by Laurie L. Ross

More often than not, one learns the rules in order to break them. This is true with bartenders who master the tried and true basics before taking liberties, proving a libation doesn’t have to be to be old to be a classic. Contributing to our region’s cocktail culture are some innovative mixologists who are shaking, muddling and mixing things up at locally owned restaurants, bars and lounges.

Volstead Act, nestled in downtown Spokane’s Davenport Arts District takes a postmodern twist on a pre-prohibition era watering hole. This newer bar boasts craft cocktails made with precision in an attractive space that collides retro and modern influences. The space has a vintage feel but with cutting edge nuances, such as the option of ordering, paying and tipping with Bitcoin (BTC) digital currency. To sip on a budget, there are two happy hours (one early, one late) daily, and on Sundays from 5 p.m. to close, all craft cocktail are a throwback to $5. The bar menu is drenched with familiar libations with unique twists. It’s obvious that barkeeps such as Ash Hayden aren’t afraid to stray off the written plan. Try the El Guapo, citrus tequila cocktail with a kick. This choice is carefully created with Blanco tequila, Cholula hot sauce, muddled cucumber and lime with house made simple syrup. If that packs too much heat, try the Lilac City Collins,which may go down a little too easily. This refresher includes tea infused gin, fresh lemon juice, lightly muddled mint, house-made simple syrup topped with soda water. This is definitely a bar worth discovering and though it may sound minor, the cool metal straws are a nice touch. volsteadactspokane.com

Chaps Diner & Bakery is housed in a relocated farmhouse in the Latah Valley, just off I-95. This rustically elegant eatery is best known for their crazy busy weekend breakfasts. But if you don’t venture to Chaps in the evening for dinner and drinks, you’re missing out. It’s still delightful in the evenings, but has a different feel than the morning rush. Weather permitting, weekly live music takes place in the quaint courtyard. Tenured bartender Jessica Strange concocted the signature Chapsgirl Martini made with Bacardi Dragon Berry, a splash of sweet and sour and an exclusive raspberry sorbet from Brainfreeze, a local small batch ice-cream purveyor. The innovative Strange creates her own infused vodkas and seasonal drinks for the Chap’s experience at a more leisurely pace. chapsgirl.com

Bistango Martini Lounge is an urban escape in downtown Spokane. This upscale yet intimate bar has a big city vibe within walking distance from River Park Square. The starry night ceiling, modern decor and occasional ice sculptures contribute to an ambience usually found in bigger metropolitan cities. Expect solo acts of live music or a fully clothed Go-Go dancer swaying on the petite performance stage. Despite all the distractions, this usually packed lounge is best known for their handcrafted cocktails. Bar Manager, Ryan Crow, may have started a trend with his take on a White Cosmopolitan. The Bistango version of the classic Stolichnaya vodka and white cranberry juice is realized by adding your choice of grapefruit, strawberry, raspberry, cucumber or vanilla. Arrive early to take advantage of Happy Hour from 4-6 p.m. and to secure a coveted seat. bistangolounge.com

Lindaman’s Gourmet-To-Go is just north of Manito Park on the lower south hill is a neighborhood gathering place serving up tasty food to consume in the welcoming dining space or for pick up. Celebrating its 30th year in business, owner Merilee Lindaman continues to evolve her first and only restaurant while still keeping true to what’s been working so well. In addition to the creative cuisine this friendly space pours great coffee to start your day and mixes some seriously good cocktails to wrap it up. A spiked coffee is good at any time and the dedicated staff did some after hours collaborating to create their perfect version of Coffee Corretto, a traditional Italian drink comprised of espresso, grappa and Sambuca and three different coffee beans, which represent health, wealth and wisdom. The key to this Lindaman’s favorite was finding balance with the right proportions of flavors to complement the intensity of the rich espresso. If you are looking for a classic cocktail to enjoy on Lindaman’s oasis of a patio, try their Basil Lime Gimlet prepared by popular mixologist Alex Golly. The cocktail, which tastes like sunny weather, is artfully made with Ketel One Vodka, fresh squeezed lime juice, simple syrup and muddled basil leaves. Pair it with dinner and live music on the patio for a blissful escape. lindamans.com

Laurie L. Ross is a frequent contributor, and is the author of the popular local blog, Sip of Spokane. You can keep up with her at sipofspokane.com