Josh knows how to stir things up.
The Watering Hole: John Howie Steak, 111 N.E. Eighth St., BELLEVUE
The Atmosphere: Located in The Bravern, John Howie Steak is decked out to impress the residents of the luxury condominiums above (oh, wait) and the shoppers at the high-end stores next door. The lounge features high ceilings, leather-upholstered chairs, a grand piano, and an alabaster bar.
The truth is, the majority of the diners and drinkers at John Howie Steak work in the Microsoft offices also located in The Bravern. On the afternoon I arrived there was a convivial after-work crowd. I was troubled, however, that two tables each included an ailing person with an oxygen tank (!?). When I asked the bartender about this, all he said was "I won't light a match."As the afternoon led into the evening, a couple women from the pages of sugardaddy.com sat down near me at the bar. Perfect eavesdropping subjects! My favorite moment was when they tried to convince one of the bartenders that she should wear sexy, flirty heels and have no hesitation about spending LOTS of money on them. I couldn't see her feet, but I assume the bartender was just being polite as she nodded and agreed (while shifting nervously in her Danskos.)
The Barkeep: Josh Stadelman has worked at John Howie Steak since it opened last year. He's been bartending for six years, since he turned 21, I assume. He's mostly worked at Eastside bars, even though he lives in Seattle. He's a bit of a baby-face, and as I was looking at the drink menu, I almost decided against letting him choose a drink for me. Instead I looked deep into his eyes and asked, "What drink do you like to make?" In my mind, however, I was saying "Please say a Manhattan, please say a Manhattan, please say a Manhattan."
The Drink: I got close to the Manhattan I was craving. Josh said he likes to make a Deschler: a spirits-forward cocktail of Michter's rye whiskey, Dubonnet Rouge, Citronge, and a dash of Peychaud's Bitters. Josh added the ingredients to the shaker, with ice, put his head down, and stirred--methodically and thoughtfully. He stopped briefly, then stirred some more. Well done, young man! He strained the cocktail into a highball glass. Next he sliced a thin layer of peel off an orange, squeezed it over the glass to release the oils, then rubbed the rim of the glass with the peel before dropping it in to the glass.
The Verdict: The Deschler--a contemporary of the Manhattan--is a great drink for whiskey lovers. The citrus flavor from the Citronge worked well with the rye. The Dubonnet Rouge adds nice spices and aromatics that are enhanced by the Peychaud's bitters. When expertly made, as it was by Josh, it should be icy cold, barely diluted, and perfectly balanced.
The bar menu at John Howie Steak is as thick as the ribeye steaks on display in a case as you enter the restaurant. There are lots of whiskeys (and whiskys) from around the world, along with a nice selection of classic and original cocktails and bartenders who know how to mix them.