The Atmosphere: Perhaps more somber now than in its youth, Sambar remains a classy>"/>
The Watering Hole: Sambar, 425 NW Market St., 206-569-5009. BALLARD.
The Atmosphere: Perhaps more somber now than in its youth, Sambar remains a classy establishment in spite of its (and conjoined twin Le Gourmand's) impending closure. The dim lights, reflected by a narrow mirror along one wall and windows along another, play enticingly off polished glass bottles behind the bar. Tables are designed for small groups and intimate conversation, and though few bars ever pull this off, the music at Sambar is almost always just loud enough to drown out the conversation next door without drowning out your own.
The Barkeep: Michael Getz has a demeanor well suited to his surroundings. His manner is subdued, his appearance polished, and his beverage preparation meticulous. But the twinkle in his eyes hints at a wittiness that's just waiting for opportunity to surface. The photo at right neatly demonstrates his sense of humor, being one of nearly a dozen different poses struck in under two minutes.
The Drink: If you want to make a bartender nervous, here's the trick to it - walk up to the bar and answer the simple question, "What can I get for you?" with something obnoxious like, "So. If you were going to go down in history for making one cocktail... what cocktail would it be?" [Insert sound of crickets here.]
Michael Getz, it turns out (after the crickets subside), is a bartender after my own heart. He doesn't do favorites; he does seasons. Sambar's closing cocktail list is heavy on summer charm, full of smoky, floral, and fruity flavors that could make a person want to drop everything, pack a bag and book a flight to somewhere much, much more tropical than Seattle. A couple of the cocktails on the list are Getz' own creations, and he directs my attention to one called La Corrida. A blend of Mezcal, Ruby Grapefruit Marmalade, fresh sage, and grapefruit bitters, it takes me by surprise when its pale pink shade yields a rich, herbal, smoky flavor.
Mezcal is not on the list of alcohols I commonly consume, and I had to look it up to learn a little more about it. Tequila-like as a distilled agave, Mezcal comes from the maguey plant, and is most produced in Oaxaca where it is traditional to drink it straight, accompanied by a plate of fried larvae. Noting this to Mr. Getz, he shares the information that, should I wish to have a plate of fried larvae, I can in fact find it locally in Ballard at La Carta de Oaxaca.
The Verdict: As someone who is completely disinterested in any level of authenticity that involves eating larvae, fried or otherwise, I have to say that I am grateful for my less traditional introduction to Mezcal at Sambar! La Corrida's startlingly smokey flavor is not for everyone, but if you're in the mood for summer foods and flavors at any time this dreary week, it just might be for you.
But whether you order this cocktail or another, make certain to stop by Sambar before it closes alongside Le Gourmand at the end of June.