Hidden from the pinball-crazy, knife-waving denizens of Belltown's peculiar stretch of 2nd Avenue lies Bathtub Gin & Co., two stories that first appear as the speakeasy theme which Seattlites who crave a delicious, innovative cocktail have more or less forced themselves to identify with. Although the bar is only accessible through an alleyway between 1st and 2nd Ave, Bathtub's faux-illegal pretenses are sidestepped by a service staff that dresses like they live in the 21st Century and a refreshingly hip library including coffee table books featuring Daniel Clowes and Banksy.
Bathtub Gin & Co. has a wide variety of the titular juniper-sweetened spirit on the top shelf, but is by no means a one-trick pony (or jigger, for that matter). Cute names like the Cane and Able (Rum & Campari) and the Marlon Brandy decorate the Bathtub's seasonal cocktails, but the most alluring option lies at the bottom of the menu.
The Dealer's Choice consists of any of the Bathtub Gin's numerous base liquors with your choice of adding "sweet," "sassy," or "savory" to the mix. The abstraction of the cocktail is all but an invitation to talk your bartender through a drink that perfectly fits your taste without having to know your amaro from your amaretto.
Places like Bathtub Gin thrive on bartender communication -- not the abrasive drunken hollering reserved for trying to get a hot dog outside of Neumo's, but more like how you'd talk to a librarian who was trying to get you drunk. My dealer's choice included rye and "savory", which blended the comfort of my favorite grassy liquor, a full-bodied finish, and most importantly a springboard into a personal recommendation for my next drink.
Bartender Matt James, working with only a base liquor of Irish Whiskey and the knowledge that I'd ordered my Dealer's Choice "savory", recommended me his twist on the classic Flip (but only after asking if I was a vegan, which warmed my heart a little). The result was an amazing concoction that made me slightly embarrassed that this will be the first cocktail with an egg white that Whiskey Wednesday has ever featured. Bathtub's Flip drinks like a vast improvement over Egg Nog -- sweet, milky and loaded with spice without having to cough up phlegm after every sip.
Finally, the Old Kentucky Rose drinks like iced tea for people who positively loathe iced tea. Rosemary seemingly dominates the drink; rosemary honey sweetens the quaff and a sprig of the stuff serves as the Rose's garnish. That said, the Rose's liberal use of ginger beer keeps the refreshing summer drink from drinking like a shitty pot roast.
At the end of the night, even the receipt had a novel twist. It was detailed, fully handwritten and had a unique little sketch of a cocktail glass on the side! Although the scribble was a small detail, it was one of many personalized flourishes that set Bathtub Gin apart from other neo-speakeasies. Labor-intensive drinks can often cut bartender chit-chat in half, a fact certainly noticed by Bathtub Gin as it carefully balances the creation of artisan drinks and the maintenance of a warm, inviting atmosphere.