Top 5 Cocktail Bars in Downtown Spokane

A great cocktail is more than just a well-prepared drink. It's also about the feeling that the place and the people give you when you're enjoying it. I've never had a good drink served by bad people. So let's look at that good, good in Spokane.

Credit: All photos were taken by Connor Bacon at Treatment

Volstead Act: Your Bartender's Favorite Bar(tender)

The small spot on Post Street is punched into the front of the Historic Peyton Building. This late 19th-century beauty makes the perfect setting for the ironically named cocktail bar.

The vibe welcomes you as soon as you walk in the door. The bartenders always see you coming in with the bar anchoring almost the entire back wall, and I've never walked in without being greeted. It's as approachable as a craft cocktail place can be.

Most nights, Volstead Act is run by the ring leader of the craft cocktail scene in Spokane, Roman Harner. When I asked other bartenders who their favorite bartender was in town, they all mentioned Roman. The soft-spoken, reserved young bartender is talented at his craft and passionate about his place. Volstead Act was the first place that Harner ever had a cocktail at 21 years old, and it has been his spot ever since.

Harner's love for the craft keeps him experimenting with new flavor profiles and new products. Recently, a distributor introduced Harner to Raicilla, an agave-based spirit that can best be described as Tequilla's rebellious cousin. Starting with familiar flavor combinations, Harner began his process of experimentation. It can sometimes take as long as 6 months to perfect a new drink, but the new Raicilla cocktail was a burst of inspiration.

The new drink includes Raicilla, Chareau, Crème de cacao, agave, chile liqueur, and a flamed mole bitter spritz that makes a balanced and beautiful cocktail. What is the name of it? Technically, it has never been named according to Harner, but we will call it the Rebellious Cousin.

Harner's Local Favorites:

Other things you should know:

  • They serve free popcorn.
  • You can order food off the Cochinito menu from Volstead Act.
  • At midnight the Volstead Act transforms into an industry bar.
  • They open at 3 pm most days, an hour earlier than most happy hours downtown.

Address:

12 N Post St, Spokane, WA 99201

Hours:

  • Monday 3 PM–2 AM
  • Tuesday 3 PM–2 AM
  • Wednesday 3 PM–2 AM
  • Thursday 3 PM–2 AM
  • Friday 3 PM–2 AM
  • Saturday 3 PM–2 AM
  • Sunday 5 PM–2 AM

Website:

volsteadactspokane.com


Emma Rue’s: The New Kid on the Block

Emma Rue’s wraps the corner of Howard and First on the ground floor of the Historic Symons Block Building. The early 20th Century architecture provides high ceilings and plenty of interest.

When you enter Emma Rue’s it is obvious that this new place does not follow the trendy, masculine, whiskey den, and leather couches type of feel. The french inspired color palette and wall art have a feminine and sensual tone, without feeling girly. The art was a deliberate choice and was done by local artist Hazel Miller, an authority in the art of the feminine figure.

However, the best part about the ambiance is the energy and wardrobe of bartender and co-owner, Aaron Hein. His passion for his place can be seen in the respectful tone he takes with his people and the impossibly cool way that his personal style somehow fits perfectly with the tone of the bar. This place is much more than a whiskey joint.

Emma Rue’s signature cocktail is not on the menu until this spring, but you can ask for it now and look like you know what you’re doing. The Murder She Wrote can’t be found anywhere else because it was made up on the fly by Hein when a customer ordered a Bourbon Renewal, and he had to improvise some of the ingredients. Hein replaced what he was lacking with an Icelandic Crowberry Liqueur. Yes, a group of crows is a murder and that is definitely how Hein came up with the name. Needless to say, the bourbon renewal guy loved the drink. You will too.

Hein’s Local Favorites:

  • Bar: Durkins Liquor Bar
  • Bartender: Roman Harner (Volstead Act)

Other things you should know:

  • They serve brilliant coffee
  • They have amazing desserts at any time of night
  • They have jazz on Thursday nights
  • They aren’t your typical whiskey bar

Address:

17 S Howard St, Spokane, WA 99201

Hours:

  • Friday 11 AM–12 AM
  • Saturday 9 AM–12 AM
  • Sunday 9 AM–8 PM
  • Monday Closed
  • Tuesday Closed
  • Wednesday 11 AM–12 AM
  • Thursday 11 AM–12 AM

Website:

Emmarues.com


Purgatory: The Whiskey Bar that can Make a Cocktail

Located on the ground floor of the Historic Bennet Block, Purgatory just feels like the perfect neighbor for Carharrt. Right? Whiskey and workwear just make sense together somehow.

Purgatory hits you on the nose as soon as you walk in the door. The smell of cedar chips and barbeque combined with the beautiful woodwork give you the feeling that you’re walking into a campfire with friends to drink some whiskey. And then, you see the whiskey wall. It’s a beautiful thing.

With over 600 bottles, Purgatory’s selection should be the most impressive thing about the place, but I am here to testify that it’s bartender Phoebe McShane’s energy and skill behind the bar that will impress you most. But the humble mixologist prefers to talk about her struggle making Purgatory’s signature cocktail, the Up in Smoke Old Fashioned.

