Meet some skilled bartenders, and learn their secrets. Find out where to sip your favorite drink on a sun-drenched patio. And discover the best wineries on both sides of the Cascades. Grab a glass — this is your summer drink guide.
Little Brother in Kirkland doesn’t look like your typical bar. It’s bright and full of plants. Chef-owners Jamie Casady and Jordan Cooper define it best as a “fisher- and forager-inspired neighborhood restaurant.” Little Brother serves unique cocktails, like a bright pink beet drink. Casady and her husband/business partner Jordan Cooper are also the masterminds behind DERU Market, the couple’s first restaurant. Long lines and tremendous popularity inspired them to open Little Brother — their second “baby,” so to speak. Casady and Cooper are deeply committed to using locally sourced ingredients. They started the Little Brothers’ Farmers Market for the community with food-sourcing manager Tina Fogall. Their cocktails are always changing depending on what’s ripe. At Little Brother, it’s about what tastes right that day.
When it came time to experiment with new summer cocktails, Chris Bolin wanted to create something cool, refreshing, and with gin because “everyone uses vodka,” he said. But the gin is nearly undetectable in this drink coined Bombay Smash. The flavors of the fresh basil and mint really make their mark. “I like basil in cocktails. It’s a flare that pops out. It adds that floral quality.” The mint was grown in head chef and co-owner Bradley Dickinson’s garden.
Make it: Pearl’s Bombay Smash
2 to 3 leaves fresh basil
2 to 3 leaves fresh mint
1½ ounces Bombay Gin
½ ounce St-Germain Liqueur
3 to 4 ounces fresh lemonade
1 fresh mint sprig for garnish
Muddle basil and mint with ice. Add gin and St-Germain, shake, and strain into a Collins glass. Fill glass with ice and top with lemonade and garnishes.
Tammy Spears is a people person. Bonding with strangers is second nature to this mixologist. Her deep laugh is contagious, and her cocktails are a delight. Most nights, she works across the lake at Tilikum Place Café in Seattle. But you can find her on the Eastside teaching cocktail-making classes at Whisk on Main Street in Bellevue. Originally from Alabama and Kentucky, Spears relocated to the Northwest years ago “because (it was) the farthest place from the South.” When she was 16, she started working at Red Lobster. Her love of bartending and mixing drinks started at a young age. She digs happy hour — the time of day when work and pleasure get stirred together. In her free time, she is a painter and runs a darling little space in Georgetown called Guest Shed Gallery. At the end of a long day, she doesn’t blend herself a fruity cocktail. A glass of fine whiskey is all the Southern gal needs. “Whiskey is my jam.”
Spears’ tips for crafting perfect cocktails
Ice “Don’t use bad ice from a gas station. It dilutes the drink.” Spears recommends using bigger ice cubes that melt slowly and help keep the integrity of the cocktail on point until the last drop.
Ingredients “Mix with the best ingredients that your budget can allow.” Not only will your drinks taste better, but you’ll feel better the next day. Fruity drinks are an exception — you won’t be able to taste your very best liquor.
Glassware “You can never have too much glassware,” said Spears. A good glass can affect the whole sipping experience.
Mint If you’re adding mint as a garnish, slap it on your hand before you place it in the glass. It won’t damage the green herb, but it will extract its flavor and fragrance.
Grenadine Don’t buy it — make it. “It’s so easy and lasts forever,” Spears said. The quality is far better than the store-bought syrup. Try Spears’ recipe below!
Make it: Minty Mai Tai Punch
1 ounce dark rum (such as 12-year Flor de Cana)
1 ounce white rum
1 ounce orange juice
1 ounce pineapple juice
Shake vigorously and pour over rocks. Add ½ ounce of homemade grenadine (recipe below). Slap 2 sprigs of mint in your palm, and garnish.
1 cup POM juice
1 cup sugar
1 ounce pomegranate molasses
½ teaspoon orange blossom water
Dissolve sugar in juice over medium heat. Add remaining ingredients.
