A shot-and-a-beer is no longer just from the bottom shelf. Known as boilermakers, these combinations are getting more elaborate. Here are some of the most interesting varieties around Seattle.
Around here, the late-night call for a “shot and a beer” used to mean the cheapest whiskey and a Rainier tallboy.
Now, you need to be more specific. You might need the bar’s shot-and-a beer menu before you order.
Boilermakers, as these humble combos are known, have had a dramatic makeover. Instead of a watered-down lager, you get a craft beer. Instead of the house bourbon, you might get a shot of rum, gin or an amaro to go with that craft beer.
No longer just a one-two punch, the new wave of boilermakers is designed to be sipped, not tossed back.
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The craft-cocktail movement is largely responsible for this makeover. Three years ago, these spruced-up shot-and-beer combos were confined to mostly speak-easies and swanky cocktail dens and only in some pockets of the country.
But in the past two months or so, Seattle bars — divey to fancy — have given this after-shift drink prime real estate on the menu, next to the signature cocktails and the wine list.
Red StarTaco Bar in Fremont now lists its beer-and-shot combos beside its margarita offerings.
The Masonry in Lower Queen Anne, which only served beer and wine, recently expanded to Fremont with a full bar, aiming to focus more on boilermakers rather than craft cocktails, the owner said.
On a recent bar excursion, I saw a sandwich board in front of Trove in Capitol Hill announcing its $5 happy-hour special: a soju shot, Hite beer and dumplings. In the Chinatown International District, the new Pho Bac Sup Shop hawked a shot of rye with pho spices to go with a shot of hot pho broth, like a pickleback. And in the Central District, the drink special at the Twilight Exit bar was “scotch and stout,” a pour of a 14-year Glenfiddich and a Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout for $15.
Here are some of the best boilermaker menus around town:
Screwdriver Bar: Opened about a year ago, this Belltown basement bar is an after-shift hang out for bartenders and line cooks. There’s a shot of smoky mescal to cut into the tangy sweetness of Stiegl Radler (beer flavored with grapefruit). Better is a two-finger pour of Smith & Cross to go with a can of Evil Twin Normader Weiss beer. The funky Jamaica rum (leathery, tobacco and fruity notes) sings with this tart beer. It’s the perfect two-ingredient cocktail.
2320 First Ave., (Belltown) Seattle; 206-441-4370, screwdriverbar.com
By The Pound: First, you have to find the bar, corner of East Olive Way and Harvard Avenue East. It’s a deli with a speak-easy. Actually, it’s a speak-easy within a speak-easy. There’s also a second floor inside the second speak-easy. A stiff drink is in order after you sort all that out. Its boilermaker menu is more interesting than its cocktail list. The zesty-orange “Montenegro” amaro gets paired with a bitter Aslan IPA; a dry cider is served with a shot of Woodinville rye.
1801 E Olive Way, (Capitol Hill) Seattle; 206-900-0404, bythepounddeli.com
Speckled & Drake: It’s likely the only Seattle bar where the main menu features boilermakers. Food and cocktails are an afterthought. It’s a well-worn dive with antique beer signs. Prices seem to be from another era. It’s one of the few places left on Capitol Hill where you can get still get a boilermaker for $6-$7. The more interesting pairings run a couple bucks more: a cinnamon whiskey shot with cider or a pairing with a Stoup IPA.
1355 E. Olive Way, (Capitol Hill) Seattle; on Facebook.
Foreign National: This dim den, our vote for best Seattle bar to debut in 2016, groups boilermakers geographically. “The French Connection” is a Loisel Cider from Brittany, France to go with a shot of Pierre Ferrand 1840 cognac; a Japanese pairing marries a Hitachino Nest White Ale with shot of Suntory Toki.
300 E. Pike St., (Capitol Hill) Seattle; foreignnationalbar.com
Canon: Along with Rob Roy in Belltown, this cocktail temple was among the first local bars to feature the kind of elaborate boilermakers often seen in New York City and San Francisco bars. Canon, which has won numerous awards for its bar menu, mixes weird and exotic flavors — an herbaceous chartreuse is smoothed out with a licorice root beer; Fernet goes with ginger beer and a shot of 1776 rye is served with an ale aged in a 1776 rye barrel.
928 12th Ave., (Capitol Hill) Seattle; canonseattle.com