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The Best Craft Cocktail Bars in Seattle, Washington

Picture of Alexia Wulff
Updated: 20 April 2018
Forget dive bars; chic restaurants and bars have been stepping up their game, implementing cocktail programs that highlight handcrafted syrups and tinctures, fresh herbs, and unique spirits amongst the remarkable talent of the bartenders who make them. Whether you’re a fan of the classics or are a cocktail snob, check out Seattle’s nine best spots for craft cocktails that are downright revolutionizing the drinking experience.
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Canon is one of the most respected cocktail bars in all of Seattle. Distinguished by its bottle-lined walls and retro ambiance reminiscent of the Roaring 1920s, Canon provides spirit enthusiasts with over 3,500 labels to choose from, including rare and vintage finds. Whiskey drinker? Here, you’ll find a star-studded selection, along with chilled green Chartreuse on tap. Plus, the cocktail list is lengthy, from innovative spins on the classics (think ‘pimmp’s cup’ with strawberry and grappa) to barrel-aged, house-carbonated, and punch bowl-style cocktails meant for sharing.

Canon, 928 12th Ave, Seattle, WA, USA

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Canon’s bottle-lined walls | Courtesy of Canon

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Needle & Thread

Needle & Thread is Seattle’s ode to a bygone era – inspired by traditional Prohibition craft, this speakeasy (hidden behind a bank vault door in Tavern Law) fuses sophistication with the dark, seedy, blind pigs of the past, fit with leather couches and sparkling chandeliers. With the art of mixing at the forefront, Needle & Thread’s bartenders live and die by perfectly crafted cocktails, created and made by those with a passion for the history and roots of American cocktail culture. On the menu, you’ll find a long list of manhattans, sours, mules, sweet, salty, and even unusual umami-based drinks, providing plenty of selections for any palate. Pro tip: this spot requires a reservation, but you may be able to sweet-talk your way in through Tavern Law.

Needle & Thread, 1406 12th Ave, Seattle, WA, USA, +1 206 325 0133

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Head up the hill from Pike Place Market and find Rumba, a little piece of Caribbean sunshine serving up rum cocktails and tropical-inspired drinks in a 1950s island-style setting. At Rumba, libations consist of traditional prohibition-era Havana recipes, like daiquiris, punches, swizzles, and classic island drinks (think Mai Tais and piña coladas). Plus, there are over 400 different rums to taste at Rumba: opt for the rum flight, and take a tour of the Caribbean without leaving the city.

Rumba, 1112 Pike St, Seattle, WA, USA, +1 206 583 7177

Rumba | © Megan Rainwater/Courtesy of Rumba

Rumba | © Megan Rainwater/Courtesy of Rumba

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Barnacle is bringing the classic Italian aperitivo bar to Seattle. Set within a stunningly bright space with Moroccan-tiled walls, a copper bar, and a bottle-lined backdrop, this spot boasts one of the most impressive amaro lists in the city. Fit for the bitter-cocktail aficionados, Barnacle is the spot for crafted amari drinks and apéritifs – and be sure to accompany your drink with one of the chilled bar bites.

Barnacle, 4743 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle, WA, USA, +1 206 706 3379

© Jim Henkens/Courtesy of Barnacle

One of the many expertly crafted cocktails at Barnacle | © Jim Henkens/Courtesy of Barnacle

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Don’t be fooled by the word ‘sushi’ accompanying Liberty – this spot has been an industry and local favorite for nearly a decade. Almost everything is made in house, including bitters and innovative infusions, and even the juices are squeezed-to-order. As their motto goes, Liberty makes everything from scratch, so cocktail connoisseurs can rest assured that this spot is doing it right; find anything from classic and barrel-aged cocktails to a long list of spirits.

Liberty, 517 15th Ave E, Seattle, WA, USA, +1 206 323 9898

Courtesy of Rob Roy

One of Rob Roy’s many innovative cocktails | Courtesy of Rob Roy

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Rob Roy

Rob Roy, brainchild of Anu Elford, is cranking out top-notch and unusually innovative cocktails – like the saffron sandalwood sour and gunpowder punch (yes, it’s made with real gunpowder) – inside a dark and cozy space. The atmosphere is casual, drawing in characters from all areas of the city, and sometimes morphs into a somewhat clubby vibe; but it makes for the perfect spot to enjoy a cocktail (or three) well into the wee hours.

Rob Roy, 2332 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA, USA, +1 206 956 8423

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Zig Zag Café

Another near-Pike Place gem, Zig Zag Café, has been a Seattle institution for years and will go down in history as one of the best cocktail bars in the city. With an emphasis on the classics, Zig Zag brings back memories of retro cocktail bars with an old school bowtie-and-vest-style uniform and a whiskey list fit for even the most discerning of bourbon drinkers. Go for the last word, a gin-based cocktail developed during Prohibition.

Zig Zag Café, 1501 Western Ave #202, Seattle, WA, USA, +1 206 625 1146

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Essex is craft-cocktail-making at its finest. Brought to you by famed wood-fired pizza joint, Delancey, Essex is the product of owner Brandon Pettit’s past experiments creating house-made bitters and liqueurs at his pizzeria next door. A small but quaint space, Essex takes special care in crafting some of the best cocktails in Seattle; from sparkling cocktails on tap to Pettit’s house-made Fernet, Essex leaves nothing to be desired. Plus, the menu is always changing, so Pettit keeps things interesting for returning customers (which you’ll be after just one visit).

Essex, 1421 NW 70th St, Seattle, WA, USA, +1 206 724 0471

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Percy’s and Co.

From the apothecary-inspired cocktails to the farm-to-table Creole-style small plates, Percy’s and Co. is all about highlighting the beauty of Washington agriculture. Located in the historic Old Ballard neighborhood, Percy’s atmosphere keeps it rustic with a vintage and plant-filled interior; there’s even a rooftop garden where fresh produce and herbs are grown for both the cocktail bar and the kitchen. Go for the honey bee – rosemary-infused gin, fresh lemon, and lavender-infused honey – or opt for Sunday brunch and get yourself a ‘spicy tomate.’ For those who need a little pick-me-up, Percy’s offers house-made tinctures, like ‘energy & immunity,’ to add to your cocktail.

Percy’s & Co., 5233 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle, WA, USA, +1 206 420 3750

© Chris Jordan/Courtesy of Percy's & Co.

The rustic and welcoming interior of Percy’s and Co. | © Chris Jordan/Courtesy of Percy’s and Co.