Down some stairs toward the Puget Sound from the famous Pike Place Market...
...is the Zig Zag Cafe. Home to this man, Murray Stenson, Best Bartender in America last year as named by his fellow bartenders around the country...
My teriyaki lunch came at around two in the afternoon, so dinner was going to be a later one. At the recommendation of a friend, I wandered around until I found this place, to grab a cocktail or two before dinner. The evening started out a little shaky. With my iPhone in hand and Google Maps on the screen, I swear I was standing in the place, but I was out on the street in the pouring rain with no sight of a bar in sight. It took the website to figure out which stairs to walk down, which I finally found. Opening the door, I was first greeted...well, blocked actually...with a velvet rope, and a "how many?" while I continued to stand outside in the rain. Looking past the gentleman at the door, through the red glow of this cocktail bar, I could see it was a good crowd, but certainly not packed. I rolled my eyes, answered "one", and was told to hang on for a second. The attendant surveyed the room, and invited me in, indicating that he had a seat for me available. The "seat" was a standing spot at a short wooden table, more like a rail, with four complete strangers, all of which were just as oddly struck by this procedure and their seemingly final destination as I was. Unsure of whether or not to walk two feet to the bar, or wait for a waitress, I was about ready to abort, when I was greeted with a cocktail menu and a "what would you like?".
I ordered one of their house cocktails, a mixture of rye, cherry heering, and Angostura bitters. As I waited for my drink at my little spot of rail, I was once again approached by the velvet rope keeper and was informed that should I want it, they had a spot at the bar reserved for me. Hell. Yes.
I was greeted by Mr. Stenson at the bar and had nice conversations about a variety of spirits and cocktails. Given my affinity for absinthe, he introduced me to a couple that I hadn't had, allowing me to sample an original recipe from Pernod, as well as a local absinthe made in Washington state, and then made me an absinthe julep, which is a relatively unknown use of absinthe but was popular a long, long time ago.
He's the kind of bartender that loves to size up your tastes, and can, and then whips you up a classic cocktail that fits the bill. My next drink was just that. Morning Glory. Rye, sweet vermouth, cognac, orange curacao and absinthe. Sweetness of a Manhattan, smoothness of a Vieux Carre, and bite of a Sazerac, all wrapped into one. He nailed it.
Oh, and here's a funny side note. In our conversations, I mentioned I lived in Austin, and he asked me if I'd been to Haddington's, that he'd heard great things. For those of you new to the blog, yes. Haddington's is one of my favorite watering holes, and I'm glad to see that it's getting recognition not only from 2,500 miles away, but by somebody in the know, the best bartender in America.
As far as food, there is some, along the lines of appetizers and sandwiches, but go here for the cocktails, and try to get a seat at the bar. Great atmosphere and great drinks.
Atmosphere: classic cocktail bar, good for a pre- or post-dinner drink, good place for a date, good spot to belly up
Dog Friendly: no
When to Go: happy hour, late
Crowd: young and old, somewhat dressy, locals, only a few touristy types despite the location
What to Order for the First Timer: talk to Murray