The Great Seattle Shake

Last week wrapped up a new three-week, 23-restaurant cocktail promotion called the Great Seattle Shake. Sponsored in part by the Seattle Weekly, the event aimed to entice cocktail drinkers to sample two signature drinks paired with an appetizer for $15. Whether it was the 7 to 10 p.m. time frame (threatening to keep drinkers up beyond their bedtimes), a cocktail's perceived incompatibility with food, or possibly that Seattle residents are just really die-hard local-merlot drinkers, it's safe to say that very little shaking went on during May. "I just don't think it got off the ground," says Gretchen Geisness, general manager of the Palace Kitchen in Belltown. She says the restaurant sold only approximately 40 of the drink-appetizer combos during the three weeks, with the Northwest 75, a take on the French 75 made with Finlandia Cranberry, and the Palace Passion, made with Stoli Vanil, being the most popular drinks. "A lot of people don't want two cocktails. They have a cocktail and move into wine." The lack of success could be attributed to the fact that "people are stuck in their ways," says Bryan Fritz, bar manager at the downtown W Seattle hotel, although he adds that the promotion "gave people perspective that there are more places out there." And he notes the hotel's bar did see an approximately 10 percent increase in business and did "get some new clientele in." Top featured drinks included the W Southside, made with cucumber-infused Finlandia, and the W Red Rita, made with Cuervo Tradicional Tequila and Grand Marnier. "If we had done the same thing with wine, it would have been a little bigger," bets Brian Curry, owner of Ten Mercer in Queen Anne. "It seems like people do cocktails and an appetizer and then have a glass of wine," he notes. Curry's most popular drink was the Sputnik, made with Stoli Ohranj. Locally, cocktails have always had fierce competition from "a large wine and microbrew industry," notes Allan Aquila, a partner in Kirkland's Yarrow Bay Grill and Beach Cafe. (The cafe's top drink was the Ancient Mexican Finish, made with Sauza Gold Tequila, Finlandia vodka, and a syrup made from 100-year-old Grand Marnier.) Still, despite little uptick in sales, Aquila remains convinced that the cocktail craze has arrived: "But it does settle under the radar."

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