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928 12th Ave, Seattle, Washington, US
IF BOTTLES OF BOOZE HAD THE CHOICE, they’d rather live at Canon. Here in this Seattle grog emporium, a bottle of spirit is treated with the high reverence of a prized piece in a museum. Canon’s library displays not only the old and rare but the many - it could be said its 3,300 bottles make up the largest body of distilling heritage ever assembled, if we knew what to compare it with.
Need we say, the name has a literary and artistic connection. Canon means "works considered to be permanently established as being of the highest quality," according to the Oxford Dictionary.
But what of the bar’s artillery-style cannon motif? "It’s a nod to the origins of the British pub," says owner Jamie Boudreau. "The masses were mainly illiterate and, in order to differentiate pubs, there was always a logo." Not only illiterate, Jamie, drunk and illiterate.
This Seattle watering hole opened just three years ago but has the feel of a more rooted bar, with a well-oiled New York cum New Orleans swagger. This is no theme or era-bar though, so it’s probably the vintage stock and wood décor that gives off that classical quality.
The fetish here is for the brown - not heroin, but whisky and bitters, which are literally ingrained in the pores of this bar. Yes, literally. Angostura bitters, not wood stain, gives the bar top its colour.
We tipped Canon for greatness in 2012 so, though its entry in the list came a year later than expected, the bar leapfrogged the back benches to register at a front-row sixth. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised - Boudreau and his team have been very busy. At Canon there is a drink for everyone - probably in the world - from simple three-piece serves to theatrical productions of smoke and fire supported by a cast of a dozen ingredients.
Pricing swoops from an epicurean’s blow-out ($1,500) to a dive-bar take-out ($6) and Boudreau says what lies between is "a huge cocktail programme that is always changing, a solid wine and beer programme, a solid food programme and arguably the largest spirit programme in the world".
We can’t verify that but we can say that is the largest number of programmes in a sentence.
With such largesse, this bar attracts all sorts. There’s also a university nearby so the young are just as likely to swing by as the more seasoned visitor looking for an equally venerable whiskey.
Appeal to all it has, but for the haute-booze hounds and cocktail fiends Canon is a Pacific coast Xanadu. And watch out, Boudreau’s planning another.