When it comes to eats and drinks, visitors to downtown Bellingham can have it all: locally-owned restaurants, breweries, cideries, and bars dot the map. Lately, I’ve been branching out from Bellingham’s thriving beer scene to try a variety of craft creations. I started by sampling all four cideries in town. Now, it’s time to taste some cocktails.
Looking for a cocktail bar in Bellingham’s downtown core? Start with these four. All are located within walking distance of each other for a convenient craft crawl route. Cheers!
Jack’s (219 W. Holly Street)
Nestled quite cozily between Camber and Black Sheep on Holly Street, Jack’s is easy to miss from the street. Look for the address above (219) and a humble door below that simply reads: “Jack’s EST 1918”. To my knowledge the bar actually opened in 2018, but who am I to judge? Step inside, and you might just believe that you’ve gone 100 years back in time.
In true speakeasy fashion, Jack’s keeps the lights (and the hype) on the down-low. There’s no website to peruse before entering, no menu posted outside the door. Inside the long, narrow space you’ll find barstool seating and comfy booths — if you’re lucky. On my most recent visit during Bellingham Cocktail Week, the place is standing-room only. We wait for a few bar stools to free up before settling in with some expertly crafted cocktails.
At Jack’s, the menu is simple. There are a handful of local beers on tap (woohoo!) poured in 10 oz and 20 oz sizes. But we’re here for cocktails. A dozen are listed on the black and whiteboard, from Tom Collins and Old Fashioned to French 75 and Corpse Reviver. As I sip my Old Fashioned, I notice something special about Jack’s. Patrons are chatting amongst themselves, bartenders are busy slinging drinks, and there’s a festive feeling in the air. An old public telephone hangs on one wall, advertising “Local Calls” while an analog clock ticks away the time. There’s not a digital device in sight (even the cash register is retrofitted). The drinks are damn fine. What year is it, again?
Black Sheep (215 W. Holly Street)
Right next door to Jack’s you’ll find Black Sheep on Holly (for now, at least — Black Sheep is in the process of moving two doors down into a larger space). This is my go-to spot in Bellingham for tacos and margaritas, and I’m not alone in that opinion. The tiny space is usually packed. Thankfully, Black Sheep’s new location will be much larger when it opens — keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates.
The tacos alone make Black Sheep worth visiting. Think carne asada, lamb and brisket served on handmade corn tortillas, sprinkled with colorful toppings like sweet corn salsa. Vegetarian options include my personal fave, the roasted veggie gyro, featuring perfectly roasted sweet potato and cauliflower. But this is a cocktail roundup, so let’s talk about the drinks.
There are several margarita options available, from the simple dude-a-rita to the “it’s not for everyone!” fernet-a-rita (fernet branca, triple sec, lime, agave, topo chico, rock). Then there’s a whole list of Classics and Originals. Cheeky names like “sleeveless in Seattle” and “tropical a.f.” convey the light, fun, and bright vibe that Black Sheep is going for — and wholly achieves.
Temple Bar (306 W. Champion Street)
One can never go wrong with Temple Bar. A longtime favorite happy hour spot, the Temple has been a Bellingham favorite since 2002. Here, small groups of friends gather to enjoy wine and cheese on the sunny sidewalk, or cozy up inside after dark. In addition to irresistible $5 happy hour cocktails (3 p.m. – 7 p.m. daily, all day Sunday), Temple Bar offers a treasure trove of classic cocktails. And did I mention it’s located just one block up Bay Street from Jack’s and Black Sheep?
Starting with a side of warm pistachios (they really are better warm), we recently ordered the picturesque Liz Fizz (Gin, lemon, egg white, Scrappy’s Lavender Bitters, orange flower water) and a simple whiskey ginger. Both were exceedingly satisfying. Perusing the menu, the fancy White Russian spin-off, named “I Dream of Bill Murray”, caught my eye. Made with local Lettered Streets Coffeehouse cold brew, it’s the drink I dream of tasting on my next visit.
Red Rum (113 E. Magnolia Street)
A tiki bar in Bellingham, you say? That’s right: Red Rum is a bonafide tiki bar, with an emphasis on “bar”. Think fruity, tropical drinks (some can be served with flaming lime) balanced out by the dimly-lit atmosphere and tiki decor. We visited during happy hour (5 p.m. – 7 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday, all day Sunday) to try the Mai Tai and Painkiller. The full menu includes tons of tequila and rum drinks, as well as appetizers and sandwiches. Handcrafted and made with fresh fruit, the drinks (and vibe) at Red Rum provide a fun way to get away in downtown Bellingham.