Five Questions for the Bartender: Witness's Richy Rivera
All his stories of questionable bar behavior seem to involve limes.
While Richy Rivera's first winter in Seattle was markedly colder than his native Puerto Rico, it was immensely better than his most recent home, “one of the coldest places on the planet," Minneapolis. He’s been tending bar for 17 years, (as well as DJing on the side), and feels quiet lucky to have landed at Gregg Holcomb's Southern-styled Broadway bar Witness, where he’s been artfully mixing cocktails and using his creative freedom to experiment since the cocktail bar opened in August of 2013. Divine intervention, possibly?
Here, five questions for Richy:
What's the most underrated spirit? I love rum. A rum that I think everyone should be familiar with is Zaya. It is a dark rum from Trinidad, aged 12 years in used whiskey and bourbon barrels. It is great neat and fun to use in cocktails.
What is everyone ordering at Witness these days? Cocktails. Lots of them. There are some signature drinks that have remained on our list since opening day like The Witness, Soul Tonic, and Son of a Preacher Man (made with bourbon, lemon, honey liqueur, sweet tea). Some of my favorites throughout the seasons have been the Lion in Winter, the Purgatory, and the Forbidden Fruit. For those that need a little help deciding, you can always ask for some Divine Intervention.
What's your favorite way to use a local spirit? Being in the Midwest I had heard of some spirits from the PNW region, but after moving here, wow! That is one of the things I have enjoyed most about being at Witness. You never know what cool new spirit (at least new to me) Mr. Holcomb will have waiting for you on the backbar when you come to work.
Lately I have been using 1 ½ oz Copperworks Gin, ½ oz Salers, ½ oz Lillet Blanc, ½ oz Ramazotti and a dash of orange bitters. I think of it as a “summer negroni.” You read it here first.
What current cocktail trend is completely overrated? One thing I never understood is the affinity to lime-flavored beers. “Do you have ‘X’-beer lime?”. “No, but I have ‘X’-beer and a fresh lime wedge”. “Ok then, I’ll have a white russian." Really?! Come on.
What is the craziest thing you've ever seen happen in a bar? A group of guys walk up to the bar and order “man shots.” What’s a man shot you might ask? Tequila, salt, and lime. They proceed to snort the salt, shoot the tequila and squeeze the lime in their eye. Years later I still have the same question I had then: "Why?"