It seems improbable that a place with just 32 seats would have the liquor selection that Canon does.
However, Seattle’s temple to spirits, which houses more than 4,000 bottles curated by proprietor Jamie Boudreau, has become one of the premier destinations for aficionados around the globe since it opened in 2011. Modern mainstays stand alongside vintage spirits dating to the early 1900s and other rare offerings, lining a staggering number of shelves that climb to the ceilings and extend even through the venue’s bathrooms.
It would be possible for even the most faithful regular to never drink the same thing twice.
“It was not the goal to have this collection,” says Boudreau. “The thought, from decades ago, was to have a spot that was floor-to-ceiling booze on at least two of the four walls, but I didn’t anticipate having 22-foot ceilings. Then, when someone told me that we were close to having the largest collection, if we didn’t already have it—we were at 2,500 bottles at the time—I figured why not go for it? This was around 2014, and by the end of next year we’ll be close to our final number of 4,500 different bottles.”
While whiskey and bitters have long been a noted focus of the bar, the expansive selection spans a wide array of spirits categories. Far from simply showcasing trophy bottles, Canon’s bar program emphasizes tasting, experimentation, and education. Spirits flights may take customers through a selection of Washington-produced whiskeys, or a spread of mezcals that utilize different agave varieties.
“We usually start the conversation by finding out what they’ve enjoyed in the past, and see if we can find something esoteric that would fit their flavor profile,” says Boudreau.
The Captain’s List is Canon’s massive tome containing the bar’s premier bottlings. But even here, nestled among 184 pages of à la carte selections, a focus is often kept on the journey. Programs like the Reference Series offer a progression of whiskeys featuring various ages, mash bill proportions, barrel finishes, and production techniques, sequenced to take guests on a journey of evolving flavor profiles.
“[It’s] just a great way for people to experience what a simple change can make to a whiskey, and how older whiskeys, even in a blend, just add layers of complexity that can’t be replicated with younger ones,” says Boudreau. “Really, it’s just a fun thought experiment.”
Further down, an expansive selection from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society is printed without distillery names, featuring only age statements and other pertinent information, alongside tasting notes that might include “childhood memories of Airfix paint and linseed oil” or “curiosities of hot dogs with tomato sauce.”
While Canon’s commanding bottle collection may seem designed to steer guests toward neat pours, the bar’s robust cocktail program emphasizes the versatility of its inventory. The menu still reflects the bar’s reverence for history, evidenced by sections like Craddock’s Collection and Saucier’s Selection, which feature drinks associated with bar legends Harry Craddock of the Savoy Hotel in London and Ted Saucier of the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. Further pages are dedicated to original creations, large-format drinks, and flights. However, the crowning jewel of Canon’s cocktail program may be its Vintage list—a selection of classic drinks that utilize some of the rarer bottles in its collection, such as a Pegu Club featuring Booth’s 1964 gin or a Champs Élysées containing Courvoisier and Chartreuse from 1935.
Canon deftly combines one of the world’s largest and most impressive spirits collections with a sense of hospitality that ensures a space for everyone, even among its rare and exclusive selections. Like many of the bottles on offer, it’s truly one-of-a-kind.