May 14, 2013
I recently was lucky enough to spend a short two days (not lucky cause it was short, but lucky in that I was able to go at all) in San Francisco, checking out a few snazzy bars and seeing some snazzy people. And having some Mexican food with my pals Mike and Meredith. But here, cause in theory this is a blog about booze and drinks, I’m gonna focus mostly on pictures of the drinks I had, starting with ones had at Blackbird. From what I’ve gathered, Blackbird is sort-a new, though it had a very comfortable neighborhood bar feel and a bunch of stuffed blackbirds above the wooden and glass shelves behind the bar. I don’t want the term “neighborhood” to confuse you though, into thinking the drinks weren’t crafted with care. Cause they were, and then some, by a bartender named Matt Grippo (and a couple other nice fellas whose names I missed). The menu was scripted on a long big scroll-of-sorts behind the bar (in two spots), and I picked a Knee Slapper off of it:
The Knee Slapper (well-named, as most drinks there) was a combination of Four Roses, Old Overholt rye, Averna, Gran Classico, and, interestingly, crème de cacao. It’s rare to see a doubling of the base spirits, and rarer still to see the crème de cacao thrown into a mix of brown boozes, but the end result was very tasty, rich, and layered with flavor and herbal notes. Dreamy stuff. By the time I ended up with a second drink, the Blackbird was hoppin’. It was a Saturday night, so expected, but I haven’t been in a spot that busy for a few, oh, years probably (hey, I’m old). It was four deep across the whole bar at one point. And here’s what was amazing: Matt kept his easy-going and affable demeanor the whole time, even when people asked incredibly silly things (one order: “can I get four beers, a Martini, and some whiskey?” With no specifics at all). And, during the madness, the drinks were still put together perfectly, and including an off-menu drink he made for me (maybe it was going to be on the next menu) with no name – or no name I remember. It was a wildly intriguing mixture as well: Enchanto pisco, Calpico (an uncarbonated Japanese milky soft drink), cucumber, lemon, orgeat, and a rose water rinse. That is out there friends. But you know what? It all came together into a refreshing, tangy, vegetal, smooth hit:
All-in-all, a fantastic spot, Blackbird. I’d definitely return in a heartbeat. It’s the kind of place where you could get the fancy cocktails made in the modern masterful manner, but also order a High Life if you wanted – as long as you paid cash:
February 26, 2013
It’s that time again bar lovers, where I point you to recent (or, fairly recent) Bar Hop columns. In case you don’t know, the Bar Hop columns come out every month in Seattle Magazine, and in each I do a short profile on a different Seattle bar. Usually, they’re new-ish bars, but not always. So, if you’re planning on having a drink in Seattle anytime soon, then I suggest checking out the following to find which drinking haven is for you.
• Essex (in Upper Ballard)
• Clever Bottle (in Belltown)
• Rumba (in Capitol Hill)
• Golden Beetle (in downtown Ballard)
Or, see all Bar Hops.
December 12, 2012
If I could, through the wonders of wondrous science (c’mon science, I’m buttering you up, make this happen) either go back in time to have a drink with Mr. Charles Dickens, or go miraculously into the universe of a Dickens’ book, well, I’d be tickled. Sure, sure, I wouldn’t want to go forever (I mean, Sookie and Rory wouldn’t be around, for one. And Dr. Strange wasn’t even a thought yet), but the pub and bar scenes he relates, and his evident adoration for certain drinks, call out to me in a slightly slurred voices. And if I had to choose which of the many watering holes from the many Dickens’ books? Well, I’m not sure, but the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters from the great book Our Mutual Friend would definitely be in the running, if not running away with my vote and me. Wonder why? Read the below quote why dontcha.
The bar of the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters was a bar to soften the human breast. The available space in it was not much larger than a hackney-coach; but no one could have wished the bar bigger, that space was so girt in by corpulent little casks, and by cordial-bottles radiant with fictitious grapes in bunches, and by lemons in nets, and by biscuits in baskets, and by the polite beer-pulls that made low bows when customers were served with beer, and by the cheese in a snug corner, and by the landlady’s own small table in a snugger corner near the fire, with the cloth everlastingly laid. This haven was divided from the rough world by a glass partition and a half-door, with a leaden sill upon it for the convenience of resting your liquor; but, over this half-door the bar’s snugness so gushed forth that, albeit customers drank there standing, in a dark and draughty passage where they were shouldered by other customers passing in and out, they always appeared to drink under an enchanting delusion that they were in the bar itself.
For the rest, both the tap and parlour of the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters gave upon the river, and had red curtains matching the noses of the regular customers, and were provided with comfortable fireside tin utensils, like models of sugar-loaf hats, made in that shape that they might, with their pointed ends, seek out for themselves glowing nooks in the depths of the red coals, when they mulled your ale, or heated for you those delectable drinks, Purl, Flip, and Dog’s Nose. The first of these humming compounds was a speciality of the Porters, which, through an inscription on its door-posts, gently appealed to your feelings as, ‘The Early Purl House’. For, it would seem that Purl must always be taken early; though whether for any more distinctly stomachic reason than that, as the early bird catches the worm, so the early purl catches the customer, cannot here be resolved. It only remains to add that in the handle of the flat iron, and opposite the bar, was a very little room like a three-cornered hat, into which no direct ray of sun, moon, or star, ever penetrated, but which was superstitiously regarded as a sanctuary replete with comfort and retirement by gaslight, and on the door of which was therefore painted its alluring name: Cosy.
–Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens
December 4, 2012
Hello hello. I’ve been lucky enough to do some fantastic blogs and articles for Seattle Magazine recently (like I’ve mentioned in past Seattle Magazine blog posts here on Spiked Punch), and in case you somehow missed them, now’s your chance to catch up on your reading. Cause you can’t get enough of me, right? Right? Here is a selection of the goods, in bulleted fashion:
• Holiday Spirit: Strega Italian Liqueur
• Holiday Gift Guide: Cocktail Equipment
• Cocktails to Brighten a Winter’s Eve
• Glass Distillery: Best New Distillery in Seattle 2012
• Canon: Best New Bar in Seattle 2012
• 5 Cocktails to Help You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse
• 20 Things Local Bartenders Want You to Know
• Now Available Locally: Five Spirits and Liqueurs You Must Try
PS: Want to see every single Seattle Magazine piece I’ve done? Check out the Seattle Magazine A.J. Rathbun page.
November 20, 2012
As I mentioned in some past posts, I’m not a giant fan of the Perry Mason books written by Erle Stanley Gardner. I don’t loath them or anything, and I have a decent number (well, the covers are so darn fine, and the books aren’t so darn bad). However, I do positively dig the Perry Mason television show starring the commanding-yet-convivial Raymond Burr. I may have mentioned this in one of those past posts, actually. Shot in beauteous black and white, the Pery Mason series in my mind is one of the highpoints of the whole teevee medium, thanks in large part to Mr. Burr but also thanks in part to the regular supporting cast: the long-suffering DA Hamilton Berger, the jolly Sergant Trask, the suave detective Paul Drake, and the lovely, supportive, and cuddly Della Street as Perry’s confidential secretary (played by William Talman, Ray Collins, William Hopper, and Barbara Hale respectively). All gems. Anywho, this is a bit of pre-amble to the following quote, which is a highlight from an episode called The Case of the Fancy Figures, which is about a cad who gets murdered. It’s truly one of my fav quotes about bars ever, and I like it even better since it comes from one of my favorites shows:
If you have to wait, there’s nothing like a bar. After a few drinks, it becomes a fairyland. People are so kind and considerate.
– The Case of the Fancy Figures
September 24, 2012
It’s that time again Seattle bar lovers (or those lucky folks getting ready to visit the lovely city of Seattle, the Emerald City, Jet City, and known to many as Awesome-Bar-City). The time where I put my recent Seattle Magazine Bar Hop columns (like in Bar Hop posts past) in an easy-to-read bulleted format, so you can catch up on what bars I’ve been drinking at lately, what I said about said bars, and why you should probably go visit these bars soon.
• Vessel (in Downtown)
• Saint John’s Bar and Eatery (in Capitol Hill)
• Macleod’s Scottish Pub (in Ballard)
• The Gerald (in Ballard)
Let your drinking commence.
September 18, 2012
So, here’s a kind of a funny story about British TV and this set of quotes. Randomly, when I was living in Italy (which, as an aside, did not suck. It was, between us, as far from sucking as possible), I watched a fair bit of British TV, including some shows on the Alibi Channel. Those who know me (like you) know I like the mysteries of all types, so no surprise. One show I caught and got hooked on was called Lewis. It’s about a sort-of everyman police detective and his literary-minded sergeant solving crimes in Oxford. It’s literate without being nose-turned-uppity, serious but funny, lovely and reverent towards the city. And the murders are good, too. Anyway, I didn’t know at first but it’s a spin-off of a long running British hit, the Inspector Morse mysteries, in which Lewis is the sergeant and the very literary (and booze-and-lady-lovin’) Morse is the main man. These shows started out based on a series of books by a guy named Colin Dexter, and I just picked up and read my first one, The Dead of Jericho. And that’s where these quotes are from (oh, it’s a dandy read, too).
Yes several time already, in the hour or so that followed the brisk, perfunctory ‘hullos’ of their introduction, their eyes had met across the room—and held. And it was after his third glass of slightly superior red plonk that he managed to break award from small circle of semi-acquaintances with whom he’d so far been standing.
. . .yet others lift their eyes to read the legend on a local inn: ‘Tarry ye at Jericho until your beard’s be grown.’ But the majority of the area’s inhabitants would just look blankly at their interlocutors, as if they had been asked such obviously unanswerable questions as why it was that men were born, or why they should live or die, and fall in love with booze or women.
–Colin Dexter, The Dead of Jericho
September 11, 2012
As I mentioned in an earlier post about Seattle Magazine, I’ve been doing some blogging there on the subject of drinks, drinking, drinkers, and pretty much everything bubbly and boozy that you’d expect. And now, for those who don’t read the Seattle Mag (which, by the way, you should even if you don’t live here in Seattle cause it’s all kinds of cool), I’m here to do a little wrap up, in bulleted fashion, of recent pieces, cause I know, I just know, that you don’t want to miss any of them:
• Cocktails for Beginners: Because You Never Forget the First Time
• Five Cocktail Recipes That Bring You Summer All Year Long
• Five Back to School Cocktails
• Essex Opens with a Host of Homemade Ingredients and Craft Cocktails
• Five Olympics-inspired Cocktail Recipes
• Five Refreshing Wine Cocktails