Sun Liquor Feels Like Home

A home created by the makers of Fargo and Raising Arizona.

Entering Sun Liquor makes me remember those first moments of walking into the house after playing outside all day, when my eyes would try to adjust. That cool comfort of home hangs on for more than just a moment in this bar. It's as if the effect purposely mimics the relief of a long day out in the sun, better preparing you for the bounty of rum and Polynesian-based cocktails contained within, no matter the season. But Sun Liquor is more than the sum of its mai tais and planter's punch. The space is remarkable. Of course, it's owned by Michael and Mark Klebeck, whose Top Pot Doughnuts on Fifth Avenue reigns as my favorite space in Seattle. What I appreciate most about the Klebecks' sense of design is their attention to detail, but I also applaud their restraint. They're like the Coen brothers: They commit a perfect reference to a certain genre—midcentury modern—and then fit in subtle little differences. Sun Liquor undeniably evokes a time when misunderstanding Asian culture was fashionable, yet the bar stands opposite a vibe like that at Trader Vic's. Vintage without the kitsch, graphic without pretension, Sun Liquor mixes the cane accents of a Polynesian lounge with nondescript 1950s teak chairs, and minimal rattan set amid stark plastered walls treated in steely blue. Red tiki lightbulbs hide in can lights with cutouts that throw patterns on the wall at exactly the right places. A hanging tapestry with the image of a tall skyscraper hangs next to an incredible mural, plastered by Tina Randolph, of monkeys playing with fireworks. The drinks at Sun Liquor run the gamut, offering more than just fruit juice and rum delights, though the rum selection is superb and well annotated on the drinks list. Sun's version of the Lullaby—made with Guatemalan Zaya 12-year rum, port, curaçao, and lemon—is as grown-up as a tropical drink gets. The mai tais are wonderful, if you like that sort of thing, and the alcohol is more present than in most juice-based tropical drinks. Quietly tucked into the drink list is a Red Hook, which is rye whiskey with maraschino liqueur, Punt e Mes, and bitters; it's a great take on the Brooklyn cocktail, but with more depth and spice. If you are inclined toward gin, ask the bartender to whip something up for you. The bar uses Aviation gin in many drinks, but also features Old Raj and Rogue's Spruce gin, which is great for cocktails. The Scarlet Lady made with gin, Sun's own grenadine, fresh lemon, and a float of bubbly tastes nowhere near the South Pacific, and that's OK. The wine list is also worth noting. Sun keeps it simple, and all glasses, heftily poured, cost $7. Each selection is appropriate to the theme, with acidity and vibrant fruit dominating the selections, like a balanced reisling from Selbach, a stellar red Southern Italian Notarpanaro, and a few local selections like Adelsheim. I must take my hat off to bartender Will and his made-from-scratch sangria: red wine and Cointreau mixed with fresh lemon, lime, and orange juices. This drink tastes nowhere near punch, and the proportions of ingredients give it a simple sophistication. Much like Sun Liquor itself.

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