Recent Travels – Seattle

September 12th, 2008 by Colonel Tiki

A few Saturdays ago, the wife and I drove up to Seattle to visit our friends Brian & Chris. It’s been forever since we last visited. We got to run into the Munats at the #101 liquor store, see the lovely Elicia & FrankTodd, eat at a bunch of great restaurants.

A shining moment of any trip, however, is visiting your ‘tender friends and watching them behind the stick. I’ve been an online-friend of Keith Waldbauer for bit now; I finally got to meet him in person at Tales of the Cocktail. He is a class act. I was sad that with so much going on, I didn’t get to spend enough time chewing the fat. So I visited him at Union.

Seeing him behind the bar was a joy: Smooth movements, quick action, congeniality. The drinks? Heaven. If you are headed to Seattle, you must visit Union. Keith let me sample his falernum (he’s posted recently over at slash food on the topic)1 and his pimento dram2. There are two drinks that stood out from the rest that night, and with Keith’s blessing I have been cleared to share them with you. I’ve just received these and cannot wait to get home and mix them up. I hope you’ll join me at your own home bars.

First is out of that wonderfully thick orange Jones tome3, “None but the Brave.” After complimenting Keith on his pimento dram, he asked “Have you had a None but the Brave?” Shaking my head put him into quick action. Pimento dram is usually used in quarter ounces and teaspoons due to the strength of the elixir; This drink uses a generous half-ounce and balances it out well. It’s a delight.

None but the Brave
2 oz brandy/cognac
½ oz pimento dram
¼ oz lemon juice
¼ oz Jamaican rum
dash simple syrup

shake, strain into cocktail glass

The next drink is Keith’s own, so even more kudos for releasing it into the wild. It is the “Silver Flower Sour,” a mix of a pisco sour-ish formula and some surprising and apt liquor choices. It is delicate at first and then opens into a melange of flavors, ending with a clean rye finish that almost made this imbiber cry. I’m almost tearing up now thinking of it.

Silver Flower Sour
1½ oz rye (high proof is best)
½ oz lemon juice
dash elderflower syrup*
dash orange bitters
½ egg white

shake like hell4, strain into cocktail glass. Flame orange twist atop foam.

*Keith has a German elderflower syrup that is amazing. You can sub St. Germain as Vessel does, or hit up IKEA’s food section for elderflower drink syrup.

After Union, We lumbered down the stairs to visit Murray at Zig Zag. As usual he was a pure joy to talk to and watch. We could only unfortunately stay for one drink and had to bid adieu.

Thanks to Keith for his generosity, and to Murray for his kindness.

Reminder to self: Visit Seattle more often. It is full of fabulous people.

  1. It was very good []
  2. delicious and much better than mine []
  3. and ZigZag’s menu []
  4. Keith did my newly-learned trick of dry shaking with the removed metal spring from a Hawthorne strainer before the iced regular shake []

January Seattle Trip, Part the First.

February 1st, 2008 by Colonel Tiki

We arrived in Seattle on a late Wednesday night. After we checked into the hotel, I tucked in the Tikimama (the poor soul had class at The U-Dub in the morning), and quickly changed into more suitable attire. I had a mission: Zig Zag was calling me.

The Hotel was only a few blocks away, so I hoofed it down to Pikes, then down those stairs, across the covered street crossing, and down again to Zig Zag Cafe.

Murray was there behind the bar as I pulled up a chair. I don’t have any pictures from Zig Zag because I don’t really feel right taking snaps in there. I’ve come to realize I’m a cocktail geek and a bartender groupie. I don’t mind pulling out the camera anyplace else, but I realize I’m self-conscious around Murray. I don’t want to be thought of as a weirdo (which I most likely am).

After the re-introductions, talk got to my current trip in Seattle and my plans of Hitting Vessel and Licorous. Murray mentioned I should also try Sun Liquor and provided a cocktail coaster with information to help me on my quest. After a Last Word, Corpse Reviver #2, and a Drink with no Name, I was on my way back to the Hotel and my lovely wife.

Thursday night was devoted to Vessel. Heather and I arrived at 7′o’clock to find it quite full. I was aghast at some the clientèle drinking wine and beer. Yes, I know it pays the bills, but do they know who is behind the bar? It’s Jamie Boudreau for crying out loud!

Test Pilot at Vessel
We seated ourself at a side table. I ordered a Test Pilot because I had to: I am foremost a Polynesian Pop cocktail enthusiast, after all. I appreciated that the drink on the menu was attributed to Earnest Raymond Beaumont Gant (which we all know as Don’s given name). It was perfect – though I detected Pernod (which is as to the recipe) and I prefer an absinthe or Herbsaint as a tiki pastis. As you can see, the drinks have gorgeous presentation and perfect glassware.

Vessel 75 at Vessel
Heather ordered the much suggested Vessel 75, which single-handedly turned me on the idea of molecular mixology. I have in the past eschewed it for its trendy and pretentious post-modernism. Now that I know it can be damn tasty, I had to remove my prejudice. The Vessel 75‘s foam is an important part of the drink, imparting a delicious maple note (and velvet mouthfeel) to a de-constructed old fashioned. I suppose I don’t mind the clever-clever when it produces such devious and perfect results. Luckily I have 2 isi charging carafes so I can play with one while charging water in the other.

The place wasn’t emptying out, and the gentleman at the bar was still nursing the same beer (BEER!) for 20 minutes, so we had another round at the small table. I just had to get to that bar! I remember reading about the Purgatory on Oh Gosh!, and having been on a Chartreuse kick lately (and knowing that Jamie was waxing on about it at his own blog and would likely know the drink) I ordered one.
Purgatory at Vessel
It was, as I had assumed, fantastic. It reminded my of the popular whiskey / 2 modifier formula I have come to adore in such drinks as Everybody’s Irish, Manhattan, and Monte Carlo (thanks for that introduction, Martin). I definitely need to fix my Benedictine drought. Heather ordered the Frick cocktail, since she loves figs and bourbon.

Frick at Vessel
By this time, the bar opened up and we sidled into place so I could watch and chat with Jamie, who immediately wanted to know why/who the hell ordered a drink from Missouri. I introduced myself and explained about my Chartreuse kick. Jamie suggested his own Rubicon for my next beverage and I had to comply. I’ve been playing with the formula of the Last Word before (my Luaahi), but this (to my categorization method) variation was unbelievable and miles beyond my current skill.
Rubicon at Vessel
Replace the lime with lemon, and add bruised rosemary, flaming the chartuese to further express the oils? Brilliant. Devine and effortless.

The pictures stopped there as friends arrived and conversation continued. I do remember sampling the 21 year old Rittenhouse Rye. I remember the wonderful contrast of mouthfeel to spice notes. I stopped mentally documenting and became the social Craig at that point. It was a wonderful evening.

There was enough time afterwards to get a quick drink back at Zig Zag. One track mind. More about that in the next part.