Seattle Speakeasies-Cheers!

“Go to the far side of the room.  Pick up the phone and identify yourself.  We will come and get you at the metal door.” Thus, our speakeasy adventure in Seattle began on a hot Friday night.

Interesting that speakeasies are, by nature, supposed to be secret and exclusive but they are trending all over social media these days.  Our first stop, Needle and Thread, was recommended by several people at work, so off we went for a taste test.  Reading up on the speakeasy protocol, I learned that you can call in advance to secure a RSVP in this very small (probably 20 people max) prohibition-style experience.  Just calling to get the RSVP was fun-you leave a message (no more than 7 days in advance) after hearing the strict rules–if you are lucky enough to get a call back, you better actually PICK UP THE CALL to talk to the host or you won’t get in.  Done.

Promptly at 5 p.m. when the parent bar, Tavern Hall, opened, we were at the phone calling upstairs to gain entrance to the speakeasy, Needle and Thread.  Dress code:  “Keep it classy”.  Not sure what their definition of “classy” is but Thom was rocking his porkpie hat and looking very hipster.  When our friends arrived after fighting the horrible Friday Seattle gridlock, our drink master interviewed us on our cocktail/alcohol preferences as there is no menu and they warn you in advance not to expect an appletini to be made in their establishment.  There ARE speakeasy standards after all and only custom cocktails served, thank you very much.  Prepping for our trip to Ireland in the fall, I’m leaning into whiskey to be better equipped to take on the true Irish experience.  Our host got it right, creating for me an iced cocktail created with Irish Bushmills whiskey, orange liqueur, cherry herring and lime juice.  Tart and sweet and very refreshing on a hot day in a bar where ceiling fans provided the only air conditioning.  We drank up, chatted politics and then headed down Pike St. to our next speakeasy experience.

After wandering the block looking for Foreign National, I spied an unique door tucked away between other restaurants-found it!  Through the layers of beads and velvet curtains, we quickly hopped into a communal booth with strangers as the space is limited and in high demand.  While we sat and enjoyed our cocktail creations, other bar patrons streamed in looking in vain for seats in this trendy bar.  I went for the Foreign National house cocktail made up of pisco, Amaro Montenegro, honey, sour orange served with an egg white frost on top.  Petite and delicious.  Our friends had the complex cocktail named Osaka #1 consisting of Suntory Toki whiskey, vermouth blanc, lemon, yuxu, orgeat, ardbert spritz and anise smoke.  WOW-I have not a clue what most of that stuff is but I got a taste of it and it was interesting to say the least.

I loved the speakeasy ambience with the small interesting spaces filled with people who value quality booze concoctions over quantity.  I can’t wait to check out other speakeasies in Seattle (list below) and in NYC when we visit our favorite city in the fall.  Cheers!

Foreign National, 300 E. Pike St., Story in Seattle Times:  http://www.seattletimes.com/life/food-drink/foreign-national-is-this-the-best-new-bar-in-seattle/http://www.foreignnationalbar.com/http://www.yelp.com/biz/foreign-national-seattle-2

 Needle and Thread at Tavern Law, 1406 12th Ave., RSVP 206-325-0133, http://www.mccrackentough.com/tavernlaw/http://www.yelp.com/biz/needle-and-thread-seattle?osq=speakeasy

 Bath Tub and Gin, 2205 2nd Ave.  http://bathtubginseattle.com/;  http://www.yelp.com/biz/bathtub-gin-and-co-seattle?osq=speakeasy

 Knee High Stocking, 1356 E. Olive Way,  http://www.kneehighstocking.com/;http://www.yelp.com/biz/knee-high-stocking-co-seattle?osq=speakeasy

Many thanks to Karmann K. for sharing her photos of the evening’s adventure!

 

 

Classic Cocktails-The Sidecar goes down smooth!

Cocktail research continues!  Next up-The Sidecar.  A classic cocktail that my mom fondly remembers from her wild days out on the town in Indy with my dad.  At Café Navarre in South Bend, Indiana, Michael shook me up a sidecar and shared his secrets to a fine drink indeed.  BTW, no, I don’t travel around the world just to drink cocktails but as I’m writing this I’m thinking that would be a cool idea.  Hmmm…..how can I make that happen?   A few weeks ago I was testing out appletinis in Vancouver on a vacation weekend but now I’m in South Bend to see mom and also to attend the ND/USC football game with my sis who somehow was able to score us tickets to this “game of the century”.  Well done, Beck.  With Coach Steve S. fired last week, I’m hoping the Irish roll.  But enough about football and now back to the REALLY important stuff… cocktails.

