The Watering Hole:Macleod's Scottish Pub, 5200 Ballard Ave NW, 687-7115, BALLARD
Kevin Parisi and his Singapore Sling
The Atmosphere:This prime spot on the corner of 20th and Ballard Ave used to house Harlow's Saloon, but the "pre-fab dive bar" went belly-up, and the space has undergone an impressive facelift since Macleod's opened in December. The most striking feature is a magnificent, hand-painted map of Scotland on the ceiling, which gives the place sort of a Sistine Chapel feel. There are all sorts of other homages to Scotland, including a wall with framed pictures of famous Scots. The bar itself has been rebuilt too, and the tacky chic favored by Harlow's was wisely replaced with handsome dark wood shelves to house Macleod's impressive collection of single malts. It's slow on a Tuesday afternoon, with indie rock on the stereo and two TVs tuned to Champions League soccer.The Barkeep:Kevin Parisi moonlights at Amber in Belltown, and also lists a stint a the "Scotch-heavy" cocktail bar Tini Bigs on his résumé. He is set to embark on a three-month long trip to India in May, but plans to return to Seattle and Macleod's when his odyssey on the sub-continent is over.
The bar's namesake and co-owner Allen Macleod was on hand as well. Born in the U.S. but raised in Scotland by Scottish parents, he explains that this is his first foray into the business stateside after previously working as a barman in the UK. He's partnering with the owners of Poquitos and nearby Bastille.
The Drink:Parisi offers two options when given free reign to mix whatever he pleases: something like a Manhattan or "something tiki." With the sun shining outside, I say something tiki sounds about right. "Good," he replies. "Then I get to beat something, and that's fun for everybody involved."
He shovels ice cubes into a canvas sack, then wails away at it with a heavy wooden muddler. It looks like a good way to blow off some steam, and Parisi jokes, "I'm much happier now," as he pours the finely crushed ice into a pint glass. He explains that the stress-relieving prep work is for a Singapore Sling, chosen in honor of a friend of his currently traveling in southeast Asia. Parisi uses his iPhone to call up the other ingredients for the century-old cocktail, which originated at Raffles Hotel in Singapore.
The recipe calls for pineapple juice, Gordon's gin, Cherry Heering liqueur, Bénédictine, and Angostura bitters. He shakes it all up and pours it out, adding a dash more Heering and Bénédictine after tasting a few drops with a straw. There's no foamy top like the classic Sling, but it looks colorful and tropical served over the ice, and garnished with a dark cherry, and lime and lemon wedges.
The Verdict:The syrupy Cherry Heering is the dominant flavor, and the potent drink tastes a bit like a dark cherry slushy spiked with gin -- not something I'd order often, but apropos given the warm weather. On the whole, Macleod's is certainly worth visiting, if only to chat up Macleod himself. On this visit, he was giving out free beers to a pair of new customers and quoting Trainspotting in his thick Scottish brogue. Discussing the prickly relations between Scots and Englishmen, Macleod dropped the famous line from the film, "Some hate the English. I don't. They're just wankers. We, on the other hand, are colonized by wankers."