Attending Tales of the Cocktail, the annual cocktail conference in New Orleans, transformed Seattleite Wendy Miller from a casual sipper to one of the city's greatest cocktail enthusiasts. Inspired by the other cities' chapters of "Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails," or LUPEC, as it is known, she brought the society to Seattle, gathering together enthusiasts from around the city.
In her role as Seattle LUPEC organizer and in research for her Seattle Cocktail Culture iPhone application (coming soon to Android), Miller hopes to help foster an educated and interested cocktail audience in the city.
In this week's interview, Miller tells us where the drinking is good around town, what city has the best looking bartenders, and what's in her glass this holiday season.
SW: What was the best new cocktail you were introduced to in the last year?
Miller: I've had so many cocktails this year! But I'm really a martini girl- gin, vermouth, orange bitters and a lemon twist- so recently when I was at The Coterie Room, Philip Thompson made me a nice twist on a classic martini using a combination of vermouth and Cocchi Americano with gin and a twist. I love the citrus and herbal flavor that the Cocchi adds to the classic, but I don't think it has a name.
Do you have a favorite bottle or spirit in your personal collection?
I have a fondness for things my husband and I bring back while traveling. Currently I'm a bit obsessed with the amazing gins we had in London and a few that made it home with us. One in particular is Adnam's Copper House Distilled Gin. Another is 50 Pound Gin which I think is now available in the states.
So given that affinity for traveling, what is your favorite place to drink outside the US?
Berlin, Germany. The cocktail scene there is amazing! The number of bars with unique concepts is fun and there are interesting spirits that can't be found or are very hard to find in the states. Also the bartenders are especially passionate about what they are doing. I can't wait to go back! I just wrote about Berlin bars on my travel blog.
What about domestically?
San Francisco. Again you've got a group of exceptionally talented professionals who are always trying to create new experiences. And they are friendly and eager to share their knowledge. Not to mention there are some seriously good-looking SF bartenders!
Now there's a reason to drink. When you're staying local, who do you think is the most under-rated bartender in the city? Someone nobody's talking about yet, but we'll all have heard of in a year.
Marley Tomic-Beard. She's so passionate about what she does, is a wealth of knowledge on the history of liquor and cocktails, and is one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. Not to mention she makes some kick-ass cocktails. Most recently she was at Golden Beetle , but she will be heading up the new bar The Sexton, soon to open in Ballard.
What do you look for in a cocktail list when you're out to eat or drink?
Hands down my favorite touch on a cocktail menu is a mention on how the drink is served. Sometimes I feel like I'm quizzing someone down (especially a cocktail server) on whether something is served up, rocks, etc. I love menus that mention this, or better yet show the type of glass the drink is in.
Another thing that always stands out, though is rare in the states, is to have a complimentary snack served with your drink. This is a standard procedure in many places overseas, and one which I really appreciate as I hate to sip on an empty stomach. I might be blanking but I think Spur and Rob Roy are the only ones who do this, at least during happy hour.
What is the most interesting thing you've learned at a Seattle LUPEC event?
There's no way I could pick just one thing as we've had so many great classes. For instance we've learned about the history of rum, about Japanese whisky, cachaca & pisco. We've had a private lecture on bourbon and the process of distilling and aging it. We were taught the evolution of a classic sour and it's influence on modern day drinks. And how to pair fresh herbs with cocktails. Now tell me, how are you going to pick just one?
But you've made public that LUPEC has gotten so full there's a waiting list. What advice would you give aspiring cocktail-istas for learning their way around the Seattle cocktail world and beyond?
Take cocktail classes, many bars host these- check out Swig Well and Tini Bigs! Attend events like Tales of the Cocktail (their mini event in Vancouver is coming in February). Subscribe to blogs (check out the LUPEC site for what we recommend). And of course there is this app that I think is pretty good...
Check back tomorrow for part two of this week's interview, where Miller shares her recipe for Fish House Punch--her holiday beverage of choice.