The Up in Smoke Old Fashioned is a seamless blend of sweet, and smokey accented with hints of citrus. It literally tastes like you’re eating your favorite candy next to a warm campfire while getting a hug from your favorite person. So, while you would think the name of the cocktail comes from the fact that the drink is shaken and poured over fired cedar chips, it’s not. It’s named the Up in Smoke because Phoebe lit her hair on fire on her second day working at Purgatory while trying to make the drink. Order it. You won't be sorry. It’s as good as the origin story.

McShane’s Local Favorites:

  • Bar: The Piano Bar
  • Bartender: Cammy Flores (The Beacon, CDA)

Other things you should know:

  • They have the largest whiskey selection in the area
  • They have weekly whiskey flights
  • They have a pretzel appetizer that is to die for

Address:

524 W Main Ave, Spokane, WA 99201

Hours:

  • Sunday – Thursday 12 PM – 11 PM
  • Friday- Saturday 12 PM – 12:30 AM

Website:

thepurgatory.com


Hogwash Whiskey Den: The Cocktail Bar Everyone Wants

Hidden in the basement of the Washington Cracker Building, Hogwash is the type of cool that you can’t fake. The low ceilings combined with the charred posts from a warehouse fire in the basement of this early 20th-century industrial space create an authenticity that cannot be replicated. It’s a whiskey den if there ever was one.

As you duck walking down into Hogwash, you feel like you just discovered something, and trust me, you have. Hogwash is run by Simon Moorby, the master of the milk punch and a respected bartender in the craft cocktail scene. Moorby has been at Hogwash for 5 years, and the tiki-inspired speakeasy is the creative expression of his nearly 22 years of craft cocktail experience.

When I say Moorby is the master of the clarified milk punch, I mean the man spent three years of his life perfecting the Hogwash recipe. Three years of his life. The dude cares about his punch, and believe me, it tastes like it.

Clarified milk punch is sweet, citrusy, smooth, and perfectly clear. The heavy consistency seems in brilliant contrast with the clarity of the drink. Moorby’s milk punch unifies the complex blend of tastes under a single note. It is as close to creative perfection as you will find in Spokane’s craft cocktail scene. Moorby always rims the glass with lemon and sprinkles with nutmeg before serving. It’s the best thing you’ll order in 2022. Trust me.

Moorby’s Local Favorites:

  • Bar: BonBon
  • Bartender: Crystal Bertholic (Ruins)

Other things you should know:

  • The honey miso wings are the best wing you’ll ever eat
  • On Sundays they do brunch upstairs at the Inland Pacific Kitchen

Address:

304 W Pacific Ave, Spokane, WA 99201

Hours:

  • Friday 4–11:30 PM
  • Saturday 4–11:30 PM
  • Sunday 10 AM–2 PM
  • Monday 4–10 PM
  • Tuesday 4–10 PM
  • Wednesday 4–10:30 PM
  • Thursday 4–10:30 PM

Website:

drinkhogwash.com


Cease & Desist Book Club: No One Ever Reads Anything

On the first floor of the Historic Legion Building, Cease & Desist had made itself a little harder to find than the typical cocktail bar in Spokane. Like any good book club, there has to be a secret bookshelf that opens to let you inside.

Once you find your way through the bookshelf, you can’t help but feel the height of the ceilings and the ambiance created by the low lighting, the turn of century wallpaper, and the dark green overstuffed booths. The main wall is bookended with photos of the two best drunken writers of all time, Bukowski and Hemmingway.

Charles Bukowski once spoke about the importance of style, and this book club’s main mixologist, Ben Butler, heard the message loud and clear. The tall, charismatic barkeep is unarguably one of the best in Spokane, but what’s more, is that he does it with a charm that makes you feel like your drink is the only one he’s making that evening.

Butler has a simple philosophy of brokering the correct cocktail to the right person, so when I asked him what drink he was gonna make us, he said the Randhattan. Yes, my last name is Rand. Yes, the drink is named after me. And yes, it is a delicious spin on a classic.

The Randhattan is made the exact same way as a Manhattan but with a few minor tweaks. First, sweet vermouth is replaced with China-China, a bitter French liqueur. After the drink is shaken and strained into a cocktail glass, a floater of Grand Marnier is added before serving. The small changes rid the classic of the vermouth after taste and make it more citrusy on the finish. It is a beautiful innovation of the original.

Butler’s Local Favorites:

  • Bar: Bijou
  • Bartender: Roman Harner (Volstead Act)

Other things you should know:

  • The bathroom code is on the door on your way to the bathroom
  • Water is free and self serve

Address:

108 N Washington St Suite 201, Spokane, WA 99201

Hours:

  • Friday 4 PM–2 AM
  • Saturday 4 PM–2 AM
  • Sunday 6 PM–12 AM
  • Monday 6 PM–12 AM
  • Tuesday 4 PM–2 AM
  • Wednesday 4 PM–2 AM
  • Thursday 4 PM–2 AM

Website:

ceaseanddesistbookclub.com


About the Author

Jamie Rand

Jamie Rand

Chief Marketing Officer

Jamie is the Chief Marketing Officer at Visit Spokane. He is constantly on the lookout for upcoming bars and is a self-proclaimed critic of the best old-fashion in town. He is well connected in the local craft cocktail scene. His favorite place to have a drink in Spokane is Cease & Desist.