The Watering Hole: Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery, 5427 Ballard Ave. N.W., 420-3431, BALLARD
The Atmosphere: A box of vintage photos, bright yellow flowers, and a shelf of canning jars at Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery evokes a sense of old American comfort in simpler days. Autumn Martin opened the Cakery this year as a storefront and restaurant for her eponymous take-and-bake molten chocolate cakes in a jar. The space is a quintessential Pacific Northwest dessert bar, with sleek wooden tables, large blackboard menus, and vintage accents alluding to bygone-era soda shops. While a menu of grilled cheeses and cakes might seem like child's play, the Cakery's spin on each item—from a grilled "Big Boy" sandwich with prosciutto, blue cheese, and dates to its boozy floats and shakes—makes growing up a little sweeter for us all.
The Barkeep: Brandy Black is working behind the Cakery's "bar" these days. She met Martin when Black was a baker at Honey Bear Bakery, where Martin was using the back room to push out batches of hot cakes to sell at local farmers markets. Black started at Hot Cakes shortly after it opened, where she soon discovered her knack for matching sweets with spirits.
The Drink: When Black stumbled upon craft spirits made by the company Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, she forwarded the information to Martin, knowing that its use of natural and organic ingredients fell in line with the Cakery's commitment to environmentally responsible producers. Art in the Age's hearty ROOT liqueur became the base of the Cakery's boozy root-beer float. According to the company's website (artintheage.com), its root liqueur came from an age-old recipe for alcoholic root tea. During the temperance movement, a pharmacist made the tea sans alcohol and dubbed it "root beer." Black serves the float by pouring root beer and the 80-proof ROOT over a pure white ball of vanilla-bean ice cream from Bluebird Microcreamery.
The Verdict: Despite my talk of past comforts and simpler times, this is not your childhood float. One sip of the Cakery's float brings a wallop of intense, earthy root flavors. The slow-melting ice cream rounds out the punchy drink with a creamy finish, while the aromas of sassafras, sarsaparilla, birch bark, and wild roots linger. But those looking to avoid a milk mustache might consider using a spoon.