Behind Bars

Five Questions For The Bartender: Canon's Chris Elford

"You basically take poison, put it inside burned wood, and it comes out delicious. That is a miracle."

By Sara Hendrickson October 21, 2013

Canon's Chris Elford

Canon's new bartender Chris Elford arrived in Seattle less than a month ago with a staggering resume: certified Cicerone (a sort of beer sommelier), whiskey distiller, consultant and opener of three bars in one year alone, satirical zine publisher, and he even represented the USA in Ireland at the recent Global Bartenders Ball. About his work in cocktails, Elford says, "It's like I've finally found something I love and I am just pouring myself into it." You'll fit in well here, Chris. Welcome to Seattle.

Here, five questions for Chris Elford:

What's the best drink you make? Your focus always has to be on the classics. The daquiri, Sazerac, Manhattan, Vieux Carre, Americano, Negroni, Sherry Cobbler. I'd say the one I'm most known for is the Sharpie Mustache: an unusual blend of equal parts rye whiskey, dry gin, Bonal (which is a fortified, aromatized wine), Amaro Meletti, and Bittermens Tiki Bitters.

What current cocktail trend is completely overrated? What are the current trends? I try to ignore trends and just keep learning. Barrel-aging cocktails seems popular in the Northwest, though, and barrels are amazing. You basically take poison, put it inside burned wood, and it comes out delicious. That is a miracle. Technology in cocktails is kind of a trend too, but I say do it. Make something fun that people enjoy.

What are three things you love about living in Seattle? Well, as a newcomer who has explored a lot of the country, I'd say Seattle sticks out as being bike-friendly for its size, and swinging well above its weight in food and drink. Also, some of my favorite bands growing up were from Seattle: Sunny Day Real Estate, Botch, and Roadside Monument were all huge musical influences for me.

What is the craziest thing you've ever seen happen in a bar? Just in general? I've seen lots and lots of fights. Fighting is the worst.

What's the most underrated spirit? Unfortunately, there are many ingredients we let our culture ruin. But, I beieve there's honor in redeeming maligned ingredients. Jagermeister is a great example. Did you know it only says "Serve Cold, Keep On Ice" on bottles sold in America? That's because Americans couldn't handle the bitter herbal quality that makes it a fantastic ingredient on its own, so we have to chill it to the point that we can't taste it. Jager is basically an amaro in bitterness, ingredients, and viscosity. Actually, amaro in general is still grossly underrated. People keep calling it a trend, but it's not a trend—it's still being discovered. You have all these proprietary regional recipes shrouded in secrecy, and it's so disparate a category that each one must be viewed as an individual tool to be used, from Aperol to Zucca. I've spent years focusing on the amaro category and I feel like I haven't even scratched the surface.

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