The Bar Code: A Trip Abroad Reminds How Good Seattle’s Drink Scene Is

photo courtesy The Whale Wins

There’s probably a certain irony in the fact that even as I was exploring the beauty and novelty of Colombia, I found myself longing for the comfort and familiarity of Seattle. While of course my trip was full of interesting people, spectacular scenery, great food, and my best friend’s wedding (the real thing, not the crappy Julia Roberts rom-com), it wasn’t the most amazing trip for the drinks writer in me—well, except for a wedding reception spent drinking copious amounts of aguardiente, which is most definitely not something you should try at home. Travel always makes me think in clichés, and “There’s no place like home” has rarely felt so true.

I found myself missing the incomparable joys Seattle offers: a glass of cava and a plate of oysters at Taylor Shellfish; debating the merits of various vermouths at LloydMartin; pondering which obscure European white I’ll enjoy at The Whale Wins; or deciding just how many jalapeño margaritas I can safely drink on the patio at Little Water Cantina. Add the vast array of ways you can drink on the water—by ferry, paddleboat, or just sneaking beers into Lake Washington—and the appeal grows.

Celebrating Seattle’s drinking culture is marveling at the beer choices at Safeco Field (and the fact that the Mariners are actually good) while not thinking too much about how much they cost. It’s trying to figure out which bar is the best place to watch the World Cup, and then finding out it was packed two hours before kickoff. It’s recognizing innovative and creative producers like Epic Ales, Captive Spirits, and Syncline Winery, who are pushing the boundaries of what you can put in a glass.

Then of course there are the great bars like Rob Roy and Liberty, where creativity and tradition coexist in a way that’s hard to find elsewhere. Plus, after being subjected to a veritable avalanche of overly sweet drinks (that’s what I get for being an American tourist in the tropics, I guess), it’s a pleasure to return to a land where all my tastebuds get a workout, not only the sweet ones.

Most of all, I found myself missing the sheer bevy of choices in Seattle. While I might have decried some of that in a previous column, there’s a certain comfort in having more than three beers to choose from or a wine list more than one page long. Not that I expected that in Colombia, but sometimes we in Seattle take this confluence of brewing, winemaking, and even distilling currents for granted. There’s room for growth, and the challenges of privatization and a higher minimum wage might damage the industry, but for now I’m still content to click my heels together and wish for home three times.

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