Sun Liquor's logo: don't stare at it for too long.
Last week's edition of Whiskey Wednesday taught me that a trusted bartender doesn't always yield a great cocktail. After Googling numerous whiskey appertifs, most of which probably haven't been served inside my price range since before Prohibition, I decided I needed the help of a specialist.
Sun Liquor in Capitol Hill is a hidden gem for those who want to get soused with class without necessarily paying five-star prices. Wedged between Summit Public House and Top Pot Coffee, this lowkey lounge offers a drunk with a little more finesse than pounding Pabst tall-boys next door (not that there's anything wrong with that).
It's a pretty small bar, but quite packed even on weekday nights post-Happy Hour. Wriggling my way into a bar seat, I watched the bartender flail wildly to keep up with all the shaking, stirring, pressing and twist-making involved in Sun Liquor's fresh juice cocktails and lamented the idea I probably wouldn't get alot of face time with him. To my surprise, Kevin juggled terse, but personable service just as easily as his bar tools. He got to me with a cocktail menu and a smile before I even remember what I came here for.Near the top of the menu stood Old Pal. The Old Pal boasted rye, campari, and french vermouth with an orange twist. The drink was decent enough, but had a strong, almost grapefruity aftertaste that had me squirming in my stool. This is, without a doubt, a cocktail for campari lovers. It's a drink that certainly leaves a lasting impression of whiskey, but not quite the one I was looking for.
Taking advice from one of last week's commenters, I asked for a Tipperary, a quaff named for a southern Irish county featuring green chartreuse, vermouth and rye (ideally Irish whiskey, for reasons that should seem obvious). Not only did the bartender know what I wanted, he almost jumped at the bit to make one. Remind me to never doubt my readers again. This drink is amazing. Vermouth and chartruese fit the bite of whiskey like the world's most delicious ballgag (Hats off, TM).
Finally showing my hand, I asked Kevin if he had any personal favorite whiskey drinks. To my chagrin, he pointed to the Old Pal and said he'd put it on the menu. However, this was one bartender who wasn't about to rest on his laurels. He proceeded to ask me a handful of questions regarding my personal tastes and then racked his brain for a few valuable milliseconds.
"This really cool French-Canadian girl has been coming in here for awhile and I've been trying to make something for her. She loves cognac and scotch, so I started there and..." he sort of trailed off while fixing the drink that would hopefully speak for him.
It was another solid cocktail, but the drink itself didn't affect me half as much as Kevin's eagerness to work with customers' specific tastes to make something special.
In a time where most new cocktails seem to legally require at least 4 oz. of Red Bull, it's good to see some enterprising bartenders started taking back the cocktail shaker in the name of deliciousness instead of achieving the most antisocial drunk in the least amount of time.
He handed me the recipe of the prototype cocktail with my bill and asked me to name it. Submitted with Kevin's permission are the ingredients to "Mr. Humble": Laphroaig Scotch, Punt e Mes (Italian vermouth), Regan's Orange Bitters and Cognac. I don't know if the name will keep, but I'm sure the taste will.
Next week, I hunt for the Sazerac, New Orleans' official senate-approved drink that's sworn by some to be America's first cocktail.