Essex is the spillover bar/waiting area to the popular Delancey restaurant. If Delancey is too crowded, people often get a drink at Essex while they wait. (The two businesses are owned by the same couple, and share a back hall.) I like to enjoy Essex on its own, however, as it has a cozy, intimate vibe and fantastic small bites and drinks.
If cocktails are your thing, you’ll be pleased at Essex as the drinks come strong. You definitely get a good bang for your buck. Last time, I ended up nursing my drink over good conversation with friends. They make their own bitters at Essex as well as other mix-ins. It might sound silly, but I might actually love Essex for the food more than the drinks. The small plates are the perfect accompaniment to the cocktails and the dessert is seasonal and comforting. (I enjoyed peaches and yogurt on my last visit.)
As Essex is a small family business, the opening hours can be somewhat unpredictable (they tend to close for holidays/events throughout the year), so save yourself some heartache and give them a call before you mosey on down to Ballard.
At some places, bartenders may seem unapproachable, but the service here is down-to-earth and friendly. They might call you from next door (at Delancey) to tell you that your table is ready, but I have a feeling you’ll stay put.