The Watering Hole: Clever Bottle, 2222 Second Ave., Suite 100, 915-2220, BELLTOWN
The Atmosphere: Clever Bottle is located on that block of Second Avenue that includes Mama's, the Croc, Shorty's, and Tula's. It's packed at happy hour, and for good reason: There's a cocktail special for $7, small plates, and a handful of wine options. Small groups appear to be meeting before dinner or a show on the rainy Monday night I grab a stool at the bar. The area is pretty bright—not a place for brooding, but a great place for people-watching. Dusty, empty bottles line shelves on the walls, candles flicker on tables, and exposed-filament bulbs hang from the ceiling. While I wait for my companion to arrive, it strikes me that with all the plaid shirts and attractive 20-somethings here, all I'd need is a Nick Drake soundtrack to feel like I was in a Jetta commercial.
The Barkeep: I have time to observe the bartender, Katy Gentry, who's waiting tables, mixing drinks, and cooking (snack plates are quickly assembled behind the bar, and any hot dishes are warmed in a toaster oven). A friend of Gentry's owns Clever Bottle, and bartending there is a great gig while Gentry attends grad school. The willowy blond is getting her master's in psychology, and says the job provides interesting opportunities for human observation.
The Drink: The shelves at Clever Bottle appear sparse at first, but what they do stock, they put to good use. There's fig-infused bourbon, smoked sea salt, serrano chile-infused Cocchi Americano, housemade ginger beer and bitters, and jasmine-infused gin. Clever Bottle also offers "Local Liquor Tuesday," featuring a $5 cocktail using a local spirit and a local liquor flight for $25, which includes ounce-and-a-half pours from three local distilleries plus various mixers. When I ask Gentry for a drink, without skipping a beat she brings a spicy serrano/peach cocktail—made with the infused Cocchi, mezcal, lime juice, and peach nectar.
The Verdict: A little bit spicy, a touch smoky, with just the right amount of sweetness, the drink is warming but still refreshing and highly quaffable. It's kind of a bold choice, since, as with Scotch, not everyone is a fan of mezcal. "Many people say they want anything," Gentry says, "but what they really want is a Cosmo." Gentry, however, likes to challenge patrons with something they'd never order, figuring that if she loves it, they will too.