This story is part of The Stranger's 2017 Guide to Food and Drink (International Edition), which includes recommendations of more than 100 restaurants serving tastes from around the globe.
Since the dawn of the craft cocktail movement, barkeeps have revealed increasingly culinary inclinations. Herbs and spices have long made their way from the kitchen to the bar. But instead of stopping at commonplace baking spices (clove, allspice, nutmeg), some drink makers are digging deeper into the spice cabinet for flavors more associated with Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisine.
"Bartenders are going into the kitchen and asking chefs how do you use these tools, these flavors, and dragging that back into the bar," says Jesse Cyr, general manager of Rob Roy.
The Belltown fixture has been ahead of the curve, long incorporating tastes from owner Anu Apte Elford's Indian heritage. The Saffron Sandalwood Sour wields a saffron sharbat, which Cyr describes as a floral Indian syrup, with the potent spice giving the gin and egg-white cocktail an orange/reddish hue. A sprinkle of sandalwood dust adds an "earthy, woody" aroma, he says.
Often deployed in traditional Indian medicine, turmeric shows up in Heartwood Provisions' aptly named Good Medicine (in addition to a gin rickey riff at Rob Roy). The viscous lowball is made with Japanese whiskey and shiso liqueur, and gets a subtle umami boost from the ginger cousin.
At Foreign National, curry—a growing favorite among bartenders—adds an earthy funk to the milky, rum-based Silk Road. Curried piña coladas have also heated up past summer menus at Brass Tacks with help from Georgetown tincture makers Addition.
"The people who get it and know to look for it are really, really into it," Addition co-owner Matt Hemeyer says of his curry cocktail spice.
Lately, it seems they don't have to look as hard.