Share story

Damp, breezy, a gust greeting you at 5 in the evening, on your way to happy hour. Know what this forecast calls for? Brandy, hard cider, whiskey and the like — a taste of autumn.

As many veteran bartenders will tell you, Seattleites like their drinks big and bitter and their booze brown. Think IPAs and ryes. And fall is the perfect weather for that.

In November, cocktails start to get warmer, less fruity, more spirit forward, with lots of big, three-ingredient drinks like Old Fashioneds. Toddies and hot buttered rum are also back as board specials.

The blustery weather also calls out for holiday spices like nutmegs and cinnamon.

This week, save 90% on digital access.

This season, expect to see lots of shrubs. Those fruity vinegar drinks, started centuries ago as a way to preserve summer fruits, have become the biggest cocktail trend in Seattle this year. As berries are out of season, expect to see more of these kinds of drinks replacing those fruity concoctions.

So where to imbibe? Where to plop down on a bar stool to enjoy what many bartenders’ say is Seattle’s most ideal drinking season? Here are 10 bars to consider:

Brass Tacks

The industrial chic vibe of this Georgetown spot, with its new menu of bourbon and apple brandy cocktails, makes it the ideal autumn bar for me. Grab the Buttered Beer, a potent brew of port rum, butter, cream soda and brown ale, topped with a butterscotch foam. It tastes even richer than it sounds.


With one of the world’s largest whiskey selections, this Capitol Hill favorite rolled out a new fall menu last week. “For me, there are really only two seasons in Seattle: spring and fall,” said Canon owner Jamie Boudreau. “I love fall, as that means brown spirits for me. Think apple brandy, cognac, whiskey, dark rum.” His fall menu also features shrubs, dark fruit and spices and literally, smoke rising out of the cocktail glass.

Capitol Cider

The very word cider conjures images of harvest time. This spot is aptly named, with 130 hard ciders on tap and in bottles along with a large selection of Calvados and a cocktail menu that accentuates ciders and apple brandy. (See accompanying recipe.)

Lot No. 3

This is my go-to place for whiskey on the Eastside, with riffs on Manhattans and Old Fashioneds alongside a menu of Boilermakers (shot and beer).


Rum is often associated with the Caribbean and tropical weather. But those tasting notes — allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon — fare well with the cold season. I noticed more bartenders started incorporating rum, especially oak-aged rum, on their cocktail menu last fall. Check out this lounge-y joint, with its 310-bottle selection.

Rob Roy

Every December, this cocktail champ introduces a new festive cocktail each day leading up to Christmas. It’s also a comfy place to slouch on the couch with a whiskey cocktail if you want to avoid the madhouse that is Saturday night in Belltown.


This rustic drink room (and restaurant) consistently puts out one of the most underrated cocktail lists in town. It’s also one of the best deals, with most cocktails priced between $8 and $9, and none more than $10. This fall, some scotch, applejack, amaro and cognac cocktails are on offer.


At this Ballard newcomer, bartender Erik Carlson bucks the trend. “I like to make them feel like they are in Oaxaca or Martinique,” he said. “Just because our weather is getting dark and damp, we don’t need to remind folks how depressing it is with very dark and bitter drinks.”

So, expect ginger syrup, orgeat and other Tiki influences this fall. (See accompanying recipe to one of his fall drinks.)

Carlson makes some of the most interesting drinks around, and does his best work in the fall when fruits are out of season and he relies on shrubs and his creativity to make his menu sing. (Check out his tequila watermelon-anise shrub cocktail.) He also oversees the cocktail programs for Bastille across the street and the popular Von Trapp’s on Capitol Hill.

Sun Liquor and Sun Liquor Distillery

For fall, these sister spots roll out a more robust and spirit-forward menu than they usually feature. Bundle up and check out the brandy persimmon-cider shrub in the coming weeks.

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or On Twitter @tanvinhseattle

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.