Sweater Weather and a Liquid Blanket at The Sexton

Sexton Barkeep.jpg
Photo by Keegan Hamilton
Sexton barkeep Adam Fream and his Sweater Weather
The Watering Hole: The Sexton, 5237 Ballard Ave NW, 829-8645, BALLARD

The Atmosphere: The latest and greatest addition to bustling Ballard Ave, the bar's decor is a blend of old and new that's difficult to pigeonhole. The booths and tables are made of elegant, dark wood that makes the place feel like it's been there forever, while the bar itself is comprised of dozens of white cassette tapes encased under glass, one of many modish touches. It's also vaguely southern-inspired, with mason jars serving as water and beer glasses. The lighting is soft, with candles and vintage bulbs, and a young-ish crowd trickles in early on a Tuesday evening.

The Barkeep: Adam Fream, a Baltimore native, moonlights as a mixologist at Belltown's faux-speakeasy Bathtub Gin. The Sexton opened three weeks ago, and Fream has been on-board from the start. He followed former Bathtub Gin cocktail craftswoman Marley Tomic-Beard, now running the show at the Sexton.

The Drink: The drink menu includes a "Bet On Your Bartender" option, which allows Fream and Co. to "create a custom cocktail based on your preferences," but he opts instead for the "Sweater Weather," a house specialty of his own creation. He fills a pint glass full of ice and pours Old Overholt rye, Carpano Antica vermouth, Cynar, and a dash of Abbot's bitters. This he stirs, strains into a short cocktail glass, and tops with fresh-grated cinnamon.

"It's basically a winter spice Manhattan," Fream says of his amber-colored concoction.

The cinnamon grabs hold of the tongue at first, but gives way to a luscious, lingering bite from the bitters, Cynar (an Italian artichoke liqueur), and rye. After a few moments, Fream pours a separate sip of just Carpano Antica vermouth. It is dark red, and tastes of vaguely of spiced cherries, chocolate, and Madeira wine. It is utterly delicious. Switching back to the Sweater Weather, the sweetness of the vermouth is much more pronounced.

Fream explains that the Carpano Antica is one of the oldest types of vermouth, and it "makes quite the Manhattan."

The Verdict: The cocktail is sublime, but The Sexton prides itself on its bourbon selection. "We have a smaller shelf to start," Fream says, "but it's growing every day. It seems like every time I come to work there's a new bottle." And so, as an encore, Fream pours a dram of Elmer T. Lee, a single-barrel bourbon from the Buffalo Trace distillery. Smooth and warming, this is the liquid blanket cure to a blustery January evening.

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