First Call: Tavolata's Bartender Sure Would Like to Make You a Stiff Drink

The Watering Hole: Tavolata,

2323 Second Ave., 838-8008

The Atmosphere: Chic, minimalist, industrial -- you know, the signature touch of the Ethan Stowell empire. Tavolata attracts those who like their Italian food authentic and their drinks meticulously crafted. They have to be. If the cocktails don't cut muster, Rob Roy and it's craft-cocktailmanship is just across the street.

The Bartender: Ben Sherwood. "Like the forest," he says upon introducing himself. Ben has been behind the bar at Tavolata for about a year-and-a-half. Before that, he worked next door when it was Marjorie. The corner of Second and Bell seems to be in his wheelhouse. "Since the bar is secondary at Tavolata, we don't get the frat crowd. There's no energy drinks here and we save the Jäger for the cooks," he says. "Actually, we save the Jäger for the bartenders."

Ben Sherwood's mixing technique rivals the shakiness of the camera used to take this photo
The Drink: Ben doesn't get to make as many cocktails as he'd like at Tavolata. "It's a heavy wine and beer crowd. I'd say about 50-percent order cocktails." So, when he had the chance to let his talents shine, he made it count. "I'll make you what I made for myself when I got home last night." He pours some heavy hitters into a shaker, shakes it up, then empties the chilled liquid into a martini glass. It all looks very familiar. "This is a Vesper." A Vesper, Ben explains, is two parts gin, one part vodka and one-half Lillet Blanc with a lemon twist. "I originally liked this drink because I was a huge James Bond fan when I was little. Now, I just like it because it's good." Ben likes the way the vodka cuts the sometimes herbal taste of the gin and the sweetness of the Lillet.

The Verdict: If martinis are your thing, go see Ben. He takes a lot of pride in his drinks and takes good care of his customers. The question now becomes where to see Ben, who's leaving his post at Tavolata in about a month to work at the new Marjorie on Capitol Hill. "I'll be working there four or five days a week," Ben tells us. "I'll basically be a glorified General Manager." Fortunately, that includes working behind the bar three or four nights a week.

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