by Brian Bergen-Aurand
Some time ago, it was one of those rare Seattle Saturday afternoons when the sun had been out for hours, the temperature had risen enough for me to break a sweat, and I found myself at Pike Place Market with nothing in particular to do for an hour and a half. It was 3:30 p.m., and I was meeting family at five o’clock for some errands and dinner.
With time to spare on a beautiful day, I sought a bookstore and a beverage. I strolled into Left Bank Books, purchased just the right read, and turned my attention toward quenching my thirst. I made my way to the stairs beside the bookstore, climbed to the top floor, and found myself amidst a room full of my favorite fare—bourbon whiskey.
Radiator Whiskey does not just pour bourbon. They serve whiskeys of all sorts, along with beer, wine, other spirits, and food. But, I prefer the domestic corn concoction to all others, so I headed in to spend the first half of their daily happy hour with some local libations.
They were already bustling by 4:10 p.m., but the server found me a perfect spot at the side bar to stand and observe the other patrons (locals and tourists all around from what I gathered overhearing their conversations). They were enjoying drink specials, free popcorn, and a variety of happy hour appetizers.
Four young men sat at the bar and ordered different whiskeys round after round and traded sips with one another to compare notes. Two of the sitting tables were filled with men and women ordering large portions of food and beer. A Japanese family stood at the table across from me and very slowly consumed one whiskey each as they chatted about their afternoon sightseeing. They seemed especially fond of the way their drinks complemented the significant bowl of tater tots topped with a fried egg and gravy they had ordered.
After a short conversation with my server about the local whiskey scene, I decided two samples of Washingtonian bourbon would have to do. She offered me a local flight special which included a third local selection—a John Jacob Rye Whiskey (46.5% ABV @ $8) from Fremont Mischief distillery—but I was only in the mood for bourbon and knew I had limited time to enjoy my libations.
I started with a Waitsburg bourbon whiskey (42% ABV @ 9$) from Oola distillery in Capitol Hill and followed it with a Tatoosh bourbon whiskey (40% ABV @ $12). I enjoyed both neat, with a glass of cold water and a bowl of popcorn beside. (My usual bourbons of choice are Maker’s Mark Kentucky straight bourbon and Buffalo Trace Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey for every day and Blanton’s original single barrel for special occasions.)
While I did not expect much from the Oola bourbon, I was pleasantly surprised. It was highly drinkable—even if my thirst may have affected my judgment at first. It seemed just the right way to come out of the heat of the day’s errands. The Tatoosh, however, disappointed me a bit. It was not a bad drink, but it was not as special as I had hoped. Although it seemed a somewhat thin for my palette, I did finish it. [I have since read reviews of Tatoosh that mention the let down of the 40% ABV.] I probably will not seek it out again. I would gladly return for another Oola in future.
After about half an hour, Radiator Whiskey was completely full. A man and woman with too many shopping bags arrived next to me and ordered happy hour mint juleps in stainless steel cups. Unfortunately, they seemed too tired from the day’s activities to enjoy them. Another man and woman arrived moments later and squeezed into the corner behind me. They asked our server for Rainier tall boys and shots of Evan Williams ($7 happy hour combos) and quickly settled in to debate the best happy hours in town. I could not resist their conversation and asked after their favorites. Soon, time ran out and I had to settle my bill before heading to the flower stalls across the street to continue a beautiful day’s wandering.
[This article originally appeared in Parachute on 24 November 2016.]