every time i venture to venik, i get a different story. maybe it’s the context under which i’m going– whether on a date, pre-spa, post-spa, or cocktail thursday gathering. however, different experiences shouldn’t yield different levels of quality. the first time, i observed they were sans fernet and didn’t order a thing. the second time, they were with fernet *and* i savoured a wonderfully scrumptious order of baby meatballs blanketed in mushroom gravy (southern girls love gravy!) the last time? sad, gritty meatballs in bland, grey sauce (at least they still had the fernet.) next time, i’ll make sure to consult my magic 8 ball before heading there again, or just keep shaking it until i get the response i want.
the south lake union of today has undergone expansive redevelopment to transform it from the days of yore. before the well-paved roads, amazon.com monoliths, and “riding the slut“, the slu was merely a run-down void in between downtown and fremont. now thanks to paul allen, oodles of stylish businesses now grace the corridors of westlake, from designer baby outfitters to aspiring burger barons to electric zoom zoom fantasy. but let’s get down to the heart of it all, where can a girl get a decent drink around here? on recommendation, i headed down westlake to re:public, an establishment that has gained quite a buzz in the last year. file this one under the category of dimly lit industrial decor, where i wonder if maybe there’s something to hide in the darkness? as i settle in at the bar, i examine the cocktail menu, and by the looks of things (house cocktail featuring crème de violette), i assume that the bartenders are up to snuff. the menu cocktails were on par, but further interrogation of the bartender reveals that he doesn’t know how to make a cocktail containing fernet. fail. this was a case of cocktail paint-by-number, where without directions, pre-defined lines and numbers, disaster was waiting in the wings.
bartender [bahr-ten-der]–noun: a person who mixes and serves alcoholic drinks at a bar.
boytender [boi-ten-der]–noun: a bartender of ambiguous sexual orientation who mixes craft drinks with an impeccable bedside manner.
sometimes traditions are created by happenstance, but cocktail wednesday is not one of those traditions. born out of a necessity for liquid libations after enduring the better part of the workweek, this soon-to-be national phenomenon steered me and my jewish lawyer/therapist/spiritual advisor straight to the little red bistro in south lake union. with its entrance marked by a big red clock tower, this restaurant and bar also moonlights as a performance space and day spa; a multi-threaded business model that would make any asian businessman proud. the drink menu read like a chronicle of mixology, featuring a list of classic cocktails ranging from 1803-1934, but menus never fully showcase the talents of a true mixologist, so i once again threw caution to the wind and relinquished full control to the bar. what resulted was a concoction of fernet and domaine de canton, an ginger liqueur fortified with eau de vie and cognac. sadly, i found the drink to be sticky sweet with a cognac kicker that conjured images of a stodgy aristocrat, but our boytender thomas sensed my disillusionment, and with a little additional consultation, created a lemony fernet concoction that lasted all of about three minutes. ever attentive, the next round of drinks appeared sans soliciter– a shot of fernet with a ginger beer chaser. i’ll admit that i had my doubts about the ginger beer after the recent canton calamity, but alas, redemption was on the horizon for both ginger and our boytender. like a firm slap followed by a loving rub, the evening ended on an upswing.