Poems + Drinks at 5 Seattle Bars

Honor National Poetry Month with a stiff drink and a sensational poem

By Seattle Mag April 16, 2015


April, as you hopefully know, is National Poetry Month. And, as you hopefully also know, having a good drink while reading a good poem is one of the world’s delightful combos.

I strongly suggest you take a little time this month to order up a nice cocktail, settle back into your chair, and sip and read. To help you get you started, I’ve five poem suggestions below, along with five drinks matched with them, and five different Seattle bars at which to have the drinks while you read. If you decide to read out loud, I’m sure the bartenders won’t mind. All the poems are from In Their Cups: An Anthology of Poems About Drinking Places, Drinks, and Drinkers.

Poem: The Menu, by Thomas Bailey Aldrich. Drink: The Bowtie. Bar: Tavern Law.

An amazingly fun poem which contains a whole host of drink ingredients, including Cognac, kümmel, and kirsch, this matches up nicely with Tavern Law’s Bowtie, which has Cognac, St- Germain, peach bitters, and bubbles (and which was created by Brandon Page). A poet, novelist, and more from the late 1800s, Thomas Bailey Aldrich I think would not only approve of the drink, but also of the bar, which wouldn’t seem too foreign from the late 1800s hotspots he must have spent time within.

Poem: Describe Divorce to Martinis, by Tod Marshall. Drink: The Martini. Bar: Oliver’s.

Gonzaga professor and Kansas native, poet Tod Marshall’s Describe Divorce to Martinis (originally from his book, The Tangled Line) contains the line, “the meaning of a pocketful of toothpicks and olives.” Oliver’s in the Mayflower Hotel is an eight time winner of the International Martini Classic Challenge, and has perhaps had more Martinis consumed in it than any other Seattle lounge. Making this one of the easiest poem-and-drink pairings.

Poem: The Mint Julep, by Charles Fenno Hoffmann. Drink: Balmed Julep. Bar: Percy’s & Co.

This is the finest poem ever about the Mint Julep (and may be the only one), as well as being one of the great devotion-to-a-thing poems. Charles Fenno Hoffmann was a poet and editor in New York in the 1800s, and would have been intrigued I’m sure by Percy’s updated Balmed Julep, which contains star anise-, allspice-, and mint- infused bourbon, with fresh ginger, Angostura bitters, soda, simple syrup, and lime juice. If you want to get more classical when reading the poem, they also make a swell regular Mint Julep.

Poem: Oh, For a Bowl of Fat Canary, by John Lyly. Drink: Sherry Wine Punch. Bar: Rob Roy.

John Lyly was a writer in the late 1500s, but he seems like he would appreciate today’s jolly cocktail culture. In this poem, he not only sings the praises of Canary wine (a sweeter white wine much loved back in the day), but also sherry, and various other inducements to making merry. Match up this poem with the classic Sherry Wine Punch (which mixes Amontillado sherry, orgeat, lemon, and seasonal fruit jam), served at legendary Belltown bar the Rob Roy – a spot where much merry has been made over the years.

Poem: Rhenish Night, by Guillaume Apollinaire, translated by Ed Skoog. Drink: Pastis Prado. Bar: Damn the Weather.

Guillaume Apollinaire was a French poet, playwright, and critic, known for his championing of Cubism and Surrealism, and weaving the traditional into modern. Ed Skoog is the award-winning Seattle poet, who most recent book is Rough Day (which won the 2014 Washington State Book Award), and which is said to be “wildly expansive yet personal.” Damn the Weather is a fantastic bar in Pioneer Square, which manages to be classically-minded while using fine modern ingredients and techniques. Prado Pastis is an anise-flavored French aperitif, a cousin to absinthe, that’s a refreshing and bracing sipper. Together, they’ll make for a memorable afternoon.


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