Since we last caught up with him, Ian Cargill has manned the bar at the Hideout, Brave Horse Tavern, Vessel 2.0, and Canon. Find him behind the bar these days at Fremont newcomer Roux, which he opened in November with Matthew Lewis of Where Ya at Matt. Although he plays off his successes in the profession—we asked him what question he’d most like to ask another bartender and he replied “What's wrong with you? Why didn't you finish college and get a real job?”—there’s no doubt that the Seattle native takes his job seriously. “Working behind the bar is where I found the best balance of crafting, creating, and just enjoying serving people.”
Here, five questions for Ian Cargill.
What's the most underrated spirit? Barrel-aged gin infused with whale tongue, carbonated, and served through a bone luge...but I'm still working on that one. I actually don't know how to answer this anymore. People have touched on everything at this point, and the more exposure I have to well-crafted spirits the more I like the subtleties of each. If someone offers me a choice of whiskey, tequila, rum, grappa, brandy—I'll reach for the one that's made and tastes the best. I'll take a great grappa over an underaged whiskey any day.
What's the best drink you make? I'm not sure. I guess there are some favorites I've made over time, but I have a hard time calling them "my drinks." Most bartenders don't have this problem. But I usually see drinks as variations on others, or as inspired by those that have come before. Or, its because I have a hard time naming cocktails, which is why I just name them after strange characters from books or washed up racehorses.
How do you stay inspired? Running. Also talking to people. There are a lot of distractions and details that take up your time in the restaurant industry, but when you get to talk to people about their day, what they do, how the date is going, what’s tasty right now—that's the fun part. That's the part that keeps me sane and enjoying my job. Also the running.
What current cocktail trend is completely overrated? Barrel-aged gin infused with whale tongue, carbonated, and served through a bone luge. That's lame now.
What is the craziest thing you've ever seen happen in a bar? One night I was watching a couple have what looked like an awkward date. They chatted very seriously, had a few drinks, and eventually relaxed a bit. Some smiles and laughs were had. They ordered another round and, by this time, the bar had filled up quite a bit. The couple was seated right in the middle of the full bar when the divorce papers came out.