Three Impressions of Temperance
The new bar atop the Smith Tower wows with its overall experience from top to toe
By AJ Rathbun
September 29, 2016
Opening in August after a remodel and revitalizing, the Smith Tower experience (including the Provisions general store on the first floor, tours and the Temperance bar) has already become a hit. So much so that it has expanded its hours, with the store now open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and 35th-floor Observatory Temperance cafe and bar from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. (The last elevator up leaves at 8 p.m., so don’t miss it.) We recently stopped by to enjoy the experience personally, and below are three impressions from the visit.
The Drinks: Since the tickets you’ll need to get up to the bar also include a swell self-guided Prohibition tour (more on that below), it’s not a surprise that the cocktail menu here features some classically inspired numbers, such as the Corpse Reviver No. 35, with ALOO gin, honey liqueur Barenjager, aperitif wine Lillet and absinthe. It’s a lovely, smooth number; light but luscious. The menu of 12 drinks has some fresh cocktails that integrate local ingredients as well, like The Newcomer, featuring SoDo-based Westland Distillery’s single-malt whiskey and Scrappy’s grapefruit bitters, with burnt orange in the bargain. It’s a plush mix, with the Westland and Scrappy faves delivering layers of flavor around the smoky citrus. You’ll also find lots of locals in the wine, beer, and cider lists, plus a solid little list of Sake and Shochu, paying homage to the room’s Asian influence. There’s a sweet selection of “Temperance Drinks,” too, which are non-alcoholic gems highlighted by the Cherry Blossom, with dark cherry syrup, lime and soda.
The Food: In such a high-above-the-earth and restricted space, you might think an interesting and tasty food menu would be impossible-–it can’t have a full oven, and makes due with two induction burners. But Chef Joshua Beckham (Salish Sea Brewing, Gates Foundation, and others) and his staff do a remarkable job, and are even expanding the selections as demand increases. A lot of the Asian influence shows up here, with a selection of delectable Dumplings (from sweet slow roasted pork to vegetable and taro), which come accompanied by the zingy housemade kimchi. There are also sandwiches, including a quartet of Bahn Mi’s and small plates such as yummy deviled eggs snapping with Pacific sea salt and a garlic aioli that are perfect for snacking while you sip. We were lucky enough to have a gazpacho that was on special, too, which was tangy and bursting with flavor. If it’s on the menu, don’t miss it.
The Space: While Temperance is way up the in the sky, it really starts on the ground floor where you pick up tickets and with the self-guided Legends of Smith Tower tour that winds you through loads of fun Seattle history, as well as old furniture, letters, pictures, stories and more. You’ll reach the bar via shining antique elevators and once there, you’ll find the bartenders decked out in black vests, sharp ties, and classic arm garters. The bar has retained some of the best touches from the original Smith Tower, including the ornate carved teak ceilings, and of course the selfie-demanding Wishing Chair. There’s a range of seating options, from standing tables along the window to low-slung comfy seats in the center. And the views: downtown, the bay, the stadiums, the mountains. All fantastic. It’s just a memorable place to have a drink and some food, either with out-of-town visitors, before a game, on a date, or with co-workers after a big meeting. Also, the staff, led by general manager Jeff Werner and events manager Marissa Brooks, are tip top.
This article has been updated since its original publication.