Since her teenage years in St. Paul, Minnesota, Kathleen Manley of Rob Roy has been observing the art of mixology and perfecting her cocktail-crafting skills. “Behind the bar just seemed like the best place to work—they have the most fun—so I tried to learn as much as I could, and annoy the heck out of them,” she says.
When she’s running the show at Rob Roy from behind the black leather-padded bar counter, Manley serves up the pretension-free retro concoctions that the establishment has become known for.
Here, five qustions for Kathleen Manley.
What is the most underrated spirit?
Aquavit! It's every bit as versatile as gin, with a wide range of styles, from rich and woody to bright and crisp.
What is your favorite Seattle bar (besides Rob Roy)?
That's an impossible question! It totally depends on the day of the week, time of day, company I'm with, who's working behind the bar... But in the nine years I have lived in Seattle, the bar I have consistently returned to the most is probably Hattie's Hat on Ballard Ave. Doesn't matter if it's been 24 hours or 6 months since I last visited, every time I'm there it feels like I'm home again.
And favorite place to eat?
Ocho in Ballard. It's a stylish little tapas bar on the corner of Market and 24th. Great drink selection, knowledgeable and creative staff, sunny outdoor seating in the summer. The menu is all Spanish-influenced small plates, seasonally rotated to accommodate locally available ingredients. Their food is SO good and it's one of those spots that works in any situation: weekend day drinking, special occasion date, or late night neighborhood dinner.
What's the worst thing you've seen someone do in a bar?
Well, I could tell a lot of stories about vomit, theft, or inappropriate touching. But one incident that stands out actually happened when I was a patron at a bar that allows dogs. This guy dropped his pint and it shattered all over the floor at his feet, right where his cute little spaniel was patiently waiting. Rather than help clean up his mess or at least get out of the way while the bar back mopped up the beer and glass, this guy just ordered another drink and continued to be drunk and oblivious. I finally had to go pick up a few of the larger shards myself because I was so worried about his dog, I couldn't relax! He didn't even notice.
What are most people ordering from you these days?
Old Fashioned. People love ordering them at Rob Roy because we use a big chunk of hand-carved ice to keep the drink nice and cold, without becoming watered down. Also, I think more people are interested in simple, traditional drinks that highlight the characteristics of the spirit.