When owner Keith Robbins opened Tini Bigs in 1996, Seattle was basically a beer town. And as was the national trend at the time, the bar served its cocktails in oversized 10-ounce martini glasses, a move that inspired the bar’s name and is still in effect today.
Robbins has weathered some tough moments since then, including the 1999 World Trade Organization protests, the ban on cigar bars, and the departure of the Seattle Supersonics, which robbed Tini Bigs of a major source of patrons. But through all this, the Uptown establishment also helped usher in a new cocktail-celebrated era in Seattle, and served as the proving ground for some of the city’s best-known bartenders.
On January 22, the bar will mark its 15th birthday by throwing one hell of a party. Tini Bigs is resurrecting 17 of its most popular drinks, each one representing a year between the bar’s opening in December 1996 and now, and each one going for $5. Robbins created this list by getting in touch with a bartender from each year and asking for a selection. The full list is below, and Robbins is in the process of confirming the evening’s guest bartender lineup. What is confirmed: all this madness begins at 6pm.
While the night will indeed be a fun one for us civilians, Robbins says he’s most excited to make the night a reunion of the bar’s many alumni, many of whom still make drinks throughout the city. He even set up an alumni Facebook page for the occasion.
Obviously the past 15 years have transformed Seattle into a town of cocktail devotees. “It’s good to have more people appreciate what you’re doing,” says Robbins. “In the past, it was just ‘give me a vodka cran.’”
When I stopped in to meet Robbins recently, he insisted we sample a few plates off the menu. I made some excuses about not being hungry and braced myself for some buffalo wings or somesuch. What I got instead: Some of the most impressive bar food I have experienced in this city, including pork belly and a cornmeal pancake, and a kale salad that rivals the epic one at Skillet Diner. Seriously…whoa. Robbins said he recently brought in a new chef, Paul Kreft, who previously cooked at Toulouse Petit,
and Purple Wine Bar Blue Glass, Skillet and Local 360.
Here is the full list of libations on offer January 22, and the bartender alums who selected each one:
1996 Joe Jeannot – Smokey Bigs (Toulouse Petit)
1997 Jude Augustine – Jolly Rancher (Hawaii)
1998 Patrick Haight – John Wayne (Snoqualmie Casino)
1999 Kevin Stuart – Peach Tini (Cantinetta)
2000 Josh Cushman – Backyard (99-06) (Azul)
2001 Dennis Brand – Spanish Tini (Branzino)
2002 Ezana Petros – Dirty Girl Scout (Matador)
2003 Aaron Marshall – Pear-a-dox (Pesos)
2004 Bill Arvish – Playboy (Dahlia Lounge)
2005 Amon Mende – Aloe (Cantinetta)
2006 Kevin Parisi – Burning Man (Macleod’s)
2007 Mike McSorley – Spaghetti Western (India)
2008 Jamie Boudreau – Chet Baker (Canon)
2009 Brian Lee – West Village Manhattan (Canon)
2010 Jon Chistiansen – Immaculate Misconception (Monsoon Bellevue)
2011 Joe Zara – Wild Child (Tini Bigs)
2012 Shane Sahr – Na Zadrowie (Tini Bigs)