City in A Glass: Seattle

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City in A Glass: Seattle

Thirsty? You’re in luck. In Paste’s drinking-and-traveling series, City in a Glass, we mix up a city’s signature swills and slide them down the bar to readers. Grab a stool. This round, in Manhattan, is on us.


Seattleites prefer their cocktails

like they prefer their coffee: brown and bitter. You’ll find lots of cocktails made with bourbon, rye and amaro, but surprisingly, not many made with coffee. For being the java capital of the United States—and the hometown of Starbucks and Seattle’s Best Coffee chains, in addition to many other small roasting companies—you’d expect an abundance of coffee cocktails on its bar menus. The owners of E. Smith Mercantile bar, which is one of the few spots in the city to offer cold-brew coffee cocktails (made with all organic and fair trade beans, obviously), say they weren’t actually inspired to make coffee cocktails until after taking a trip to Nashville ( “They were using coffee with such interesting flavor combinations in lattes that we thought it would be a natural pairing to cocktails, and something that you don’t see all that often,” owner Jessie Poole says.

While Seattle’s coffee purists may not want to mud up their lattes with alcohol just yet, they certainly still have a craving for quality cocktails. On this city tour we’re going to show you where you can get some delicious drinks in unexpected locations. Here’s where to find three great drinks (none of which include coffee) and even how to replicate them at home.


1. Miner’s Campfire?

Where to order: Back Bar at E. Smith Mercantile

Miners Campfire 2.jpeg
Photo courtesy of Fresh Point Media

At E. Smith Mercantile in Pioneer Square you can buy antique silver belt buckles, tanned leather wallets and tins of beard conditioner, among many other quality apothecary goods. Walk to the back of the shop, and you’ll find a delightfully rustic bar offering dozens of options to cure your sobriety. Shop owners and sisters Jessie and Sara Poole take inspiration from their family’s heritage when designing the cocktail menu. They dedicated the smoky Miner’s Campfire cocktail—the first one they came up with and the one they served at their shop’s opening party—to their great grandfather, Elmer Smith, who was a gold mine engineer in Southern Idaho’s Sawtooth Range.

Gold mining played a major role in Seattle history, as well: In the late 1800s during the Klondike Gold Rush, the city erroneously advertised itself as the Gateway to the Gold Fields. Some 40,000 prospectors, or stampeders, stopped in Seattle to buy supplies for their journey north. While this particular promise of gold in Alaska and Canada’s northwestern territory was greatly exaggerated, at least Seattle shopkeepers prospered.

The Poole shopkeepers’ Miner’s Campfire cocktail contains tequila, scotch, grapefruit juice, smoked salt and smoke bitters. “Guests are frequently intrigued by the tequila/scotch combo,” Jessie says. “We’re still surprised that they’re such good friends as it turns out. The cocktail has an herbal- and smoke-forward nose that enhances the bittersweet and bright citrus taste.” They say it evokes “images of family huddled around a wood fire,” who are “imbibing and shaking off the dirt of a long day.” It gives drinkers a taste of the historic community center where people shared stories, forgot the cares of the day and built the American spirit.

Miner’s Campfire

1½ oz. blanco tequila
1½ oz. blended scotch whiskey
1 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
½ oz. honey simple syrup (recipe below)
10-12 drops ESM smoke bitters
Alder smoked sea salt, for garnish

Make honey syrup: Combine 1 part honey and 1 part water in a saucepan. Heat slowly, stirring until the honey dissolves. Simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Make drink: Combine tequila, scotch, juice and syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake. Strain into a rocks glass rimmed with smoked salt and filled with fresh ice. Top with smoke bitters.


2. Pandanus Club?

Where to order: Stateside

Pandanus Club.jpeg
Photo courtesy Stateside

In the late 1800s the Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky, came up with a drink it called the Pendennis Cocktail. It was made of gin, apricot, lime and simple syrup. That drink fit the tastes of the old English gentlemen who were members of the club, but in Seattle, where Vietnamese cuisine is so abundant—and where the Vietnamese-American community is so large—an Asian-style version of the drink is much more appetizing. At Stateside, a modern Vietnamese restaurant in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, bar manager George Engelstad makes what he calls the Pandanus Club. He swaps out the gin for tequila and adds pandan to the simple syrup.

“The pandan plant is a tropical plant widely used in Southeast Asian cooking,” Engelstad says. The leaves are usually about a foot long and shaped like a palm leaf. “It imparts a somewhat nutty flavor and a bit of green color. Usually it is found in desserts or beverages, but it can also be used in savory foods.” Stateside restaurant also uses pandan to season its ginger rice. The drink ends up tasting clean, yet tart, and has a nutty finish.

Pandanus Club

1½ oz. tequila?
¾ oz. lime juice
?½ oz. apricot liqueur
?¼ oz. pandan syrup (recipe below)?
1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
Lime wheel, for garnish

Make pandan syrup: Combine 1 pandan leaf and 2 cups simple syrup (1 part sugar: 1 part water) in a saucepan. Heat slowly, stirring until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and let the leaf steep until cool. Strain.

Make drink: Combine all ingredients, plus ice, in a cocktail shaker. Shake. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.


3. el Diablo?

Where to order: Rachel’s Ginger Beer Pike Place

el Diablo.jpeg
Photo courtesy Rachel’s Ginger Beer

Some call Seattle’s Pike Place Market the cultural heart of downtown. The public farmers’ and artisans’ market has been open since 1907 and draws in 10 million tourists per year. Here, local brewing company Rachel’s Ginger Beer (RGB) operates its flagship ginger beer bar. “Pike Place Market is not just a tourist trap,” RGB founder Rachel Marshall says. “Families live here. We see the same locals over and over, who come to the market to shop for produce, cheese, wine and bread. It’s an European shopping model in the most beautiful way.”

At the bar you can buy growlers of the locally made ginger beer or get it mixed into a half-dozen specialty cocktails on tap. The original (nonalcoholic) beer recipe—ginger, freshly squeezed lemon juice, organic, fair-trade cane sugar and Seattle water—is always available, while seasonal flavors like Asian pear, carrot-beet, cranberry-apricot, and strawberry-rhubarb, rotate throughout the year. The cocktail offerings include mules (ginger beer mixed with nearly every spirit), hot toddies and semi-frozen, granita versions of the mules. One of the lesser-known but iconic drinks available is the el Diablo, a deceptively simple concoction of tequila, crème de cassis, ginger beer and lime. The cassis gives the drink its tart, berry flavor and pretty pink hue, while the chuggable beer helps the cocktail go down like a margarita with a powerful ginger kick at the end.

El Diablo

1½ oz. El Charro Silver (reposado) tequila
½ oz. crème de cassis
4 to 5 oz. Rachel’s Ginger Beer
1 lime wedge, for garnish

Combine the tequila and crème de cassis in a cocktail tin with ice. Shake. Strain into an ice-filled glass. Top with ginger beer and garnish with a lime wedge.

City in a Glass columnist Alyson Sheppard writes about travel, restaurants and bars for She spent many years drinking in New York before resettling in the great state of Texas.