Fresh Cocktails Inspired by Bellingham

bellingham bar
The Pink Beard is a lightly sweet, lavender kissed cocktail.
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By Sara Holodnick

I moved to Bellingham 10 years ago, but I still remember the curvy ascent I made driving northbound on I-5, winding past Lake Samish, sun breaking through the low clouds and glinting through trees. I had never seen so many shades of green in one place before. I rolled down the windows and filled my lungs with the scent of moss and rain-soaked fir needles. Once settled-in, I quickly became enamored with the history of this place, and found myself trying to put my finger on what makes it so special.

I’ve always had a thing for stories, and I love when people use food and drink to convey the history and essence of a place. I wanted to see what a handful of bartenders from a few of my favorite downtown watering holes could come up with when I asked them to develop a drink inspired by Bellingham. The results? Delicious.

bellingham bar
Bartender Will Canepa makes The Rainfly at Temple Bar.

I didn’t give these three bartenders any guidance outside of developing a drink that was inspired by this place. The resulting cocktails are each incredibly unique, but they also draw upon many of the same flavors and inspirations. Coincidentally, gin is a base liquor in each of the cocktails, and all three bartenders were inspired by the physical elements of what makes Bellingham special. There’s something dream-like about this little city sandwiched between a bay and a mountain, and I think that comes through clearly in each of these cocktails.

The Rainfly

By Will Canepa

Temple Bar – 306 W. Champion Street

I sat down with one of Temple Bar’s many talented bartenders, Will Canepa, to discuss his drink.

“I decided to draw inspiration from Bellingham the Place, rather than the people of Bellingham,” Canepa explained. “So as cheesy as it sounds, I wanted to make a drink that would remind me of drinking rainwater as it falls from the trees in the forest. Not how it would really taste– like dirt and moss– but how I wish it would taste: herbal, clean, a little woody and oddly refreshing.”

To achieve this rainy nectar, Canepa combined muddled juniper berries, Seattle-made Bourbon Barreled Big Gin, Chartreuse, creme de violette, apple cider vinegar, and soda. The finished product is fresh and lightly herbal with just a touch of sweetness, and if you close your eyes you can almost imagine catching droplets of it from the tree canopy above. This drink is beautifully balanced, and worth a try even if you aren’t typically a gin drinker.

 

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Uisce bartender Katie McGarry poses with a Pink Beard cocktail.

Pink Beard

By Katie McGarry

Uisce – 1319 Commercial Street

Bartender Katie McGarry has lived in Bellingham for less than six months, but she already feels at home.

“The people here are just so genuine and supportive,” she explained. “There’s such a freedom to be yourself in Bellingham.”

The Pink Beard– a nod to the bearded-yet-sensitive men of Bellingham– takes its inspiration from the abundance of home-grown lavender and plentiful local raspberries. McGarry concocted a frothy combination of gin, lemon juice, egg white, and a raspberry-lavender syrup. This was strained into a glass she’d sprayed with Pernod Anise, and then topped with a splash of bubbles, and garnished with sugar-coated lavender.

The resulting cocktail was a combination of a fruity sweetness, lightened by the froth of the egg white and sparkling wine. I like cocktails that aren’t too sweet, and the Pink Beard fit the bill perfectly. Yum!

 

bellingham bar
Dan Vee stirs-up a March 1st cocktail at Redlight.

March 1st

By Dan Vee

Redlight – 1017 N. State Street

Rows of tiny bitters bottles and garnishes framed the copper bar at Redlight, a shelf of house-infused liquors displayed prominently on the wall.

“Bellingham is very grow-your-own, very DIY,” explained bartender Dan Vee. “My neighbors have a tiny little house, a glorious garden, and two chickens in the back.” These neighbors made a balsam fir hydrosol– the result of steam distilling plant material– and gifted a jar of it to Dan. He knew he wanted to make a cocktail that referenced the bursting backyards around town. “In springtime everything is coming alive, and in the neighborhoods all you can smell is garden and grass.”

He combined Bellingham-made Chuckanut Bay Distillers gin & vodka, balsam fir hydrosol, and rose simple syrup, strained into a coupe glass. He garnished the drink with a lemon twist and hibiscus petal that had been soaked in the hydrosol to push it over the top. March 1st is named after a song by The Trucks (one of Vee’s favorite Bellingham bands), and is a woodsy, floral, outdoorsy take on a traditional Vesper cocktail. It’s booze-forward, but nicely balanced and incredibly palatable. If you like tasting the alcohol in your cocktail (which I do), you’ll love this drink.

 

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