New spots from Ba Bar and Sun Liquor, a Murray Stenson bummer, a cobra cocktail and more notes from barfly Tan Vinh.

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You can pick up a lot of tidbits at the bar, I’ve learned. I started scribbling them on coasters. On long nights, they stack up like a deck of cards. Those scribbles are what you see below — tasting notes, news tips and gossip I picked up from being a barfly. It’s pretty much my drink journal. I’ll share them with you here. First column starts…now.


New bar I’m looking forward to: Ba Bar in South Lake Union. Owner Eric Banh has signed a lease to open a second branch this fall, in the old Shanik location. With up to 16 taps, the SLU outpost will emphasize craft beer, though there will also be cocktails like at his popular spot on 12th Avenue. To keep the Amazon crowd around, Ba Bar will offer happy hour early and late until midnight and will feature a two-course dinner ($18) daily.

New bar I’m bummed isn’t happening yet:Murray Stenson’s. Last Tuesday morning, Stenson’s hush-hush bar project in Pioneer Square fell through at the eleventh hour. Stenson is scouting other potential spaces now. Stay tuned.

New drink menu: Pennyroyal’s Spanish-style gin-and-tonic list. Unlike the usual G&T, the Spanish variation is served in giant goblets and souped-up with herbs and spices to complement the botanicals in the gin. The famed Sable Kitchen and Bar in Chicago helped make them trendy in the states. Pennyroyal’s variations will include local gins such as Copperworks.

A new Sun Liquor: It’s a tasting room, next to its distillery at 512 E. Pike Street. Come December, it will be packed when Sun Liquor sells its famous aged eggnog. The distillery doubled production last holiday season and still sold out in record time. In the last two weeks, distiller Erik Chapman has been boot-deep in mud, visiting dairy farms to acquire more eggs and cream to increase production this Christmas.

Best cocktail I had this month: An armagnac tipple that’s a riff on the “A&B” cocktail from “The Artistry of Mixing Drinks” by Charles Schumann. Zig Zag Café bartender Erik Hakkinen dried out this two-ingredient drink (armagnac and Benedictine) with Rittenhouse rye and bitters to give it a Vieux-Carré character. You can order it Tuesday-Friday when Hakkinen is behind the bar.

Weirdest cocktail I had this month: Ru’ou Ran Cobra at Nue. Those medicinal jars with cobras soaked in alcohol with exotic spices found in Asian shops — well, this street-food inspired restaurant on Capitol Hill paid homage with a variation consisting of rice wine, grain alcohol, a snake, a scorpion, ginseng, Jujube, burdock root and goji berry. Mercifully, ginseng was the only thing I tasted in this house-made concoction.

Best wine I had this month: The 2013 syrah at Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards, a savory red with spice, black pepper and vanilla notes. It’s from southern Oregon, where I was judging a wine contest in the Umpqua Valley two weeks ago. Have you been? It’s an underrated wine region with good value bottles priced from $20-$35.

A word about the cult Pappy Van Winkle whiskey: I think its 12-year bourbon might be the best in the Pappy portfolio this year. Distiller David Perkins of the acclaimed High West Distillery in Utah agreed. Last week, Perkins was in Seattle schmoozing with bartenders and mentioned in passing that his favorite Pappy is its 12-year — fruity and rich caramel, he said. He thought some of the older Pappys were too woody. Those older expressions, Pappy 20-year and the 23-year, can cost up to $200 for an ounce now, while The Neighbor Lady in the Central District sells a generous pour of the 12-year for $25.

The last word on Pappy: If $25 is too steep, order a Weller 12-year bourbon, which tastes similar to some of the younger Pappy expressions. Many bars have sold out of the Weller 12-year for that very reason. The DeLuxe Bar & Grill on Capitol Hill sells the Weller 12-year for $6.