Imbibe Magazine has rounded up ten of the Best Negronis in America and–okay yes, in answer to your first question, that’s a cocktail with gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. Now, let’s see, New York, Boston, San Francisco…hey, Seattle! Capitol Hill’s Liberty Bar gets this mention (seconded by the Seattle Times‘ Tan Vinh):
Another Pacific Northwest bar with a stellar barrel-aged cocktail program, Liberty’s wood-softened Negroni (served up) combines Washington’s Voyager gin with Campari, and a blend of Boissiere and Dolin rouge vermouths to sublime results. And that’s just one of the dozen cocktails Liberty’s currently aging.
517 15th Ave., Seattle; 206-323-9898
Off-Hill but not East Coast, there’s also Clyde Common in Portland. I know you’re curious about what else Andrew is aging in wooden barrels at Liberty, so here’s a taste: You can get a Novo Fogo cachaça Old Fashioned, or a Good Dog (that’s a house cocktail on the menu, made with Voyager gin from Pacific Distillery in Woodinville, and aged eight weeks in a 5-liter barrel).
Andrew says, “We just birthed a four-months-old Sombra Mezcal, which was aged in a seasoned barrel that had Campari in it for five months before that. It’s amazing. We also have a House Orange Bitters, that’s six months at this point, plus another four, with about six more going into barrels as soon as we get them next week.”
The trick with barrel-aging is to find cocktails that age well in the first place. Best case, as with Liberty’s Negroni, you gain in the complexity of the marriage of flavors. Otherwise, it may simply taste less present, like cocktail wallpaper.
That’s 15th Ave E. Down on 19th Ave E, the venerable Kingfish Café, home of the head-sized dessert, has just introduced its first-ever Happy Hour in the bar. That’s 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. They have five cocktails offered for $6, including the Bartender’s Margarita (Tequila Reposado, Triple Sec, limes, cranberry juice, with a float of Grand Marnier) and a classic martini (your choice of gin or vodka). Wines are $5, wells, $4, bottles of beer, $2.
Because it’s the Kingfish, that’s not all. Things become a little dangerous, diet-wise, with Mac & Cheese ($5: two cheeses, onion, mushrooms), catfish bites ($5, pictured), and BBQ pork sliders ($7: with candied jalapeños and slaw). Yam fries are just $3. I tried out the catfish bites, and yes, I will have more, thank you. Crispy cornmeal and spicy tartar.
I don’t hang out in the Kingfish bar as often as I should. While I was there, I heard Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Mel Tormé, and Louis Armstrong; there was quiet chit-chat, and everything felt warm and sepia-tinged. Zig Zag‘s Ben Dougherty told me once that any bar’s primary product is hospitality. As much as you try to stand out with drink service, you can never forget that. Kingfish is pure Southern comfort.