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Originally published July 18, 2012 at 5:30 AM | Page modified July 19, 2012 at 11:09 AM

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Canon shakes up attention on the local and worldwide cocktail circuit

Canon on Capitol Hill boasts one of the largest whiskey selections, rivaling the likes of Brandy Library in New York City and Seven Grand bar in Los Angeles.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Happy hour | The first time you may feel a bit overwhelmed at Canon. It takes some getting used to, the endless rows of ryes and bourbons and the pre-prohibition-era antiques on display. You might want to order a second drink, a Boulevardier maybe, to buy time at the bar to take in the details.

That's what it was like for me at Canon early on. Bistros and bars come and go in our city. But every once in a while comes a special place like this Capitol Hill bar, which has set the bar so high that I can't imagine another new cocktail lounge that will be this grand and ambitious.

Canon is on its way to becoming one of the best cocktail dens in America.

It already boasts one of the largest whiskey selections, rivaling the likes of Brandy Library in New York City and Seven Grand bar in Los Angeles.

Its drink menu is brilliant in its simplicity. Check the craft cocktail menus of the bars around Seattle. Many feature exhausting, six-to-eight ingredient concoctions, often overworked.

Canon's drinks are mostly three-ingredient affairs and yet they impart more depth and flavor than what many bars put out using twice as many ingredients.

I've had interesting cocktails done with rhubarb, apple-cider vinegar and banana infused Irish whiskey.

There's a certain steadiness and confidence about Canon. Bar men Murray Stenson and Jamie Boudreau are old hands at this game, two of the best in the business, the former a legend in the industry. And Boudreau was behind another great Seattle bar, Vessel.

Boudreau is the co-owner of Canon, a bar that he seems to have been planning all his life. The shelves are studded with his collection of pre-prohibition era and rare whiskey such as a Valley Forge whiskey from 1906 and a Japanese Suntory whiskey from 1952. First editions and signed copies of rare cocktail books line the vehicle shelves like a library.

Pages of Harry Johnson's Bartenders' Manual, a cocktail bible, are plastered to the bar.

The place is porn for cocktail geeks.

Sunday is my favorite night to hit Canon, when both Stenson and Boudreau hold court.

Neither was working on my recent outing. But that was no drag on the proceedings. First up was an amaro cocktail (Italian Buck), with hints of artichoke and ginger, as refreshing as a mojito. The food was excellent, a tangy homage to David Chang's pork-belly buns and tender braised pork cheeks over Parmesan polenta.

These are exciting times for Canon, and the Seattle cocktail community. Canon is one of four finalists up for "World's Best New Cocktail Bar" honor, from Tales of the Cocktail, the world's largest festival focusing on spirits and the art of bartending.

The Seattle bar is in the running along with Aviary in Chicago, Candelaria in Paris and The Zetter Townhouse in London. The winning bar will be announced July 28 in New Orleans.

Canon, 928 12th Ave., offers happy hour daily 5-7 p.m., with $5 wine, $4 draft and $3 off on food (206-552-9755 or www.canonseattle.com).

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or tvinh@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @tanvinhseattle.

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