A weekly Voracious feature in which our writers walk into a bar and ask the bartender to make us his or her favorite drink.
Locale: Tini Bigs Lounge, 100 Denny Way, QUEEN ANNE
Bartender: Jamie Boudreau
Hometown: Vancouver, British Columbia
Jamie wants to bend the rules. He insists on knowing whether we have a liquor preference. He then announces that he’s going to make my companion and I two different drinks.
This is not how First Call is supposed to work. The renowned bartender whose been written up in the Times and Esquire and recruited by Tini Bigs to revamp its entire cocktail menu is a dirty cheater. But he’s also a handsome and charming dirty cheater. We grudgingly decide to go along with his adaptation of First Call and within moments he’s presented with a flourish two cocktails.
What are we drinking here, Jaime?
Yours is a Mexican Cloud. It has tequila, pomegranate, rhubarb, elderflower, and Chartreuse. And yours [beckons toward my companion’s drink] is a Rum Shrub made of rum, blackberry, raspberry, sugar, and believe it or not, red wine vinegar.
You may be a cheater, but these are probably some of the best drinks we’ve ever had. You’ve had to make dozens of these for the new menu. How does one go about doing something like that?
It’s quite complex, actually. I have a chart I use to break down all the different spirits and then divide those into classics and contemporary classics. I’m careful about being repetitive with the style of the drinks.
You won’t like every drink on the menu. It’s not going to please everyone—that’s called McDonalds. There is, however, a drink on this menu that you will like and is suited for your tastes.
You’ve been quoted in several publications for your disinterest in making drinks using vodka. Do you still stand by that position?
You know, I was very misquoted in an article and its ridiculous, because in the photo accompanying it, there are three fifths of vodka behind my head.
But I will say any idiot can make a drink with vodka. It has no flavor. There’s no challenge to it. And that’s not to say there’s anything wrong with that—the intention of vodka is to taste as clean as possible. But I don’t need 12 bottles of it in my bar. Just five will do.
They’re all the same, anyway. Once you get past the marketing and packaging of the vodka, you can’t even taste the difference in any of them. Stoli is just as good as Finlandia. And those big bottles you can get at Costco are also just as good and will save you money. I kid you not. They’ve done blind tastes with vodkas and even the distiller can’t pick his out of the line.
So vodka’s out on the next question: What’s your favorite spirit to work with?
I like whiskey. There’s a wonderful aura to it. It’s full of flavor and its so timeless.
You’ve been bartending for 20 years now. Was this something you always wanted to do?
I planned on going through with kinesiology. But I was always bartending to put myself through school and once I got my own place, I loved hosting parties and making drinks for the guests. I decided to go ahead and stick with it.
We’re happy you did. Will you be staying in Seattle for awhile?
I married an American, so we’ll probably be here for quite some time.
Are there any major differences between bartending in America versus Canada?
Not so much between them, no. But you definitely see a difference in cities versus small towns. Dayton is probably the equivalent of Winnipeg—more beers and shots. But cities like Seattle, San Francisco, and New York tend to be more sophisticated when it comes to drinking. They order a drink wanting it to taste good, rather than not caring and simply wanting to get drunk.
...I suppose the big difference would be that its illegal in Canada to have happy hours.
If you change the price on your drinks there, they have to remain that price for 24 hours. They feel like it promotes heavy drinking—that people are going to get in as much as they can during those few hours.
Yes, we definitely do that.