The Watering Hole: Conor Byrne Pub, 5140 Ballard Ave. N.W., 784-3640
photo by Keegan Hamilton Anna serves a Jameson and Ginger
The Atmosphere I've never been to Dublin, but I imagine every bar in the mother country looks like this one. Or at least they should look like this one. The place is long and narrow, with high ceilings, exposed brick walls, and an immaculate mahogany bar that's decorated with a statue of St. Jude, the patron saint of bartenders and lost causes. A big brass chandelier hangs over a raised stage in the corner of a large open area in the back. Old photographs (including a portrait of James Joyce) are framed on the walls, and Guinness memorabilia is everywhere. It's located in the heart of Ballard, and early on a Monday evening the crowd is an eclectic assortment of hipsters, old bohemians, and barflies.The Barkeep: Anna says she's been tending bar at Conor Byrne for the past four years. Before that she worked in the kitchen at several Seattle-area restaurants, an experience she says inspires her mixology. "The recipe part of cocktails is a lot of fun 'cause I was a line cook for several years," she explains. "Drinks are recipes, and just like good food we try and do everything from scratch."
The Drink Jameson and Ginger. This is the nectar of the Irish gods. The finest whiskey from the isle is muddled with fresh raw ginger and topped with a dash of club soda and 7-Up. The result is a pale green concoction that combines the slow burn of Jamie with the piquancy of ginger and just a hint of sweetness from the soda. It came in a rocks glass, and I sucked the entire thing down in approximately two seconds.
"People end up getting tall ones--doubles in a pint glass," Anna says. "You haven't had a whiskey-ginger till you've had ours."
She explains that fresh ginger is the key. They use it in several other specialty cocktails, along with fresh-pressed orange and grapefruit juices.
"Once we started doing that, we couldn't go back," Anna says. "We've been trying to get away from using the [soda] gun, and plus people can say 'Ooh, I'm getting my vitamins.'"
The Verdict: Irish people are the original gingers, and Jameson is so popular in Ireland it should be a blood type. Combining the two is only fitting. And delicious.
Of course, as an alternative, Anna boasts, "My boss is Irish, so I have no choice but to pour a good Guinness. And we have a fair Irish crowd that comes in, and they'll tell you if you don't pour it good."
The bar has all kinds of cool things planned for St. Paddy's--including live music all day--and they don't serve green beer, so you know it's authentic.