It took more than 22 years for Eli Hetrick to travel five miles north. He went from his childhood home in Beacon Hill to his spot behind the bar at Sun Liquor on Capitol Hill by way of Belfair and Bremerton, and since he moved back to the city 12 years ago he’s held the gamut of service jobs: dishwasher, busser, delivery driver, server, barista, “grab ‘n’ go food slanger.” He’s finally found a home in Sun Liquor, where he’s manned the bar since it opened in 2011.
Here, five questions for Eli:
How do you stay inspired?
I thoroughly enjoy just sitting at the bar of those I admire and respect, drinking, conversing, and watching them do their thing. There is always something more to learn and improvements can always be made. Each individual working behind a bar offers a unique approach, and observing and assimilating bits and pieces from them is, I feel, the best way to grow and stay inspired.
What's the most underrated spirit?
I'm going to approach this as "what do I think people should be drinking more?" In which case, scotch. All of it, all the time. I know it certainly is not an underrated spirit by any means, but it's so wonderful. It's got history, depth, beauty, a plethora of expressions, and names that no one can really agree on how to pronounce. Oh yeah, and it's delicious.
What current cocktail trend is completely overrated?
I don't really know what's trending in cocktails right now that I feel is overrated. I suppose everything has its place. Very diplomatic, I know. Setting things on fire is cool sometimes. Making garnishes that have more ingredients than the cocktails themselves is cool sometimes. Slushies are delicious. I guess where the line gets drawn is when the emphasis behind the bar shifts away from the guest and their experience, and focuses on the impressiveness of the bartender. That seems very counterintuitive for an industry with the descriptor "service" in the name.
What is the craziest thing you've ever seen happen in a bar?
There used to be a customer of mine whose standard order consisted of a glass of malbec, a shot of Rumplemintz, and a Sprite. She had a voice that could cut glass and was often at least one or more sheets to the wind when she came in, so serving her was always a challenging decision. She informed me that she also was constantly on medication because she suffered from a rare affliction that caused her to have sudden and intense orgasms at any given time. One time, she began having an "episode" in the bar and, after hurriedly shoving several Benadryl into her face in between moans, proceeded to stand up and then collapse, face first, onto a booth. My coworker and I sat her up, made sure she was ok, and, after she collected herself, asked if she wanted us to call the paramedics. She declined and instead my coworker ended up walking her home, where she then attempted to make out with him.
If you were interviewing a bartender, what would you most want to ask?
Honestly, how often do you just want to draw Angostura penises on top of your sours? Come on.