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4 Cocktail Bars in Historic Fairhaven

Bellingham’s Fairhaven Historic District is a hotspot for strolling, shopping, and dining. Made up of six square blocks of red-brick buildings and walkways, it’s the perfect place to step back in time by visiting an old-fashioned cocktail bar. We recently took on the tough assignment of rounding up the best cocktail bars in town. From Deco-era digs to 50’s and 60’s throwbacks, here are a few of our personal Fairhaven favorites.

Since opening in 2018, Swim Club has become the go-to Fairhaven cocktail bar for many locals (myself included). Inspired by French Riviera hotel bars of the 1960’s, Swim Club combines bright, cheery, Mediterranean-meets-tropical decor with fresh, classy cocktails to create a modern dream space. It manages to be both fun and fancy — a delicate balance.

Pop open the pastel menu to find a list of inventive drinks, from “High Dive” (higher proof) concoctions to “Poolside” (light spirited) refreshments. During a recent visit, our server suggested Three Dots and a Dash (rum, lime, orange, honey, falernum, allspice) as a good intro to the type of creative cocktails Swim Club offers. Start there, or sample the daily special for a surprise (we tried the Shanghai Punch, served in a Chinese takeout box!)

In the mood for wine instead? Head next door to Swim Club’s sister bar, Gainsbarre, for a fine selection of natural and organic wines paired with small plates.

As of June 16, 2021 Swim Club is temporarily closed. 

During our first visit to Southside Bar, our bartender introduced himself with a handshake. That’s the kind of experience you can expect at Fairhaven’s newest cocktail bar: warm, friendly, and downright professional. Sister bar to Jack’s in downtown Bellingham, Southside offers a similar vibe and simple, straightforward cocktail list. Both bars were born from the ashes of Daphne’s, a former Fairhaven favorite where you could get your “prescription” filled by the “pharmacist” behind the bar. Southside tips a hat to that cheeky tradition with prescription records hanging from one wall, alongside a black and white photo of a Fairhaven pharmacist. Southside may have opened in 2019, but by embracing Fairhaven’s past it already feels timeless.

Sit inside at the oversized booths and attractive bar, or soak up the afternoon sun on Southside’s welcoming patio. You’ll find a few beers on tap, but classic cocktails are the focus here. Think French 75, Manhattan, Old Fashioned, and more. Step up to the oyster counter, open Thursday through Saturday, for fresh oysters on the half shell. With its authentically local flair, Southside is a welcome addition to the Fairhaven cocktail scene.

Connected to the adjacent Fairhaven Village Inn by sliding door, Galloway’s bills itself as “Fairhaven’s Deco Era Cocktail Bar”. Here you’ll find an extensive list of Classic, House, and Infusion cocktails, from the Fairhaven Elixir (House Infused Blackberry Bourbon, Giffard Fruit De La Passion, honey syrup, organic lemon) to Absinthe Minded (St. George Absinthe, Giffard Orgeat, half & half, Orange Blossom Water). Cheese plates, charcuterie, and sangria, anyone?

No Fairhaven cocktail roundup would be complete without a mention of The Black Cat. Also known as Le Chat Noir, this French-inspired bistro has been serving Bellingham since 1987 from its third-floor perch in the Sycamore Building. Low lights and a full menu make Black Cat a great date spot, but we usually go for happy hour. Share an order of Petit Fondue, order a Cat Scratch Lemonade (jalapeno vodka, basil, lemon, simple, sierra mist, soda), and chill. Over three decades later, Le Chat Noir is still the cat’s meow.

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