There’s a lot to look forward to in 2013, especially for those who love bars, lounges, creative cocktails, and local bar stars.
Vinum Importing Cocktail Competitions at Vessel
Vinum Spirits wants the world to know that “Washington bartenders are world class, and we can prove it.” Hosted the first Monday of each month by Vinum Spirits director Andrew Bohrer, each competition has a different theme. Each contestant and their drinks are evaluated by three judges – recently it was Tan Vinh, Miles Fokine and myself – on cocktail-ability (blind taste alone), mixology-ism (learning what’s actually in the drink and how did it work together), and bartender-ing (or how the bartender makes the drink on the spot).
The inaugural competition on January 7 featured a “Bitter, Brown, and Stirred” theme, and was won by Bryn’s Lumsden’s cocktail The Muse for Hire (ingredients: Neisson Élevé Sous Bois rum, Byrrh, Combier Creme de Muré (a blackberry liqueur), and Scrappy's Aromatic Bitters).
The competition is open to the public, with all of the 6 finalist drinks added to the menu at Vessel that night. Learn more and see the schedule of competition themes on Vinum Cocktail Competition's site.
Radiator Whiskey Bar
Opening in February, Radiator Whiskey is the new cocktail haven coming to 94 Pike Street, across the hall from Matt’s in the Market in Pike Place Market. Radiator will serve a host of intriguing drinks, including barrel-aged cocktails, as well as a locally-produced, house-branded whiskey. Dan Bugge (Matt’s In the Market owner and part of the brain trust behind Radiator) explains, “We've actually been kicking around the idea of a place like Radiator Whiskey for several years now, but just couldn't find the right place for it to live. I remember doing an actual double take when I found out the space across from Matt's In the Market was going to be available. Can you imagine a better setting for a whiskey bar? Second floor, over-looking First Avenue, with plenty of, ahem, 'natural' light?” (as in, the ambient glow of the Déjà vu sign across the street).
Drinking Lessons at the Sorrento’s Hunt Club Bar
A new line-up up of cozy classes at the historic and lovely Sorrento Hotel has recently been released. On the second Wednesday of every month, 90-minute lessons cover drink preparation, spirit and cocktail history, and more, and will be hosted by cocktailians, distillers, and brilliant bartenders from the Sorrento and other spots. Lessons focus on a range of base spirits (gin, rye, and others) as well as seasonal infusions and holiday cocktails. There are two sittings for each, one at 6 p.m. and another at 8 pm, and the $35 cost covers the lessons, cocktails, and snacks. See the full schedule and learn more (sign up quick; these tend to fill up).
Ballard’s Old Town Alehouse is closing. Not a place I visited every day, but a solid, friendly spot, and once (after a bunch of local beers) I sat there for hours while my pal Chris Lorraine (from former Seattle band The Malinks) played Billy Joel songs on an old piano. However, I’ve also heard that a new bar called Percy’s is moving into the space. Jeff Ofelt, from Bimbo’s Cantina, Cha Cha Lounge, and King’s Hardware, is opening it with two friends, cousins Kyle Taylor and Joe Petersen, who currently are manager and bartender at New York’s Apotheke. I’ve actually been to Apotheke, and it’s pretty swell, with a sweet old-time pharmacy/speakeasy feel that’s to be replicated at Percy’s. It should be opening sometime this spring. Learn more (and check out some fantastic old bar and booze pics, like the one above) on the Percy’s Facebook page.