Quinn's Pub (Capitol Hill, 1001 E Pike St.), known to some only as "the nice bar kitty-corner from Neumo's," offers an impressive selection of over twenty fine ryes, scotches and bourbons with a hearty food menu to match. It's only fitting that most of the plates consist mainly of meat and potatoes, because whiskey has proven itself as the definitive meat-and-potatoes liquor.
Vegetarian-chastising aside (Plum's right down the street, hippie!), the austerity of Quinn's menu and interior can't be mistaken with negligence. For all of Quinn's fabricated wood stains and faded coats of paint, the establishment is conservatively lit at all times to aid the illusion of symmetry. Whether it's rationing the amount of natural light let in from the storefront or putting out just enough small candles to maintain visibility, the pub's aesthetic owes much to a healthy relationship with the dark.The two-story gastropub has an industrialized décor -- many-paned windows like those found in abandoned factories, brick foundation and a grey steel bar counter all highlight Quinn's gruff pub chic. There's something poetic about the idea of a bar where the young and well-off go to eat bone marrow and drink whiskey; Quinn's look reflects this well.
Quinn's may be fortunate in its proximity to Neumo's for a steady stream of run-off business -- but you also get the feeling it brings in a lot of rambunctious armchair mixologists all too eager to impress post-concert company. I overheard a cautious bartender reacting to a gin rickey order with the air of a server who's had to deal with more definitions of the growingly-colloquial drink than a Playboy's Bartender Guide: "When you say gin rickey, you mean gin, soda and lime, right?"
The patron confirmed, slightly confused and perhaps a little put off as to how her order could insinuate anything else. Some bartenders just can't catch a break.
La Pistole Fumante, on the other hand, is a cocktail that's anything but ambiguous. Cynar, the stringent artichoke based bitter that seems to be popping up in alot of whiskey cocktails around Capitol Hill, really sets the stage for this incredibly bracing cocktail with a faint sweetness around the edges. Vya dry vermouth is the sweetest ingredient in the beverage, allowing it to really stand out amongst the whiskey lover's dream tag team of Bulleit Bourbon and Laphroaig cask scotch. A coffee bean garnish finishes this severe but rewarding drink that'll stick on your palate for pretty much as long as you let it.
Quinn's also offered a summer cocktail by the name of Carl's Stone Fence, an intensely refreshing mixture of cider and rye. The languid, sticky cider after-taste you can get after too much cider is dodged by a fresh draft, plenty of rye and a hint of clove. Served in an ice cold mason jar with a nifty swizzle stick, the drink was ideal for sipping off the bitter powerhouse of the Pistole.
Finally, Quinn's Old Fashioned rounded out the pub's cocktail offerings, standing firm as other cocktails are brought in or bow out through the seasons. To briefly recap an opinion made at the beginning of Whiskey Wednesday, I make it a point not to like it when people mess around with Old Fashioneds. While mixology isn't an exact science, there just seems something so reckless by tooling around with something so rudimentary. Reinventing the wheel might be a tired cliche, but with the veritable fruit cocktail I've seen carelessly tossed into some bars' Old Fashioned glasses, these pulpy strangers might as well be called New Fangleds.
Quinn's solid, fundamental Old Fashioned is a testament to the recreation of classic great taste over tacky variations. Maker's Mark, sugar, angostura bitters and a splash of sparkling water act as a sort of punctuation to Quinn's almost primal simplicity.