I’m going out on a tipsy limb, but I think we have the best bartenders in the world. Seattle has an abundance of bartending superheroes who are convivial, courteous (mostly!) and, most important, creators of delicious cocktails. We asked a few of our favorites about what drinks they’re serving up, where they go to unwind and what they’re sipping for inspiration.
Bar Manager, Good Bar
Working at Good Bar, which is located in a historic building, and has a fairly early-1900s sense, it’s not completely surprising that bar manager Joshua Batway has such a taste for classically-minded cocktails. We asked him about them, his favorite bar reads, and more recently.
1. Before Good Bar, you’ve had stops behind the bars at Skillet and Quality Athletics. What were the top lessons you learned at those places?
Skillet and Quality Athletics were very different experiences. All in all I learned what conditions make me most happy and successful as a manager. It's important for me to be somewhere positive, supportive, and open-minded. I also like working closely with the owners and a small staff. The team is everything. I feel very fortunate to have a great team at Good Bar
2. Good Bar’s now coming on to its first anniversary. What have been the top drinks since opening?
Joe's Drink has been number one for sure. It's a very approachable and easy to drink bourbon cocktail. Cadillacs and Dinosaurs is another. Pretty much a savory and bitter take on the Cadillac Margarita. The latest menu changes have also been favorable toward the Polar Bear Swim Club. It’s a Pimm's Cup meets a South Side meets a gin and tonic. It's very cool and refreshing.
3. Have you had a favorite outside of those mentioned, one that you like suggesting to folks? And why?
I like to make things off menu for people based on their preferences. A lot of times this is how I get ideas for new cocktails or nail down old ones. It gives me the opportunity to tinker with ideas but also makes people feel happy and special. Which I enjoy doing.
4. We love the balance and classic natures of the drinks we’ve had at Good Bar. How do you ensure this when making new drinks?
For starters a lot of our cocktails are classically-based and very technique driven. I'm also a big fan of homemade ingredients, as well as classic and traditional liqueurs. All of these things kind of coalesce and give everything an overarching old-timey feel. Our cocktails mostly use ingredients that bartenders have had access to for a long time. We just try to use them in combinations that are new yet sensible.
5. Good Bar is such a snazzy space – do you ever feel the need a get dolled up behind the bar? And does the space every influence the drink crafting?
I like to dress nicely on a regular basis, but in my own way. I appreciate it when bartenders have their own unique sense of style. At Good Bar, I think we all tend to dress in more of a “fun” way, as opposed to your typical bartenders that either wear a vest and tie or are all hipstered out. Occasionally though I do like to dress DOWN for what I call “T-shirt Sunday.” We are in a historic building, so that definitely adds to the old timey feel. However Good Bar is bright and open, so it gives way to upbeat and fun libations as opposed to things that are dark and serious like you'd find in more a speakeasy type bar.
6. We’ve read that on your days off you actually like to read cocktail books! This is pretty amazing. What are your favorites?
The book that got me initially interested in this style of drink-making is Speakeasy by Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric from Employees Only. It focuses a lot on classic cocktails and variations on them. I also love Jerry Thomas' Bar-Tender's Guide. It's really archaic, but if you can understand the measurements and what's going on, it's really fun and makes me appreciate simplicity in cocktails. Other great books are Death & Co., The Drunken Botanist, Cocktail Techniques, and The Savoy Cocktail Book. All for different reasons.
7. When you’re not making cocktails, but going out to drink them, where do you like to go, and what’s your regular drink?
I usually hang out at The Old Pequliar in Ballard. The bartenders and regulars there are great people. I also go anywhere that has a focused selection of any specific type of spirit. I usually drink something neat with a tall glass of ice water on the side. If I feel like Irish whiskey, I go to Mulleady's. If I want tequila or mezcal, I go to Barrio. If I want rum I'll take a trek to Tacoma Cabana.
Up Next: Seven questions for Nik Virrey