Cheers!
Cheers!

My handy dandy cocktail book tells me that the sidecar originated in Paris at Harry’s Bar and was invented as an elegant cocktail for American expats living there.  After Prohibition ended, there were cocktail drinkers who declared it almost made the long, dry years worth the wait.  Harry’s Bar has dubbed itself “the oldest cocktail bar in Europe” so I MUST add that to the travel list for next year.  Would I travel to Paris just to enjoy a classic sidecar at the bar that birthed it-oui!

Michael at Café Navarro makes a mean sidecar!
Michael at Café Navarro makes a mean sidecar!

My cocktail book back home lists the ingredients for a sidecar as:  brandy, orange liqueur and lemon juice.  Michael had, of course, another plan as I’m finding out that no cocktail is ever made the same.  He shook up 2 ounces of Hennessey cognac (fancy!), 3/4 ounce each of freshly squeezed (of course!) lime juice and Cointreau liqueur and poured into my sugar-rimmed martini glass.  Smooth and slightly sweet, it was the perfect balance of liquor to warm me up on a cold pre-game evening.  DAMN that was good!  Is it proper bar etiquette to lick the glass clean?

Michael was kind enough to share his vast knowledge with us on other cocktails as well.  His fav on the cocktail menu at Café Navarre is “Final Word” featuring a complex list of ingredients:  Rye whiskey, lemon juice, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, green Chartreaus, spanked mint and lavender bitters.  “Spanked” mint?  How do you spank a mint you might ask???  Well, Michael gave us a quick spanking demo–lighter than a muddling, just place the fresh mint in your palm and gently bruise it.  Gotcha-can’t wait to spank some mint myself.

Handcrafted cocktails at Café Navarro feature a complex array of ingredients
Handcrafted cocktails at Café Navarro feature a complex array of ingredients
Lavender bitters--who knew?
Lavender bitters–who knew?

Michael also introduced us to the complex world of bitters.  His bar houses a wide array of medicinal looking  bottles that add another layer of complexity to cocktails and are a staple ingredient for the handcrafted cocktails featured on his menu-orange bitters, lavender bitters, #2 bitters, etc.  Michael even suggested that you can add a dash of bitters mid-drinking a cocktail to create a whole different experience within just one glass.  A whole “bitter” world to explore in future blog posts-the research MUST continue!

Now, I’m off to throw on multiple layers to keep warm at a chilly 30ish degree evening ND game tonight-GO IRISH!

The Cocktail Quest Continues…

Ask a bartender for their appletini recipe and you will quickly find out that everyone has their very own special way to make it.  What the hell???  You’d think a simple cocktail like that would be pretty standard from place to place.  After intensive research (someone has to do it!) I got quite the list of varied ingredients and suggestions on how to make the perfect appletini.  Please let me share.

On our first stop, the Templeton diner that was recommended on Yelp as having “character” certainly did as it was in the rough section of Vancouver next to a TripleXXX peep show establishment.  Most tourists would run the opposite way if they found themselves in this type of neighborhood in a foreign country.  Not us-we embraced it and took photos!  Now, a diner known for burgers and milkshakes might not be the best place to try out appletini’s but, you betcha, we did just that.  Nothing goes better with a plate of poutine than an appletini!

Our lovely waitress shared her unique recipe—vodka, peach schnapps and apple juice.  Crazy tasty!  Paired with plates of poutine and salads/burgers plus milkshakes for the boys, we had quite the feast and laughed ourselves silly over our choice of fine dining experiences the first night in Vancouver.  We know how to have a good time-pick a shabby diner next to a peep show with a jukebox and liquor.

After our walking tour of Gastown the next day, we were starving and conveniently close by my favorite restaurant in Vancouver-the Water Street Café.  Quite the opposite atmosphere from the prior night’s diner, this café had the white table cloth vibe going on and was in a historic gorgeous building.  I had been there multiple times when in town on business and always get the same thing-salmon risotto.  So delicious but how would their appletini’s taste???

Water Street Café-Sour Puss is the key to an appletini!
Water Street Café-Sour Puss is the key to an appletini!

