The Watering Hole: Hunt Club at the Sorrento Hotel, 900 Madison, 343-6156.
Photos by Matthew Piel
The Atmosphere: Seattle's oldest luxury hotel, opened in 1909, has a dark, heavy interior that feels like you've just dropped from First Hill into the set of a 1942 film about expatriates having a scandalous affair on a far distant shore. Sitting at the bar, you half expect Ingrid Bergman to walk in at any moment. It's the kind of place where long-time regulars chat up out-of-town travelers. Keeping everyone's whistles wet in a flurry of Jameson pours and martini shakers is...The Bartender: Parris Cartwright.
When I tell Cartwright to make me what he drinks, the guy on the next bar stool over immediately interjects: "water!" and laughs.
Cartwright gives the long-time regular from Bellevue a knowing smile before clarifying: "When I'm off work?"
Working up a sweat, he tosses off a couple more cocktails to pass to a harried-looking waitress, then grabs a lemon and bitters and opens a new bottle of Ketel One to make...
The Drink: Vodka Sazerac. "It's unique, it's not too sweet or tangy," Cartwright says, explaining his preference. "Plus it's fun to say."
It's a lovely place to drink, but you might want to bring snacks for the wait.
You never really know if a drink is truly the barkeep's favorite. But in terms of matching cocktail to atmosphere, the classic Sazerac is the perfect choice for the Hunt Club. Sipping one at the bar is a nearly perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon imagining you're about to meet with a man in a trenchcoat and fedora.
It needs to be said that if you're going to have this moment at Hunt Club, you have to order your Sazerac at the bar directly from Cartwright. I cannot emphasize this enough. Leave the warm, safe interior and travel to what should be a lovely European-style patio outside and you will be ignored. For 30 minutes. And after you ask the hostess if a member of the waitstaff couldn't please check on you and your friends, you will continue to be ignored for another 10.
After finally walking in and telling the next waiter I saw that we would really like to see some food menus, um, now, the explanation for leaving us sitting for so long was the presence of the cocktail I brought outside from the bar. One cocktail, three people, zero menus, and never so much as a "hey, do you all need anything else?" This is the third time we've sat unattended at Hunt Club.
So if you're wanting a taste of 1940s Paris, ignore the waiters and hosts buzzing around and head straight for the bar, where the other Parris has got you covered.