The Watering Hole: Tavolata, 2323 Second Ave., 838-8008, BELLTOWN.
The Atmosphere: Chic, minimalist, industrial—the signature touches of the Ethan Stowell empire. Tavolata attracts those who like their Italian food authentic and their drinks meticulously crafted. They have to be: If Tavolata’s cocktails don’t pass muster, Rob Roy and its craft-cocktailmanship is just across the street.
The Bartender: Ben Sherwood. “Like the forest,” he says upon introducing himself. Sherwood has been behind the bar at Tavolata for about a year and a half. Before that, he worked next door when it was Marjorie. The corner of Second and Bell seems to be in his wheelhouse. “Since the bar is secondary at Tavolata, we don’t get the frat crowd. There’s no energy drinks here, and we save the Jäger for the cooks,” he says. “Actually, we save the Jäger for the bartenders.”
The Drink: Sherwood doesn’t get to make as many cocktails as he’d like at Tavolata. “It’s a heavy wine-and-beer crowd. I’d say about 50 percent order cocktails.” So when he has the chance to let his talent shine, he makes it count. “I’ll make you what I made for myself when I got home last night,” he says.
Sherwood pours some heavy hitters into a shaker, shakes it up, then empties the chilled liquid into a martini glass. It all looks very familiar. “This is a Vesper,” he says, explaining that it’s two parts gin, one part vodka, and one-half part Lillet Blanc with a lemon twist. “I originally liked this drink because I was a huge James Bond fan when I was little. Now I just like it because it’s good.” Specifically, Sherwood appreciates the way the vodka cuts the sometimes herbal taste of the gin and the sweetness of the Lillet.
The Verdict: If martinis are your thing, go see Sherwood. He takes a lot of pride in his drinks, and takes good care of his customers. The question now becomes where to find him, as Sherwood is leaving his post at Tavolata in about a month to work at the new Marjorie on Capitol Hill. “I’ll be working there four or five days a week,” Sherwood tells us. “I’ll basically be a glorified general manager.” Fortunately, that includes working behind the bar three or four nights a week.