Make it: Triple Lemon Drop
1½ ounces vodka
½ ounce Limoncello
½ ounce Aperol
½ ounce lemon juice
For the grapefruit and lemon sugar rim, zest one grapefruit and two lemons. Grind in a spice grinder and dry. Add sugar. to make the cocktail, shake all ingredients vigorously, and serve up in a grapefruit/lemon sugar-rimmed martini glass.
Allan Shumskiy is always on a mission to get Bellevue diners to try something new. “I try to break barriers,” he said. When he noticed no one was ordering gin cocktails, he started inventing drinks that would lure guests toward the liquor. And there are still a few jars of wood chips on the bar from when he was making smoked cocktails this winter. “A smoke gun is a normal thing for the kitchen, but it’s definitely not a normal thing for the bar,” he said. His Mango Harem is a dynamite cocktail that will ignite taste buds this summer. It’s sweet; it’s hot; it is one sexy drink. “I knew that mango and heat go well together, and I just liked the color contrast,” he said. It’s made of cachaça, mango puree, and Thai chili. In his free time, Shumskiy trades in his cocktail shaker for a turntable when he deejays as Houski. His drink of choice is a well-made gin martini — of course.
If you’re looking for one of the best Manhattans on the Eastside, the Old Redmond Manhattan 12 at Prime Steakhouse in Redmond is hard to beat. Owner Kevin Phillips concocted it about five years ago. “I was bartending at a place called the Tin Table on Capitol Hill, and it was a drink I would make myself when my shift was over,” he said. He didn’t want it showing up on any other bar menus so he kept it a secret until he could officially debut it at his own place. “It’s a twist on a classic Manhattan with a few more ingredients that give it a bit more of a complex flavor profile,” he said. It’s served in an absinthe-washed glass that gives it a hint of licorice. If this sounds too stiff, the restaurant also makes its own ginger beer that transforms into a perfect Moscow Mule.
Make it: Prime Steakhouse’s Old Redmond Manhattan 12
1 ounce bourbon (they use Four Roses Yellow Label)
1 ounce overproof rye whiskey (they use Rittenhouse Rye)
¾ ounces sweet vermouth (they use Carpano Antica Formula)
¼ ounce Cointreau
3 dashes Angostura bitters
3 dashes Regan’s No. 5 Orange Bitters
Stir and serve up in an absinthe-washed coupe glass. Garnish with a wide swath of orange peel.
Civility & Unrest
There’s no doorknob to Jason Wilson’s modern “speakeasy” at the bottom floor of the W Bellevue hotel. The hidden door is flush with the wall so it’s easy to miss — like a speakeasy should be. But the inside isn’t some old smoky hole in the wall; it’s fresh and modern with a sleek bar and plenty of swanky seating. It’s an experience that shouldn’t be overly exposed, and that’s why we won’t give you all the details here. What we will say is that the bartenders make a mean cocktail. At times it’s like a science lab down there with drinks that smoke and change colors. So worth a taste test!
More Cocktails to Try
Bottle and Bull Inspired by Ernest Hemingway, this cocktail menu is a scholarly treat. Try the Robert Jordan — a combination of gin, basil, and pineapple juice — named after a character in For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Purple Café Sip the Boozy Shrub, a combination of house-made soda and spirits that change with the seasons.
Tavern Hall Try the Morning Margarita off the brunch menu. The combination of tequila, triple sec, agave nectar, and marmalade will wake you up.
Lot No. 3 Get the Raspberry Collins with raspberry-infused vodka, sugar, lemon, and soda if you like it sweet.
Fins Bistro One of the best ways to end a summer day is sipping on limoncello at this tiny gem next to Village Theatre.
Cactus Order the low-cal margarita, the Mamacita. It tastes like heaven and it’s skinny — only 144 calories!
Japonessa Brand new to town, Japonessa prides itself on having a good happy hour. Try the Partea Starter — Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka, lemon, orange, and shiso.
Bis on Main It’s not on the drink list, but general manager Tim Shea says try the Aperol Spritzer — Aperol, club soda, fresh orange slice, and La Marca prosecco.
99 Park Sip a French 99 Park with hints of ginger and lemon on the outdoor patio.