Say what you will about the “meh” food and the corporate vibe. At upscale Capitol Hill Mexican restaurant Barrio (a second branch in Bellevue is set to open soon) bar manager Casey Robison is serving up some seriously delicious south-of-the-border specialty drinks. Here, his tricks of the trade.
How do you know when you’ve got a winner? It takes a lot of experimentation; a lot of thought. With the Lado del Sur [Reposado tequila, mint, grapefruit, and lemon]—that’s my baby—I probably did 14, 15 variations before I figured out what I really liked. The pisco sour [pisco brandy, lemon, lime, grapefruit, honey, and egg white] was fairly intuitive.
You were the first to bring the Michelada—currently huge in NYC—to Seattle. How did you come up with your signature version? From my understanding, the Michelada comes out of Puerto Vallarta. The recipe is hot sauce, lime juice, beer, and salt on the glass’s rim. We took it a couple steps up and made a Spicy Maria-beer, a savory drink using housemade Bloody Mary mix, my own recipe of sangrita verde [tomatillo, jalapeño, onion, black pepper, and citrus], Carta Blanca beer, and Mexican sea salt, which is wet and flavorful.
Where does Barrio sit in the cocktail revolution sweeping Seattle? The best line I’ve ever heard was from Murray Stenson. He reminded me a long time ago that it’s the hospitality industry, not the cocktail industry. It’s about taking care of the people and making them happy, making their day better.
Barrio, 1420 12th Ave, Capitol Hill, 206-588-8105 and 10650 NE Fourth St, Bellevue; www.barriorestaurant.com
Something to Talk About?
Dives are great for rambunctious fun. Wrought-iron accented, dramatically lit cocktail bars are perfect for when you want to get your socialite on. But when it comes to truly unwinding we’ll take the Fireside Room, the octagonal lobby of Sorrento Hotel, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. The drinks are strong (we like the Megan’s Manhattan or the Goose Hunt Martini), the conversation heavy (recently overheard: “I told her, ‘Don’t even come over, then’”), and the vibe intimate (lots of lovers staring longingly at each other on plush couches). Fireside Room, 900 Madison St, First Hill, 206-622-6400; www.hotelsorrento.com/dining
My Kid Could Pour That
After years of struggling to get a gallery on its feet, Erik Guttridge, an artist and former gallery worker, found the way: booze. So he sold his house to finance a space on Capitol Hill and in January 2008 opened Grey Gallery and Lounge different kind of bar, which, in addition to rotating exhibits of work by local artists every two months, features lectures, silk-screening parties, DJs, slide shows, and theater performances. An impressively stocked bar with three beers on tap and a menu including salads and savory and sweet organic whole-wheat crepes are enjoyed on salvaged black walnut and Douglas fir tables and a sprawling black leather couch. All combine to create, in Guttridge’s accurate estimation, a “community-centric melting pot of sight, sound, and really comfortable seating.” Grey Gallery and Lounge, 1512 11th Ave, Capitol Hill, 206-325-5209; www.greygalleryandlounge.com