Luke McKinley concocts enlightened cocktails with a dash of distilled wisdom. Before starting at Ravish about four years ago, McKinley worked in the college access field for a UW-based non-profit. Of his work in education and bartending, McKinley says the experiences dramatically shaped his worldview.
Here, five questions for Luke McKinley.
What is everyone ordering at Ravish this fall? This time of year, all but the heartiest herbs have been plucked. Sage and rosemary make frequent appearances in our cocktails during the fall. Dry gin, sage syrup, lime juice and a dash of salt combine to make one of our most popular drinks. Our guests love trying out these daily experiments that involve our rooftop garden herbs.
What's the best seasonal drink you make this time of year? Some of my favorite fall cocktails intertwine with the constantly evolving creations of our very talented pastry chef. The autumnal season in Seattle calls for deep, rich flavors that one can savor while watching raindrops fall outside, so I gravitate toward flavors that are simultaneously complex yet pretty basic. The poached pears that grace our fall desserts also yield a delicious poaching liquid that works fantastically in my cocktails. Concurrently sweet, spiced, and a touch savory, this rich pear syrup loves aged Novo Fogo cachaça, a touch of Madeira, a bit of lemon juice, and a splash of allspice dram and Scrappy’s aromatic bitters.
What is the most overrated Halloween cocktail trend? Pumpkin is sweet, earthy, and comforting; I love all these things. But, Halloween does not necessarily mean that everything must become pumpkin-flavored. Nor that we plop chunks of dry ice into our punch bowls (although it looks awesome), nor that we squirt red food dye into our cocktails so it looks like blood (although this also looks awesome). Instead, we can look to other places that might inspire us to think outside the pumpkin. I think Latin America’s Día de los Muertos is a perfect example: celebrate your ancestors with a mezcal cocktail. Keep this one simple—sweetened with a touch of honey and intrigued with a dash of bitters—but let the complex mezcal flavors sing.
What are three things you love about living in Seattle in the fall? As many do, I love how the seasonal shift into autumn is so visually dazzling. When the leaves change color it's called leaf senescence, which means “to grow old.” And that’s what I think happens to me when fall hits Seattle: I reflect and appreciate things that give me comfort. I love indulging in an entire day of roasting a duck and lounging with loved ones. I love riding my motorcycle toward Fall City to see the beautiful autumn colors. We senesce gracefully in Seattle, typically with a comforting beverage like a hot cup of coffee or a tumbler of bourbon.
What is the craziest thing you've ever seen happen in a bar on Halloween? Somehow, I have ended up working on every Halloween for the past few years. Last year, my friend Baby Van Beezly, the city’s best karaoke DJ, spun up a crazy dance party. One of my colleagues was dressed in a full-body monkey costume and I will argue that never before in the history of dancing had anyone—human or monkey—danced so passionately to “Rich Girl” by Hall and Oates. So much so, in fact, that he disappeared for an alarming amount of time. I eventually found him, mouth breathing heavily, on the sidewalk outside. He had nearly fainted from heat exhaustion. Moral of the story: always dress in a costume appropriate to the amount of Halloween dancing you intend to do.