First Call: John Howie's Whiskey Business

The Deshler is a Manhattan's close cousin.

The Watering Hole: John Howie Steak, 111 N.E. Eighth St., BELLEVUE The Atmosphere: Located in The Bravern, John Howie Steak is decked out to impress the residents of the luxury residences above and the shoppers at the high-end stores next door. The lounge features high ceilings, leather-upholstered chairs, a grand piano, and an alabaster bar. The truth is, the majority of the diners and drinkers at John Howie Steak work in the Microsoft offices also located in The Bravern. On the afternoon I arrived there was a convivial after-work crowd. I was troubled, however, that two tables included an ailing person with an oxygen tank. When I asked the bartender about this, all he said was "I won't light a match." As afternoon led into evening, a couple of women from the pages of sat down near me at the bar. Perfect eavesdropping subjects! My favorite moment was when they tried to convince one of the bartenders that she should wear sexy, flirty heels. I couldn't see her feet, but I assume the bartender was just being polite as she nodded and agreed while shifting nervously in her Danskos. The Barkeep: Josh Stadelman has worked at John Howie Steak since it opened last year. He's been bartending for six years. He's mostly worked at Eastside bars, even though he lives in Seattle. He's a bit of a baby-face, and as I was looking at the drink menu, I almost decided against letting him choose a drink for me. Instead I looked deep into his eyes and asked, "What drink do you like to make?" In my mind, however, I was saying "Please say a Manhattan, please say a Manhattan, please say a Manhattan." The Drink: I got close to the Manhattan I was craving. Josh said he likes to make a Deshler: a spirits-forward cocktail of Michter's rye whiskey, Dubonnet Rouge, Citronge, and a dash of Peychaud's bitters. Josh added all these to the shaker (with ice), put his head down, and stirred—methodically and thoughtfully. He stopped briefly, then stirred some more. Well done, young man! He strained the cocktail into a highball glass, sliced a thin layer of peel off an orange, squeezed it over the glass to release the oils, then rubbed the rim of the glass with the peel before dropping it in. The Verdict: The Deshler, a contemporary of the Manhattan, is a great drink for whiskey lovers. The citrus flavor of the Citronge works well with the rye. The Dubonnet Rouge adds nice spices and aromatics that are enhanced by the bitters. When expertly made, as it was by Josh, it should be icy-cold, barely diluted, and perfectly balanced. The bar menu at John Howie Steak is as thick as the ribeyes on display in a case as you enter the restaurant. There are lots of whiskeys (and whiskys) from around the world, along with a nice selection of classic and original cocktails and bartenders who know how to mix them.

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