Sometimes I end up talking to the same bartenders over and over again. So recently I asked a handful of local boozing sages if there were any newcomers in the bartending community whom I really ought to know. Oddly enough, every single one told me, “Shawn Heale.”
Heale moved here in the fall from Spokane. He was eventually planning to strike out for a new city in early 2013, but he met Rob Roy owner Anu Apte at a bartending event over there, and decided to accelerate his timetable. Now you can find him at Rob Roy Wednesday through Sunday. “Spokane is great, but everyone’s still kind of a new drinker when it comes to cocktails,” says Heale. “You don’t have people come in and ask for those obscure brown, bitter, and stirred drinks that I love, personally.” The first time someone walked into Rob Roy and requested a Toronto was a fine moment, indeed.
Here, five questions for Shawn Heale.
1. What is the most underrated spirit?
I think everything has gotten plenty of attention at this point. It all goes in a circle. Today sherry is the coolest thing in the world. Tomorrow it'll be 'did you hear that gin is cool again?' The second you try to pinpoint what's under-rated you're going to see it on the cover of Imbibe. However, whisk(e)y is always going to be king. Anyone who says whiskey isn't cool deserves a swift boot to the coconuts.
2. What’s your favorite Seattle bar (besides Rob Roy)?
Liberty is always my favorite bar this town has to offer. And naturally Zig Zag is world class. I don't think people have really taken the time to realize that the bar program at Barrio is pretty stellar. Casey has a first-class bar at that restaurant and I wish it got the national attention that it deserves. Outside from that I generally follow bartenders. Chris Goad, Kevin Langmack, Cale Green, Michael Bertrand, and Bryn Lumsden are all phenomenal bartenders that I try to see whenever I can. Oh yeah, the Bait Shop that just opened up. Alocoholic beverages served from slurpee machines are my ultimate guilty pleasure.
3. What drink do you order at that bar?
I generally let them go nuts and make me whatever they want. They know what they're doing. Or I'll order a beer, a shot, and some witty banter. They're always good for that as well.
4. Best part of living in Seattle?
Not to discredit my amazing new city. But this is the first time in my 27 years on this planet that I have had my own bathroom. And until they start paying me to live here, that's probably going to trump most everything. However, this is a visually stunning city. From the water and the mountains, to the architecture. It's beautiful. And the food and drinks aren't too bad either.
5. What’s the worst thing you’ve seen someone do in a bar?
Shoot someone. Oh, to be a club bartender again. From a more regular standpoint though, men in this town are horribly aggressive towards women at bars. Not every woman is out to get laid like you are. I have no problem telling guys off when I'm working and it's obvious they're creeping out my patrons of the fairer sex. A bar is about having a good time. Most women can't have one if they're being fed every line in the book over their shoulders while they're trying to catch up with a friend. And of course, arrogant bartenders. It's the customer service industry, not the drink making industry. I don't care how many tinctures you've made this week, your job is to make people happy. And if you can't be bothered to do that then I would suggest you find another profession.