First Call: The Return of Vito's

The Watering Hole: Vito's, 927 Ninth Ave., 397-4053. The Atmosphere: Vito's is a refurbished old-Seattle watering hole for power brokers and gangsters—of all sorts, as history's proven. If Bruno Tattaglia had wanted to kill Luca Brasi in an underground bar in The Godfather, he would have picked Vito's (even if it's not technically underground, the windowless space feels that way). And that's exactly the room's attraction: It's a classy cocktail bar that feels old-school and a bit retro, but not stodgy or full of blue-hairs. The mural in the back is also a draw. While I was bellied up to the bar, a gentleman wandered in just to see the exposed nipples on it. The Barkeep: Connor O'Brien has been drinking since he was 17, getting an early start on cans of Budweiser and cheap vodka on weekends. At 33, he's been drinking nearly half his life, and his taste in booze has steadily climbed up-shelf. O'Brien's been at Vito's since the Hideout crew reopened it less than a month ago; previously, he poured drinks at the Tin Table. He's already seeing familiar faces come in multiple days a week, often from the surrounding neighborhood. Just this week a local came in and asked if they served Bud Light. They don't, therefore the man didn't have a drink. O'Brien can empathize. "Ultimately," he says, "I think people should just drink what they like." The Drink: O'Brien's cocktail of choice of late has been the Boulevardier, a French bourbon-based cocktail that includes Bulleit bourbon, Campari, sweet vermouth, and orange bitters. "You have to be used to drinking to enjoy it, I think," he says. "But it's not the scariest drink in the medicine cabinet." The Verdict: Unless it's Canadian Hunter by the fifth, I'm not much of a brown-booze drinker. But I can get into this. Its thick, grumbling flavor is perfect for sipping slowly and setting a base for the evening. It's not too sweet or syrupy, and packs just enough bite to deter amateur chugging. By the way, when I'm not drinking Coors Light, I typically drink cold Tanqueray with a twist in a martini glass (you could call that a martini), or an extra-tart gimlet that's just cold Aviation gin and freshly squeezed lime. I explained this to O'Brien and asked him to cook me up a third gin option to stick in my rotation. He poured me a French 75 with Beefeater. "I think it's the world's greatest brunch drink," O'Brien says. No doubt, but can he make it by the pitcher?

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