The BIT (Beverage Industry Trends): Seattle, Washington
Written by Danny Ronen
Photos by Jenn Farrington

Seattle bars photographed by Jenn Farrington, written by Danny Ronen. Cocktails and cuisine sometimes collide at Rover’s, as in this creation using gin, fresh cucumber juice, dry vermouth and white sturgeon caviar.
Cocktails and cuisine sometimes collide at Rover’s, as in this creation using gin, fresh cucumber juice, dry vermouth and white sturgeon caviar.

Rain, you say? Ha, no such luck on The BIT’s mid-spring visit to Seattle. Snow, on the other hand, fell abundantly, blanketing downtown Seattle for the first time since 1985. But what better time to explore Seattle’s great indoors? In "The Healthiest City in America," we shouldn’t have a problem fi nding folks dedicated to local products and to bringing them to the populace in new and exuberant liquid-related ways. And in this town, they’re all about pairing.

Our first stop is Dry Soda, to meet with creator Sharelle Klaus, a CEO who loves the intricacies of food and beverage. Being pregnant for what she calls "half of her adult life," Sharelle couldn’t pair wine with food as she loved to do. This dilemma, and the lack of well-crafted carbonated soft drinks, inspired Sharelle to come up with the concept of Dry Soda, creating meal-friendly flavors like Lemongrass, Rhubarb, Lavender and Kumquat. "There have been innovations in coffee, tea, energy drinks, etc., but nothing in the way of soft drinks that fit the modern palate," says Sharelle. She took this idea and ran with it, creating what she calls the "modern concept of a mixer." Dry Soda also allows nondrinkers to go into a nice restaurant and still "have that experience. It’s made specifi cally to pair with food, with its different acidity levels; it has unique flavors and champagne-like bubbles . . . all so that people can feel like they’re part of the event."

As if it isn’t chilly enough, we head over to Kurrent Restaurant and Bar on Capitol Hill, home of Seattle’s premiere ice bar. Bar Manager Calise Patterson gives The BIT quite a tour of their Martini-ready shelves, filled with over 70 different vodkas.

Seattle bars San Francisco Jenn Farrington Photo written by Danny Ronen. Sharelle Klaus is happily obsessed with finding just the right flavors for her Dry Soda. Matt Baer, Chef/Proprietor of Kurrent Restaurant and Bar thinks that connecting cooking and bartending is the best decision a restaurateur can make to keep everyone’s palate happy. The stylish ice bar at Kurrent Restaurant and Bar makes a great conversation piece for those pulling up a stool, whether for a 360 Vodka organic Martini or just a tall glass of Pacific Northwest beer.
Sharelle Klaus is happily obsessed with finding just the right flavors for her Dry Soda.
Matt Baer, Chef/Proprietor of Kurrent Restaurant and Bar thinks that connecting cooking and bartending is the best decision a restaurateur can make to keep everyone’s palate happy.
• The stylish ice bar at Kurrent Restaurant and Bar makes a great conversation piece for those pulling up a stool, whether for a 360 Vodka organic Martini or just a tall glass of Pacific Northwest beer.

Kurrent uses stainless steel Martini glasses, which Calise says helps the cocktail retain the perfect amount of chill on the ice bar. With ingredients like Roquefort, cilantro and a bevy of fresh fruits, the bar is a beautiful and delicious rainbow, but as Executive Chef and proprietor Matt Baer explains, it was actually the direction of the food that helped make the bar the throng of flavors it is today.

"When we first started, the menu was all over the place," Matt says. It wasn’t until they decided to go with a mix of Asian dishes that the bar really came alive. He began designing dishes around the drinks and available fresh ingredients, and would also help create drinks based on what he had in the kitchen. Matt says that the spirited back-and-forth between the kitchen and the bar led to some of the more interesting creations for each. "Dragonfruit’s coming into season right now and we’re only using it a bit in the kitchen, so what can we do with it at the bar?"

"Sometimes, regular customers get a little disheartened when they come in and their favorite drink isn’t here," Matt states, "but at the same time, we hope there’s some recognition that seasonal ingredients mean that particular drink might be unavailable from time to time."

Braving delightful Seattle traffic, we head east to Bellevue, and connect with Dan Thiessen at O/8 Seafood Grill and Twisted Cork Wine Bar. Dan is also a long-time chef who likes to exchange fl avors between the kitchen and the bar, but Dan and partner Matt Bomberger also put a great deal of effort specifi cally into the hospitality aspect of the restaurant and wine bar—what Dan calls “a commitment to food and beverage pairings.”

“We don’t put a drink on the menu that doesn’t go well with something on our food menu, just like we don’t put anything on the wine list that doesn’t go well with food,” Dan states. “It’s one thing to create a cocktail list that’s showy and fun, but does it fit into your overall menu?”

Seattle cocktails. Jenn Farrington Photo San Francisco. Written by Danny Ronen. O/8 Seafood Grill and Twisted Cork Wine Bar’s Dan Thiessen takes time to check their three sparkling flights. Food cocktails and other paired creations are the name of the game for Rover’s owner Chef Thierry Rautureau: 'If we had an actual bar, it would be another kitchen!'
O/8 Seafood Grill and Twisted Cork Wine Bar’s Dan Thiessen takes time to check their three sparkling flights.
• Food cocktails and other paired creations are the name of the game for Rover’s owner Chef Thierry Rautureau: "If we had an actual bar, it would be another kitchen!"

The large by-the-glass program is made possible by Bermar’s Le Verre de Vin, a preservation system with two nozzles; one vacuum-seals still wine bottles, while the other pumps CO2 into bottles of sparkling wine. The restaurant can open a $450 bottle of champagne for a taste and not worry about losing it. “It drives me crazy to walk into a wine bar with 70 bottles of wine on the counter at the same temperature with a cork stuck in them,” Dan states.

He also stresses the importance of staff education. “A guy might show up peddling his wines. I could sit down to taste it, think it’s phenomenal and then add it to the wine list. But I don’t do that, because no matter how much I like it, how can my staff legitimately sell something they know nothing about?”

Heading back west towards downtown Seattle, we visit Rover’s owner Chef Thierry Rautureau, who does an incredible job of creating an inventive cocktail list that’s thoughtfully paired with his set menus.

“I look at the bar as a kitchen,” he says, “because in the kitchen I constantly spend my time making new things that come in fresh on a daily basis. Instead of buying flavoring or syrup, we just make our own fresh juices.” Thierry shows us his freshlymade beet juice. “If we don’t use it at the bar, we’ll fi t it perfectly into the vegetarian menu—do a non-alcoholic beet juice for pairing, make beet oil out of it, or even beet soup.”

They do everything in-house at Rover’s, even charcuterie. Let’s hope they don’t start making cocktails using those ingredients, but if they do, The BIT will be there to taste their fi rst-ever blood-orange-duck-plumbchutney- parsnip cocktail.

And in a relaxed city like Seattle, where folks love to combine food and cocktails, we’d apparently be the fi rst in a very long line of interested parties.

 

 

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