Where Bartenders Are Bartenders

Tired of swilling the mixological mistakes of the cocktail "revolution"? Here's where you can buy a real drink.

The way the word "mixologist" gets thrown around in Seattle, you'd think we'd be swimming in excellent drinks. I've had myriad subpar cocktails of late, but the alcoholic disgrace I had the other night was it. Pear brandy, Frangelico hazelnut liqueur, and a balsamic-soaked cherry—inspired by a love of salad? It tasted foul, like a reality TV competition gone wrong and no R&D beyond "that sounds cool." Well, it wasn't. Developing a new drink recipe isn't hard, but it still takes much trial and error and some cookery. Like salad dressing, you need your base (vodka, tequila), an accent flavor (triple sec), and a combination of sweet, sour, or bitter (citrus and cranberry juice, or a flavored simple syrup). That describes most popular drinks in a nutshell—the margarita, cosmo, and lemon drop, to name a few. A little complexity goes a long way. After what I've swilled lately, I want to take a moment to single out the places that quietly turn out consistently excellent specialty drinks, with bartenders confident enough to be called nothing else. The Sitting Room (108 West Roy St., 206-285-2830, www.the-sitting-room.com) is a candlelit safe haven in the sport and tourist gulch of Lower Queen Anne. The bar puts all those bottles you see hiding on the fringe to good use, like the absinthe-evocative Chartreuse and the lithe flute of Galliano. The cucumber martini—gin or vodka meeting fresh cucumber and the right amount of sweet—is my choice for drink of the summer. The aroma reminds me of a spa day, so it must be good for you, too, right? Virginia Inn (1937 First Ave., 206-728-1937). During my brief stint as a nine-to-fiver, lunch at the VI eased my mind, with its old brick, great art, and partial view. I've always quietly admired the VI's dedication to appropriate glassware, especially the pousse- cafés. It's a place where the basics matter. Their infused vodkas, specifically the ruby red grapefruit and strawberry-rhubarb, are mixed with a little juice or soda and few accents, allowing their amazing flavors to shine. I can't wait to see what fall brings. Chapel (1600 Melrose Ave., 206-447-4180, www.thechapelbar.com). This place gets my nomination for Seattle's rep at the Miss Bar Universe pageant. The vault of a space, formerly part of a funeral home, is striking in two-tone—deep brown walls accented with off-white furniture and a magisterial-sized stone bar that once held cremated remains. They have a huge list of deceptively simple martinis—all profanely quenching. But the little goth girl in me always wants the green and black ones. So young chefs de booze, cock-a-toils, or whatever you're calling yourselves these days, remember that practice makes perfect, and a field trip to one of the above wouldn't hurt. info@seattleweekly.com

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