First Call: The Maharaja at The Maharaja

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Photo by 'Lil Scoop

The bar: The Maharaja, 4542 California Ave., 935-9443 West Seattle Junction

The drink: The Maharaja (vodka with mango and cranberry juice)

The bartender: Don Bogie, pictured above with his signature drink.

The scene: Don Bogie's first name is Don, but everyone calls him Bogie. He's tended bar at the Maharaja (not to be confused with other Indian-bent venues of the same name in other parts of the city, like Capitol Hill) for a decade or so, and is the creator of the house drink, also called the Maharaja. Simply put, it's a vodka-cran with a splash of mango. It's one of those drinks that tastes too good; it'd be very easy to suck down a dozen in the span of an hour and end up taking an all-night nap in the Dumpster out back. But so long as you limit yourself to one or two before moving on to tougher stuff -- beer, whiskey, whatever -- it's the perfect summer cooler.

With nary a twentysomething to be found in the back bar on a recent Thirstday night, the Maharaja's clientele is mainly composed of professional drinkers -- i.e., service industry and leather livered types who are in for the long haul (our table cleaned the Maha out of its entire inventory of Taj Mahal beer, for instance). This is the sort of group that requires a speedy, professional bartender, and Bogie is just that. He doesn't talk much, covers each table in a packed bar as though it's the only one in the house, remembers your preferred libation even if you've only been in once before, and somehow maintains an utterly pleasant disposition amidst all degrees of nuttiness. For this, it could be argued that he's the best bartender in town. In fact, we'll be arguing about that next week.

 
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