The Watering Hole:Vessel, 624 Olive Way, 623-3325, DOWNTOWN
The Atmosphere: Vessel, the formerly glowing bar of white and yellow on 5th Avenue, goes dark at its new location on Olive and 7th. Today, the current Vessel is a broody lair where geometric forms, gleaming metals, industrial concrete pillars, and polished pipes frame a black room accented with singular red walls.
More ominous is the giant hook hanging near its kitchen. But before your mind runs wild with thoughts of BDSM, the staff will be quick to remind you about their ice program. Mind you, the hook is for lifting the 300 pound blocks of ice made specifically for Vessel's drinks. Bartenders at Vessel can be seen hacking off hunks of this crystal clear, slow melting ice to top off your cocktails.
Photo by Tiffany Ran
The Bartender: Michael Bertrand worked at the former Vessel for about three years before it closed. He started out bartending at Flowers in the University District before working at Vessel and Mistral Kitchen. Despite a drinks menu and even a special that bears his name, Bertrand's ideal is to work at a bar without menus. Tell him your favorite spirit or desired flavors, and Bertrand will set out to make the perfect drink.
The Drink: Bertrand's Knife in the Water consists of Tanqueray, Cocchi Torino, peach bitters (in mine, he used rhubarb), and apple cider vinegar. Bertrand usually prepares his menu to offer a sweeter "girly" drink, a stronger "manly" drink, and a sour. This one along with the mysterious "Zeus' Wrath," however, is what Bertrand described as his "special drinks," where he can creatively dabble with unique ingredients like bitters and even Greek yogurt. But among the two, the Knife in the Water comes with the knife-wielding, ice cracking experience at Vessel that makes a drink all the more thrilling.
The Verdict: Knife in the Water cuts through the most grueling of days and the richest of Vessel's meat-filled bar menu with its balance of sour and sweet without a whap-you-in-the-face alcohol experience. Complex on flavor and gentle to the touch, a Knife in the Water may sound dangerous, but is likely a safe bet for eaters and cocktail enthusiasts alike.