Another lovely waitress shared her bartender’s ingredients—vodka, apple sour puss liquor, simple syrup and a drop of lime juice.  Now, I’ve never made simple syrup but she suggested a 1/3 raw sugar to 2/3 hot water formula.  Even with the syrup, the appletini’s we were tasting were still not as sweet as the ones in Shanghai.  The quest for the perfect appletini continued later that day at our hotel because having an appletini at lunch just wasn’t enough.

Patti enjoying the appletini at Water St. Café in Gastown
Patti enjoying the appletini at Water St. Café in Gastown

The bartender at the Marriott Pinnacle was most accommodating to talk us through his appletini creation that included vodka, pineapple juice and fresh lime topped with a slice of apple.  Now, he very quietly told us that he prefers apple juice to pineapple juice but the Marriott chain forces him to use pineapple-how dare they stifle his cocktail creativity!  He also suggested we could use agave to sweeten it up if we preferred.  When I asked him why the appletinis in Shanghai were so very green instead of the light green we were seeing at his bar, he suggested that perhaps they used a tamarin syrup with agave muddled together to “green it up” a little.  I appreciated his honesty and sharing of tips.

Now, all appletinis are good (just as there is no bad wine or pie) but the quest must now continue in Seattle.  I hear that Canon on Capitol Hill was named the 6th best bar in the world.  Who knew???  I MUST check it out.  Also dying to run to the liquor store in the U.S. to see if they have Sour Puss in stock or if that is just a Canadian odd liquor….l’ll be looking for that black mean ass kitty on the bottle and then I’ll know I have the right stuff!

Finally made it to Granville Island, Vancouver, BC!

As many times as I’ve been to Vancouver, I’ve just never made time to visit Granville Island, one of the top tourist attractions here.  Yesterday, I finally made it!  After researching the water taxi situation, we made our way to Yaletown and caught the water taxi, a cute little boat that holds about 10 people comfortably.  After a quick 10 minute ride across the water, we hopped off ($7.50 each round trip) and immediately immersed ourselves into the market.  WOW-what amazing fruit including a long dark purple grape thing I had never seen before.

Granville Market had lovely fruit including kinds I had never seen
Granville Market had lovely fruit including kinds I had never seen

We meandered around looking at exotic spices, breads, meats, pasta, etc.  If I lived in Vancouver, I would shop here all the time!  While there are a lot of touristy shops, we were able to get away from the main drag and enjoyed looking through the handmade broom store.  Whether you’re riding one (no, not ME, Thom!) or sweeping away the cobwebs, they make a broom for every need and they were just beautiful.

Handmade brooms for every need!
Handmade brooms for every need!

Next stop was the glassblowing shop where we enjoyed seeing the young gent blowing a colorful glass cup that unfortunately slipped off.  To say he uttered a few bad words under his breath is an understatement but he was resolute and announced to those watching, “It happens.”  DAMN that glass is expensive in the shop but when you see how long it takes to make it, you do understand the pricing.

Glassblowing to make lovely treasures
Glassblowing to make lovely treasures

After that, we were tired and needed a drink but the distillery was packed so we decided to find the diner I had seen on Yelp with it’s magnificent milkshakes and burgers.  Unfortunately, we found out that the diner was on Granville STREET not Granville Island so we took the ferry, walked awhile and finally found it in the gritty part of downtown Vancouver–right next to the TripleXXX Peep show.  We only take our friends Patti and Larry to the best places!  Actually, the Templeton diner had good food and we were able to introduce Larry to poutine.  YUM!  Of course, when Larry thought we said another word similar to poutine, we almost spit out our drinks.  Correcting him and cautioning him to NOT use that word again in public, we proceeded to enjoy those fries covered in white cheese and thick rich gravy along with our eclectic mix of salads, hamburgers, coconut chicken strips with chili sauce, and Portobello mushroom sandwich plus, of course, candy appletinis for Patti and I and milkshakes for the boys.  WP_20151002_18_15_39_Pro

Interestingly, they make their appletinis with vodka, peach schnapps and apple juice and they were delicious, served to us in wine glasses because all their martini glasses were broken.  Enjoying the jukebox and good company, we had an excellent first day in Vancouver!  Today we are taking a walking tour of Gastown and tomorrow we will explore Chinatown.  Looking forward to a relaxing foot massage if we can find a place!