Capitol Hill’s Lionhead is already garnering kudos for its Sichuan cuisine from renowned chef Jerry Traunfeld, and it is delicious. But don’t miss the bar program at Poppy’s sibling and neighbor. We stopped in recently and sat right at the bar itself to sample cocktails and learn about the mysteries of Baijiu.
The Baijius: If you haven’t heard of it (and not a ton of folks in the U.S. have, though a recent New York Times article has started to spread the word), Baijiu, pronounced “bye-Joe” has been distilled for more than 2,000 years, and is the most widely consumed spirit in the world. That’s right! And Lionhead is the best spot to begin your own Baijiu journey, as it carries more brands than any bar in Seattle; heck, it may be the only bar to carry any at all. Made from sorghum, though often with various other ingredients also at play, the range of aromas, flavors, and accents across the various brands of Baijius is wide–from tropical to forest-y to herbally. One thing they all share is a high proof, so try them solo in small half-ounce glasses, or in cocktails of course.
The Cocktails: Speaking of the drink menu, the house cocktail list is intriguing, with numbers like the Jade Pagoda, using Red Star Baijiu--a fruitier version of the spirt--Velvet Falernum, green apple, a house celery simple syrup, lemon, and soda. And the rich Mrs Chiang, a delish drink with gin, jasmine, lemon, Green Chartreuse, and egg white. They seem the ideal accompaniment to the flavorful food, too. The Jade Pagoda paired perfectly with the Doufu-ru Hollow Heart–or water spinach spiked with fermented tofu and garlic. Don’t miss the Bloody Mary at the newly unveiled brunch, either (which we listed in our Local Hangover Helpers article due to its spicy deliciousness). The cocktails and highballs are augmented on the menu by the Baijiu list mentioned above, as well as a solid beer, cider, and wine selection.
The Bar Itself: Though the physical bar has only 12 stools, it’s the place to sit in our opinion, so you can have better interaction with the amiable staff and view the spirt selection–the fact that the bar has lovely deep red lacquered sides is a bonus. The bar is managed by Veronika Groth, who has developed a loyal following through her stints at Poppy (past and current), Chino’s (gone now a few years) and Artusi, both for her adventuresome drink concoctions and friendly demeanor. The same holds true here, as evidenced especially by her delving into the world of Baijiu–she is now one of Seattle’s foremost Baijiu-tenders and educators–and seems to permeate the rest of the bartenders as well. So step up, find a comfortable stool, and get ready to expand your cocktail mind.