For more of the best places to drink, check out our other City Guides.
Spurred on by an ongoing tech boom that has attracted an influx of high-income workers and supported seemingly endless construction, Seattle has changed dramatically over the last two decades. That growth has enabled a host of great places to drink to open their doors, some which aim to center the region’s remarkable producers of wine, beer, and spirits, while others express their local roots through the flavors and ingredients they employ.
The drinking scene in Seattle offers an incredible array of options and locations from which to choose, from some of the finest cocktail bars in the country to neighborhood breweries and world-class wineries. Understanding Seattle also requires understanding a bit about the city’s geography, as there are a number of distinct neighborhoods with excellent drinking (and dining) scenes, but getting between them can require a bit of travel due to the numerous hills and lakes that generally mess with the topography of the area.
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To make the most of a couple of nights in Seattle, here are some of our favorite drinks destinations, no matter your preferred beverage.
Best Place to Taste History: Zig Zag Cafe
Tucked away in an innocuous corner down a staircase from the main stretch of Pike Place Market, you’ll find the Zig Zag Cafe, which played a crucial role in growing Seattle’s craft cocktail scene, and also happens to be the bar where Murray Stenson revived the Last Word by taking it from an old cocktail book and turning it into something of a phenomenon in Seattle. Stenson moved on years ago, but the dark, sultry space remains one of the best spots for a cocktail in the city.
Address: 1501 Western Ave. Suite 202, Seattle, Wash. 98101
Best Spot for Hop Heads: Cloudburst Brewing
Seattle’s craft brewing scene is legendary, and given the abundance of both hops and barley grown in Washington State, it’s no surprise that the city boasts over 70 breweries. Cloudburst Brewing is one of the finest of the bunch, and head brewer Steve Luke remains dedicated to presenting hops in a wide range of styles and forms. He also manages to produce compelling pilsners and lagers, should that be more your speed.
Tip Jar: Cloudburst’s Shilshole location is just a short walk from the heart of Ballard’s brewery district, where other excellent breweries like Stoup, Urban Family, and Bale Breaker reside. One way to tour the area is on a “beer bike,” or “cycle saloon,” especially if you’re traveling with friends.
Address: 5456 Shilshole Ave. NW, Seattle, Wash. 98107
Best Spot for Drinks and Tunes: Bad Bishop
If you’re looking for a great spot to grab a drink near some of Seattle’s biggest tourist attractions, the greater downtown area boasts several excellent cocktail bars. Perhaps the most underrated of the lot, Bad Bishop in Pioneer Square, resides in one of the oldest buildings in the city. There, it combines a diverse cocktail list featuring riffs on classics like a Chai Daiquiri and a Vieux Carré made with mezcal, with tasty comfort food, a laid-back vibe, and a massive vinyl collection that’s spun during service.
Address: 704 1st Ave., Seattle, Wash. 98104
Best Place to Drink Near the Water: Westward
There’s no shortage of waterfront spots in the city between three lakes and Puget Sound, but Westward, which sits mere steps from Lake Union, might be the most stunning. Here you’ll find chef Renee Erickson’s take on beachfront cuisine, as well as a wine list from wine director Jennifer O’Neil that skews European but includes some local favorites, as well as a delightful raw oyster and mezcal pairing.
Address: 2501 N. Northlake Way, Seattle, Wash. 98103
Best Place for a Rum Deep Dive: Rumba
Rumba remains one of Seattle’s most vital bars, offering a breathtaking range of rums from all corners of the globe lovingly presented and mixed by some of the city’s most talented bartenders. Its multiple takes on the Daiquiri offer fantastic opportunities to explore both that storied cocktail and a diverse array of rums. The team also crafts some of the best no-proof drinks in town, should that be your thing.
Tip Jar: Nestled within Rumba is Inside Passage, a speakeasy dedicated to tropical cocktails, with surprisingly tasty renditions of hard-to-love classics like the Blue Hawaii and the Hurricane. Plus, its tits got a 20-foot octopus to gawk at.
Address: 1112 Pike St., Seattle, Wash. 98101
Best Place for Wine Lovers Who Hate Driving: SoDo Urban Works
While Woodinville (a city about 30 minutes northeast of Seattle) gets a fair amount of attention due to its highly acclaimed wineries, getting there can be a bit of a trek. Fortunately, SoDo Urban Works, located just south of downtown, features tasting rooms for a number of exciting wineries, including Latta Wines, Kerloo Cellars, Sleight of Hand, and Rotie, among others.
Tip Jar: If you need a break from wine, San Juan Seltzer is located in the same complex and uses Northwest ingredients to craft a range of tasty hard seltzers.
Address: 393 1st Ave S. #2236, Seattle, Wash. 98134
Best Place for a Special Night Out: Surrell
Surrell might be better known for its remarkable and delectable dishes as a part of Chef Aaron Tekulve’s multi-course tasting menus (and a stunning patio), but he’s also truly dedicated to championing Washington wine, and in fact his restaurant exclusively pours bottles from the state, with selections across a wide range of price points and styles. Plan ahead, as reservations are hard to come by.
Tip Jar: If a multi-course tasting menu feels like a bit much, Surrell also sets aside some of the dining room space every night for more casual wine bar patrons, with a menu of snacks and a thoughtful selection of glass pours.
Address: 2319 E. Madison St., Seattle, Wash. 98112
Best Place for World-Class Whiskey: Westland
Westland Distillery produces some of the finest single malt whiskey in the world under the stewardship of master distiller Matt Hofmann, and its production facility and tasting room are located in the SoDo neighborhood. Upon visiting, you can check out its many expressions of the spirit, including the Colere line, which relies exclusively on barley grown in Washington state.
Address: 2931 1st Ave. S., Seattle, Wash. 98134
Best Bar for Bartending Nerds: Roquette
Longtime industry veteran Erik Hakkinen’s Roquette hints at its French inspirations with drinks that make use of Calvados, Armagnac, eaux-de-vie, and both green and yellow Chartreuses, but the spot mostly offers a refreshingly modern rendition of a craft cocktail bar. It’s heavy on technique and refinement but light on stuffiness or snobbery, surprisingly bright during daylight hours but alluringly dim once night falls, and while cocktail novices are made to feel comfortable, Hakkinen has staffed the bar with a number of seasoned pros should you want to dive deep on technique or ingredients.
Tip Jar: You might not expect it given the French influence, but Roquette also features a robust mezcal selection, should your tastes run more to agave than eaux-de-vie.
Address: 2232 1st Ave., Seattle, Wash. 98121