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.
Swim Club Wet Bar
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!)
During daily happy hour (first and last two hours of the day), Swim Club offers drink specials and “Happy Plates”, including chicken wings, calamari, and patatas bravas (fries). The real fun begins around 5:30pm each day, when servers announce the “Magic Minute” mixed cocktail. Should you decide to opt-in, you (and just about everyone else at the bar) will raise a glass at the ring of the bell once 6pm rolls around. This simple tradition sums up Swim Club quite well: they just want to ensure a swimmingly good time.
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.
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.
Galloway’s Cocktail Bar
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). The happy hour menu (served 3pm – 6pm daily and all day Sunday) is a hit, with loads of food and drink specials. Cheese plates, charcuterie, and sangria, anyone?
The Black Cat
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 (Monday – Thursday: 3pm – 6pm and 9pm to close; Sunday: 3pm to close). 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.
For more cocktail bar suggestions around Bellingham, check out the following: