First Call: Jameson & Ginger, Nectar of the Irish Gods

Conor Byrne's specialty should be a blood type.

The Watering Hole: Conor Byrne, 5140 Ballard Ave. N.W., 784-3640, BALLARD. The Atmosphere: I've never been to Dublin, but I imagine every bar in the mother country looks like this one. Or at least they should: long and narrow, with high ceilings, exposed brick walls, and an immaculate mahogany bar decorated with a statue of St. Jude, the patron saint of bartenders and lost causes. A big brass chandelier hangs over a raised stage in the corner of a large open area in the back. Old photographs (including one of James Joyce) are framed on the walls, and Guinness memorabilia is everywhere. Conor Byrne is located in the heart of Ballard, and early on a Monday evening the crowd is an eclectic assortment of hipsters, old bohemians, and barflies. The Barkeep: Anna has been tending bar here for the past four years. Before that she worked in the kitchen at several Seattle-area restaurants, an experience she says inspires her mixology. "The recipe part of cocktails is a lot of fun 'cause I was a line cook for several years," she explains. "Drinks are recipes, and, just like good food, we try and do everything from scratch." The Drink: Jameson and Ginger. This is the nectar of the Irish gods. The finest whiskey from the isle is muddled with fresh raw ginger and topped with a dash of club soda and 7-Up. The result is a pale green concoction that combines the slow burn of Jamie with the piquancy of ginger and just a hint of sweetness from the soda. It comes in a rocks glass, and I suck down the entire thing in approximately two seconds. "People end up getting tall ones—doubles in a pint glass," Anna says. "You haven't had a whiskey-ginger till you've had ours." She explains that fresh ginger is the key. They use it in several other specialty cocktails, along with fresh-pressed orange and grapefruit juices. "Once we started doing that, we couldn't go back. We've been trying to get away from using the [soda] gun, and plus people can say 'Ooh, I'm getting my vitamins.' " The Verdict: Irish people are the original gingers, and Jameson is so popular in Ireland that it should be a blood type. Combining the two is only fitting. And delicious.

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