The Watering Hole: Hazlewood, 2311 N.W. Market St., 783-0478, BALLARD
The Atmosphere: Operated since 2005 by rock-and-roll renaissance man Drew Church and beloved Bostonian Keith Bartoloni (Soundgarden bassist Ben Shepherd and bar biz vet Steve Freeborn are also co-owners), Hazlewood has a sense of history and warmth that belies its relatively young age. Church's affection for pre-Prohibition cocktails and affordable wines by the glass figures prominently on the menu, as does his and Bartoloni's sense of humor in the decor; should you take seriously the framed posters declaring Hazlewood "The Paris of Ballard," you obviously haven't read the fine print at the bottom that lists their phone number as "1-800-ZIMA." Hazlewood is postage-stamp-sized by design and necessity (it was previously home to a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop), which means it's insufferably full on weekends but blessedly quiet on Mondays. The start of the week is the best time to go, not just because of the absence of ill-mannered "New Ballard" oafs, but also because of the presence of this city's most beguiling bartender, Sara Fisher.
The Barkeep: Sara Fisher is hamming it up with a copy of a teen magazine featuring Justin Bieber as the centerfold, but it's the thoughtful dialogue she maintains with patrons that makes her an unflappable alchemist when it comes to balancing spirits and picky palates. Give this girl a liquor preference and a timely adjective, and she'll create the cocktail of your darkest dreams. Regulars show up like clockwork on Sundays to partake in her signature brunch cocktail, "Sara's Sorry," a bittersweet champagne concoction inspired by a blowout row she once had with an old flame.
The Drink: The Georgie Bailey comprises ¾ ounce of Cocchi Americano, ½ ounce of habanero-infused tequila, ¼ ounce of Suze (a gentian-based aperitif), ½ ounce fresh lime juice, and two dashes each of Scrappy's grapefruit and Boker's bitters, topped with champagne and garnished with a flat orange twist. "Especially with the change of the seasons, infusions really interest me right now," says Fisher, pulling out a bottle of her own lemon-thyme bourbon that's been steeping for two weeks. "I did want to do something that speaks to your palate, because that is what I'm about—I'm more of a patron's-choice kind of bartender. But I wanted to challenge you," she tells me with a sly smile as she switches the iPod to a Dusty Springfield song after the previous barrage of gangster hip-hop.
The Conclusion: Hazlewood is wise beyond its years, and this precociousness shone sweetly in Fisher and the people who surrounded her at the bar's Oct. 18 seventh-anniversary party. Five DJs helped celebrate the occasion, including local music legend Kurt Bloch.