As briefly mentioned in the today's earlier Boozamahol post about Gatorade (of all things...), Esquire magazine just came out with its globetrotting list of "15 Bars Every Man Should Drink In Before He Dies"--a kinda snooty but partially awesome round-up of some of the best and most classic joints in the world in which to get schnozzled.
Marvelous Murray captivates his fans at Zig Zag.
Arnaud's French 75 made the list (In New Orleans). Tiki Ti in L.A., Charlie B's in Missoula and Nye's Polonaise in Minneapolis also found homes there. There was Harry's in Paris, the Merchant hotel in Belfast, Bar High Five in Tokyo (which also, once upon a time, made the Food & Wine list of best bars in the world because it features a bartender who tracks the temperature of his ice cubes and serves, allegedly, one of the best drinks in the world) and, among that esteemed company, Our own Zig Zag Cafe.
According to Esquire's one-line reasoning, Zig Zag made the list because "it's one of the torches that sparked the cocktail revolution, and it doesn't act like it." Personally, I'm not sure what that even means, but one thing I can say for sure? Zig Zag deserved to be on this list.
This is a place where classic cocktails go to be reincarnated, where all their karmic debt of faddishness or antiquity are washed clean and they can be reborn at the hands of bartenders who don't know what goes in a classic sidecar or One-Legged Duck, but care deeply about putting those ingredients together just right. It's also a kind of small-scale, hide-in-plain-sight workshop--an atelier of gin and whiskey and bitters which acts as much as a forge of the new as a revival house for White Lions, Prados and The Last Word--an alchemical combination of gin, green charteuse, maraschino and lime which Audrey Saunders of the Pegu Club in New York City (which also made the Esquire list) once called "One of the best drinks" ever rescued from obscurity by a bartender.
The bartender she was talking about? Murray Stenson, the main man behind the long oak at the Zig Zag. And Murray--a cocktail archivist, a searcher after things long forgotten, the goddamn Indiana Jones of bartenders and one of the quickest, cleanest, most unflappable cocktail slingers I've ever seen work--is one of the other reasons why the Zig Zag deserved its place of honor on this list. Every great bar should be so lucky as to have a guy like Murray working the trench. Every dedicated drinker should be so fortunate as to occasionally have a brain like his to pick for odd and obscure turns in the cocktailian's canon.
Oddly, in essentially the same breath, Esquire also put out its list of 2010's best bars in America. On this list, Seattle was sadly unrepresented. The closest the drinks editors came was Beaker and Flask in Portland, but I have my own issues with this spread of joints seeing as, along with listing places like the Oxford Saloon in Missoula, Sunny's in Brooklyn, Blackie's in Newport Beach and 15 Romelo in San Francisco, Esquire also inserted an obituary for the jukebox (two words: Fuck and That) and a defense of weak drinks and short pours by Tom Chiarella who writes about about said things while using our shared hometown of Rochester, New York as a frame.
While I can sorta understand the weak drink thing (I once wrote an impassioned ode to cheap, weak, city brown weed for the same reason: because not every day is one that you want blurred to blackout by powerful chemicals), the jukebox thing is flat nonsense and makes the entire Esquire list suspect in my eyes.
Except for the Zig Zag namecheck, of course. That one was dead on.