sweetness of the bourbon is magnified by the spicy ginger and sweet ginger ale, and the cucumber cools it all down without clashing. Who woulda thunk?

drink of the week: Dragon’s Toe

Liberty bar

I’m not always a big fan of cocktails. I love the idea, and the fun of watching a bartender put something together for me, but so often the end result just makes me wish I’d ordered a glass of gin on the rocks. Too sweet, too bitter, or just plain weird – what’s the point? I generally stick to one of a few old-style drinks (whiskey sour, sidecar, gin martini, etc) unless I feel like the bartender really knows his or her business.

Last week we stopped into a bar on Capitol Hill called Liberty. We were on our way to Poppy for dinner (more on that later) and wanted to spend some quality time with a good drink first. Liberty has one of the longest cocktail lists I have ever seen, and it’s real stuff – not just sugary vodka in martini glasses, one of my major peeves. It looked promising, so we boldly ordered off the menu. Being the gin hussy that I am, I ordered the Aviation Old-fashioned (gin, two kinds of bitters, a big honking strip of orange zest), and Jon ordered something called a Dragon’s Toe.

Liberty bar

I liked my drink; in fact, it grew on me as I drank it to the point that I really missed it once it was gone. But the Dragon’s Toe was love at first sip. See the ingredients on the menu in the picture? Bourbon, ginger water, ginger ale, and cucumber. Sounds weird, tastes magnificent. The spicy sweetness of the bourbon is magnified by the spicy ginger and sweet ginger ale, and the cucumber cools it all down without clashing. Who woulda thunk?

Licorous

banner1.jpg

After a late-afternoon trip to Uwajimaya (one of the best places in the world to shop for stocking stuffers), we decided to head up towards Capitol Hill and see what we could find for a drink or an early supper. After a little searching, we landed at Licorous, the lounge next door to Lark. I wasn’t sure I was hungry enough to tackle Lark for the first time, so the bar and small-plates menu at Licorous sounded perfect. We came in dripping from the rain and settled ourselves at the bar.

I’ve been working on my appreciation for bitter flavors lately, so I ordered the house negroni, along with the matched “tasting” – a small plate of serrano ham with sliced pears. I liked the pairing well enough, but wasn’t stunned. Love the concept, though. J got a bourbon cocktail called a Barbaro that came with two adorable “whiskey popovers” whose flavor really did go great with the bourbon. Continue reading