First Call is a weekly food-blog feature in which we walk into a bar unannounced and ask the bartender to make us his or her favorite drink.
For a cocktail like this, why would you complain about silly, pretentious trends?
First there's the phone call from a friend: "Hi, I'm at the corner of Second and Blanchard. Come find me and tell me how to get to this place."
But you can't help because you've stopped someone in an apartment stairwell. "Where's Bathtub Gin?" you ask. They roll their eyes, clearly getting this question a lot. Around the corner and down the alley, they explain.
So you take the next alley, but that's actually just a little courtyard. You ask the restaurant hostess, who also hears this query more than she'd like. She explains the alley is farther down the block. Finally, picking your way past green plastic bags of garbage, you come upon a gold sign "Bathtub Gin & Co."
The speakeasy trend is, on its face, obnoxious. Fans are, by definition, posers because, ahem, liquor is legal! All of these establishments operate within the rules of the state Liquor Control Board. So all the name "speakeasy" really means is it's a pain in the ass to find.
But once you do, fellow drinkers become single-serving friends and barkeeps happily discuss the nuances of their favorite concoction. And Marley Tomic-Beard is no exception. She's a cocktail fan, who has no problem explaining the nuances of her favorite drink to an unrefined palate like mine.
"I usually drink the Green Point," she explains.
It's an off-menu cocktail made with rye, Green Chartreuse (her twist on the traditional version which uses Yellow), orange bitters and Punt e Mes, a bitter Italian vermouth. "I like the balance between the rye and the Green Chartreuse," she explains. "There's a delicate balance of herbs and sweetness."
Tomic-Beard is new to the Seattle cocktail scene, having moved here from Boston one month ago. But it says something about the rather cultish nature of our city's barkeeps that she came from a bar that a friend at Zig Zag, home of the grand patron of Seattle mixologists Murray Stenson, was familiar with. That plugged her instantly into a small circle of bar owners and managers and landed her a job at Bathtub.
Any association with the name Stenson is enough for a bartender to get a leg up in this town, but Tomic-Beard has earned it. She lights a match under an orange peel and drops it in to finish the drink. It's at once bright, tart, and slightly sweet with flavors that make an appearance then fade to the background as the liquid slips along your tongue and down your throat.
Sitting at the end of the bar are a couple of familiar faces from Zig Zag--a good sign for the quality of the cocktails. But a friend who spends more time pounding beers at pub trivia nights also feels both welcome and impressed. And if that's what you get with a speakeasy, the amount of time you spend embarrassing yourself trying to find the place is totally worth it.