Forrest Foster hails from the edge of Madison Valley, worked his way up from bussing, and has “no time for mediocrity.” The snappily dressed Seattleite manages and tends the bar at Altura, his employer of about one year two years. About his current job, Foster says, “I spend most of my time in the pursuit of the better beverage.”
Here, five questions for Forrest.
What current cocktail trend is completely overrated? Sometimes, I feel like cocktails are overrated. I don't mean that I don't like cocktails; there's just such a vast number of spirits available to the public right now. I think a bartender's job is more like a sommelier than ever. While you're bringing the guest a beverage that they enjoy, you're also an advocate for the producers of the beverages that make it all happen. This has been especially evident with the recent mezcal craze—places like Liberty have been doing an amazing job getting these small producers publicity. I really hope to see the same thing happen with French brandy. Calvados needs more love.
How do you stay inspired as a bartender? Working with a chef like Nathan Lockwood keeps me abreast of the rise and fall of produce season to season, and gives me access to unusual ingredients and the highest quality produce. There's always something to play with. I have a partially obsessive nature. A lot of times I'll smell something, or taste something—sage blossom, green coriander, etc.—and it's all I can think about until I make something with it that clicks.
What's the most underrated spirit? Grappa. I love grappa, and I spend a lot of time unearthing and promoting little known producers. One of the great things about the many guests we take care of at Altura is their openness to trying new things, a sort of trust. It gives me a lot of freedom to introduce people to the things they probably haven't had a chance to appreciate. Nardini is one of my favorite grappa producers. They make a really traditional grappa that encapsulates everything I adore: the funkiness, the stark honest fruit character, and the potency.
What's the best drink you make? Whatever makes someone the happiest. But people really love my black pepper inspired cocktail—it's potent. I make a spicy syrup with a blend of black peppercorns, long pepper, and comet tail pepper. Add a little bourbon, nocino, and bitters and you have a Pepe.
What are three things you love about living in Seattle? Seattle, especially Capitol Hill, is extremely walkable. I love having everything at my fingertips. I love Georgetown—the view of downtown is incredible. I dream of one day opening a restaurant with massive bay windows looking out on that landscape. Because I’ve lived here my whole life, it's hard not to take everything for granted, or to even understand what I might be missing elsewhere.