Like the dazzling Emerald City itself, Seattle’s bar scene is a lot of things at once: it is a craft beer haven, teems with celebrated grunge dives, and boasts wine lists featuring the best of Washington’s locally produced bottles. No matter your drink of choice, there is a speakeasy, wine bar, or brewery for whatever strikes your fancy. Find your next drink at one of these innovative bars focused on craft, quality, and, of course, good times.
Deep Dive (South Lake Union)
This nautical speakeasy from James Beard Award-winning chef Renee Erickson is hidden under the spherical Amazon headquarters. Inside, you’ll find an underwater grotto decorated with maritime antiques serving botanical cocktails inspired by the renowned Spheres, which house a variety of plants. The food menu offers sea-centric bites, from caviar to Spanish anchovies, but its star is the overhauled Seattle dog—a hot dog with cream cheese. The bar has a sophisticated feel, with a swankier dress code than what’s typically seen in casual Seattle—but that only adds to the sublime getaway feels.
Whiskey by John Howie (Bellevue)
Set next to his eponymous steak house, this destination by storied Seattle chef John Howie is devoted to all things whiskey. Whether you’re looking to learn about the liquor or you’re a connoisseur on a quest for international and rare types, this bar boasts a prolific collection, thoughtfully selected by in-house curator Tim Lodahl. Dark wood finishes and leather booths lend an intimate feel. Pair your whiskey with hearty, meat-forward dishes such as wagyu steak nachos and flatbreads stacked with brisket.
Kro Bar – Bothell
Classic cocktails fill the extensive menu at this under-the-radar spot just north of Seattle. House specialities, such as the Curtain Call, a drink made with a popcorn-washed bourbon, are mixed into the menu. The atmosphere at Kro Bar is intimate and stylish, with plenty of hat tips to its past life as a hardware store: there are 16-foot tin ceilings and carefully restored original wood floors. Fortunately, the vibe remains unpretentious—despite chef Dan Yule’s impressive pedigree, which includes stints at Canlis and Crush.
Ben Paris (Downtown)
Located in The State Hotel downtown, this bar and restaurant offers playful but expertly crafted cocktails. Named for a historic Seattle entrepreneur, it’s a spot known for drinks such as the Seattle sour, made with apples, and a pine-infused old-fashioned. Swing by during happy hour for a chef’s tasting menu, featuring inventive Pacific Northwestern plates fueled with bounty from the Pike Place Market—at $50 per person with beverage pairings, it’s an irresistible deal.
Purple Cafe and Wine Bar – Seattle (Downtown)
Purple is an oenophile’s dream. The wine menu reads like a novel, each page offering local favorites and rare vintages; many bottles are on prominent display inside the spiral wine tower in the center of the dining room. The bar bends around it, creating the ideal setting for a post-work happy hour or a drop-in after a downtown shopping trip. Choose from a menu of comfort food classics, from burgers to truffle mac n’ cheese, which get the gourmet treatment—and taste even better with the perfect glass of wine to go with.
Single Shot (Capitol Hill)
This overlooked gem in residential Capitol Hill is both a stellar kitchen and saloon. Expect detail-oriented cocktails accompanied by chef Aleksander Kubicki’s delicious menu of seasonally rotating fare. The marble bar is the perfect perch for a nightcap, where seasoned bartenders—many are transplants from the city’s other great bars—churn out reimagined classics, such as the Summit Avenue Sour, an irresistible blend of bourbon, chartreuse-maple, lemon, and bitters.
Artusi (Capitol Hill)
As the sibling to the acclaimed restaurant Spinasse, this aperitivo bar brings a sliver of Italian drinking culture to the heart of Capitol Hill. From Aperol spritzes to negronis, excellently curated wine lists, and even Italian beer, there is something for everyone— even the hungry. Food consists of antipasti and small bites, but a few of the famous pastas—half portions are available, too—from next door can be ordered.
McMenamins Elks Temple (Tacoma)
Elks Temple, the newest addition to the McMenamins family, calls itself a pub, but its dazzling stained glass windows and chandeliers hint at a grander existence. Housed in a historic Renaissance Revival building dating back to 1916, the bar features large windows with expansive views of Commencement Bay. The crowd-pleasing spot, with a killer brunch, is also a late-night hangout, courtesy of its gourmet burgers and house craft brews. The multi-level venue also hosts a variety of events in its Spanish Ballroom, from live music to comedy.
Herb & Bitter Public House (Capitol Hill)
This quaint spot, on the north end of Capitol Hill, has cranked out some of the best cocktails in town for years. The comprehensive spirits program is centered around Italian amari and is enhanced by a Mediterranean-influenced menu, with both smaller snacks and entrees, such as the baked lamb ribs and fried gnocchi. Enjoy it all in a conservatory, featuring a retractable glass roof, occupying a 1,000-square-foot patio lined with string lights.
Redhook Brewlab (Capitol Hill)
Housed in the Pike Motorworks Building, this restaurant and brewery, from one of Seattle’s original beer-makers, boasts one of the city’s largest outdoor patios. Not to mention 16 taps of rotating small-batch beers, made on-site by head brewer Joel Kosic. The industrial interiors are adorned with hand-painted murals, and Edison bulbs light the warehouse-esque dining room, which serves pub grub and a variety of stone-hearth baked pizzas.
L’Oursin (Central District)
L’Oursin, a small French restaurant, serving exclusively natural wine, has a drinks selection unlike any other spot in the city—think funky French rosés and savory reds. The menu also gets bonus points for thoughtful tasting notes, which sound more like suggestions from a savvy friend than tips from a sommelier. Chef J.J. Proville’s menu, filled with modern interpretations of French café classics, includes excellent drinking companions, such as steak frites, pate, and endive salads.
This cozy sake bar, known for a Japan-inspired bar program, is a sibling establishment to the acclaimed handmade soba noodle joint, Kamonegi. Cocktails are experiments in fusion, combining aged plum sake with cava and shiso with bourbon. The nibbles are also playful takes on favorites, from snack mix featuring cheese crackers to ramen chips; heartier plates, such as mapo pork nachos and okonomi “latkes” with umami sour cream and miso apple, also skillfully combine cuisines.
Alana Al-Hatlani is a baker by morning and food writer by night in Seattle.
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