Posted by Degan on July 23rd, 2012
Canon Whiskey and Bitters Emporium opened on what seemed like the day after I stopped going to Seattle regularly for work. So last week, even though we were at a hotel at the Sea-Tac airport for work, there was no way I was going to miss it. Proof that it’s going to be my home away from home, the sign outside has one of my mottos on it, “What whiskey will not cure, there is no cure for.” Inside, it reminds me a little bit of Rickhouse in San Francisco or any of the many other bars I’ve been to that are decorated in the warm wood meets floor-to-ceiling booze style that I am working on having some day in my actual home; decanters, chandeliers, vintage cocktail books, various antiques and bottle after bottle of alcohol.
I started with their signature Canon* cocktail with rye, ramazzotti (amaro) and Cointreau foam. There were a couple more delicate drinks on the menu (as well as some really interesting liquor flights. damn I wish we lived closer!) but after perusing it for a while, I knew it was going to be all brown liquors and bitters after that. They are a “whiskey and bitters emporium” after all. Anyways, the drink was perfect; thick and luxurious foam over a simple base. I could drink those all night.
Matt had a sour-spice bomb angostura collins that was beautifully separated into red and white sections. He found it refreshing (albeit too forward with the angostura), but it wasn’t to my taste at all.
*I don’t have a lot of faith in the average intelligence of people, especially in terms of spelling so I’m concerned about their use of canon (a standard; criterion) with a picture of a cannon (mounted gun for heavy projectiles) over top of it but I do like a good pun as well as a bar that’s not catering to the lowest common denominator so I guess I’ll just have to lump it.
My next drink was the smoking monkey, another one I knew I was going to love because I adore the taste of smoke (hence half the name of this blog) and the description reminded me somewhat of the banana daquiri at l’Abattoir, which I adore. Seriously, I cannot stop ordering this drink and every time I recommend it to someone and they don’t order it, I order it so they can have some anyways. It’s that good.
Anyways, the smoking monkey is banana-infused Jameson, Pedro-Ximenez sherry and Ardbeg so there’s a fair bit of sweetness in there as well. Its deep complexity is belied by the adorable blue plastic monkey garnish on it, which just made me love it even more. The banana is subtler than I expected so the smoke and the sherry are forward and make for a really nice, smoky, sweet, balanced cocktail.
When the food came we tucked in to braised pork cheeks (mine) and a Cuban sandwich (Matt’s). The pork cheeks came on a bed polenta surrounded by roasted tomatoes, a pile of arugula and some a bit of pesto. The cheeks were excellent and although this dish is not anything like what I would expect to be served in a bar, I loved it. The tomatoes and greens really made the dish refreshing and nice on a summer’s evening. They didn’t really pair well with my sultry cocktail but I wouldn’t have traded it for all the elderflower and gin in the world at that point.
Matt’s sandwich was a “spicy copa Cubano” which had ham and Havarti cheese on a (very crusty) baguette with potato salad on the side.
By now we had moved off-list into a section that they call “shrouded roulette.” Basically, you pick your base liquor and they make you a drink. Where this differs from other bars is that their spirit list is an impressive 41 pages (you have to scan a QR code on their menu to access it in the restaurant) and they won’t tell you what the drink is. I wasn’t sure I was going to like that very much (too nosy), but we couldn’t pass up pulling something off the shelves.
Matt wanted to try the Pechuga mezcal we had at Tales of the Cocktail in a mixed drink, so the bartender got started with that and I requested something that would go with the bourbon brownie (and Fernet-mint marshmallow) that we were planning on ordering for dessert. These ended up being our least favourite as they were not very balanced. Matt’s was again sour (and boozy) while mine was something like a bourbon chocolate mint julep that was a little on the delicate side considering my previous drinks. And considering that I wanted something to complement my dessert, creating a cocktail with all of the same flavour components is a little weak.
The brownie itself was decent, although the marshmallow was my favourite part. I would have liked to see more of the bourbon flavours come out and skip both the mint and the orange caramel but I’m still no cake expert.