Tini Bigs is closing, Liberty is changing hands (to a co-op?!) and other news from Seattle-area bars.

Share story


Is the country’s best bar in Seattle? Canon is once again in the running for “Best Cocktail Bar” in America. Our most-celebrated cocktail spot is a finalist for that award from Tales of the Cocktail, one of the highest honors in the drink industry.

The world’s biggest booze fest, Tales takes place every summer in New Orleans, drawing 1,000 distillers and bartenders from as far as Europe and South America. The country’s Best Cocktail Bar is chosen by 112 judges, including spirits critics and veteran bartenders.

Canon is competing against Prizefighter and Smuggler’s Cove in the Bay Area and The NoMad in New York. (Charles Veitch, who was one of the opening bartenders at NoMad, now works at Canon, running the front of the house and prepping in the cocktail lab.)

In 2013, Tales honored Canon with the “World’s Best Drink Selection” award. The Capitol-Hill area bar carries more than 3,500 different bottles, including pre-Prohibition era and rare ones such as a Valley Forge whiskey from 1906 and a Japanese Suntory whiskey from 1952.

Related video: What you should buy to become a cocktail master on the cheap

Building a home bar doesn’t have to be expensive, says Paul Clarke, author of “The Cocktail Chronicles.” If you like whiskey, start with an Old Fashioned and build your drink repertoire from there. Read more. (Corinne Chin and Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

The award Canon is in the running for this year is just as prestigious; the judges evaluate the entire operation from its business model to its drink program, assessing the quality and creativity of the cocktails and the menus.

The winner will be announced at the festival’s Spirited Awards dinner on July 23.

The bar that’s always open will finally close: Tini Bigs, the martini bar in Lower Queen Anne, will shut down in the fall to make way for a seven-story mixed-use residential-retail complex. But before it goes, there’s one milestone owner Keith Robbins wants to reach, if the developers will let him.

Tini Bigs is the Cal Ripken Jr. of bars, open every day for business since it debuted on Dec. 2, 1996. That’s 7,162 consecutive days and counting.

He wants Tini Bigs to survive until its Dec. 2 anniversary so that he could have this boast: that his bar was open for 20 years without closing a single day.

“We got a notice that we have to be out of there in October,” Robbins said. But he thinks developers having to deal with a lot of building-permit red tape might buy him time until December.

In the meantime, he’s looking to reopen Tini Bigs in Ballard, Fremont, Queen Anne, Capitol Hill or South Lake Union. Hula Hula, his tiki bar next door, will also be relocated, but Robbins doubts he can find affordable-enough real estate to fit both bars under one roof again.

And speaking of Queen Anne:Atlas Kitchen & Lounge, a happy-hour-and-nightlife joint, will open this Thursday on the same block as that meat market Toulouse Petit. Sonics fans may remember the prior tenant — Shawn Kemp, the Reign Man, had a bar there called Oskar’s Kitchen.

Can a bar function as a co-op? The Capitol Hill bar Liberty is getting new owners, but not some corporation or techie as rumored. Owner Andrew Friedman is selling to his employees, who will operate like a co-op, with the staff sharing the profit.

“It just seems wrong to sell to the highest bidder,” said Friedman, whose bar is celebrating its 10th anniversary. “The staff deserves the chance to run it by themselves.”

No time has been set on when the deal will close, but Friedman and the four employees who are taking over the bar have reached out to the Central Co-op to get guidance on how to operate under such a model.

As for his next chapter, Friedman has opened a coffeehouse, Good Citizen, 1720 E. Olive Way, that soon will also serve beer and wine. He’s also started Scout Spirits, a booze-brokerage business, bringing in boutique whiskeys and other mom-and-pop spirits to Washington state.

The best deal on mescal: Seattle is a mescal-loving city like nowhere else I’ve seen, even bigger metro areas. It’s common to see Seattle establishments that aren’t Tex-Mex or tequila bars carry more than five mescals these days. Tequila’s smokey cousin has become a hit.

The best deal — and the best bar to get introduced to this agave spirit — is at Barrio on Capitol Hill, which has 125 mescals, one of the largest selections on the West Coast. Now, all mescals at Barrio are half off from 10 p.m.-midnight Tuesday-Thursday when you buy a beer.