Best Cocktail-Centric Happy Hours

Where to go in Seattle for the best happy hour cocktails, and what you should order.
A.J. Rathbun  |   April 2012   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
The Duff and Blathers from Oliver's Twist

Sun Liquor Distillery
Capitol Hill

Sun Liquor Distillery is an essential happy-hour stop. From 5 to 7 p.m., you can gaze lovingly at the shining still that sits in a room behind the bar while sipping a seasonal cocktail special, such as the Martine (gin, dry vermouth, angostura bitters and a lemon twist; $7), made with Hedgetrimmer gin, which is distilled on site. You can chat with bartender Ted Monahan while the drinks are made, snacking on crisp fries and taking in the art and the nonchalant diner décor. Once the clock clicks past 7, fortify your position or slip out the door, as the room fills fast. Of course, it’s the bustle of the later hours that makes the happier hours so darned precious.

Tavern Law
Capitol Hill

A shadowy haven accented in wood (wood bar, wood bookcase and wooden cooler), Tavern Law provides a welcome respite to travelers wishing to duck away from the cacophony of cars and pedestrians congesting the corner of Madison and 12th. With cocktails such as the Red Rum Daisy (shown above; created by former Tavern Law bartender David Nelson), concocted from a house-infused red pepper rum and grenadine along with lime over crushed ice ($7 during happy hour, 5 to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday; Sunday 5 p.m. to closing) this sense of respite flows not only from the bar’s happy-hour calm (as opposed to its hectic and often deluged later hours), but also from its delicious drinks. Bartenders, such as Monica Buntha, shake and stir the poised and well-flavored mixes in a traditional manner—the manner of the latter 18th and early 19th centuries, that is—while not being afraid to flaunt a twist of modern creativity.

Oliver’s Twist
Phinney /Greenwood

With a happy hour that lasts from 5 to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday and all evening on Sunday, and which knocks $2 off both classic and classically inspired drinks, it’s hard to resist speaking that most recognized phrase from the Dickens classic for which the bar is named: “Please sir, I want some more.” Luckily, bartenders such as Robert Rowland are used to charming palaver such as this; it matches the bar’s pleasant but quirky personality. Likewise, the garlic truffle popcorn matches the inspired Duff and Blathers, a cocktail combining rye, Averna amaro, maraschino liqueur, orange bitters and a black pepper tincture. Once happy hour is over, you may feel more like you’re in an overcrowded Dickensian orphanage, but this is just another reason to sample more drinks earlier.

Rob Roy
Belltown

Perhaps Seattle’s preeminent cocktail lounge, Rob Roy is where bartenders such as Bryn Lumsden and Andrew Bohrer serve surpassingly well-crafted drinks in a dimly lit atmosphere reminiscent of Perry Mason’s 1950s Los Angeles. Which is to say that the happy hour—which lasts from 4 to 7 p.m.—is cool and welcoming, smooth and serene. During these idyllic moments, certain cocktails are served for $6, such as the Basil Smash (shown above), with its combination of herbal notes and smoky reposado tequila. Combine the drinks with lightly spiced house-made deviled eggs and leisurely conversation and you’ll wonder how the time went by so quickly. Be sure to skip out before it gets too late on weekend nights; the later crowds can wreck the earlier languid grace.

Paratii Craft Bar
Ballard

Don’t be fooled by Paratii’s lighting, which is at times so low as to confuse passersby into thinking that the place is closed. Once you walk through the door, the relaxed ambiance—borrowed from a Central American beach bar circa 1972—hugs you like an old friend. During the 5–7 p.m. happy hour (offered all day on Sunday), you’ll find friendly bartenders, like Shattuck Wildaner, behind the bar making $7 drinks, including frothy numbers such as the tall Bahia. It’s a refreshingly kicked-back blend of white rum, pineapple juice and cream of coconut—a soothing side to sweet potato fries with fiery house-made chili sauce.

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