Image: Zack Bent

Last year Mike McNett was searching for a houseboat to call home. While looking at one such listing he met Kelly Ronan, a co-owner at Lark, who was about to open up a new restaurant. Although McNett's plans to move into a waterfront home fell through, he found a job instead and became the barman that presided over Lark’s transition as it moved out of its previous space and into a new home at 952 E Seneca. The new Lark is a much grander space that is supplied by not one but two fully stocked bars and something entirely new: a cocktail list.

As bar manager, McNett is tasked with creating inventive cocktails to pair with Lark’s Northwest fare as well as the drink list at Bitter/Raw, the amaro-focused crudo bar on the mezzanine above where bartenders stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the chefs. 

McNett, a native of the Northwest has traveled extensively, all the while working behind bars. He has tended bars at slope-side and beachside resorts, as well as backpacking hostels, en route to his new post. A guest at his bar is just as likely to uncover an exotic spirit as they are to hear a wild tale from his umbrella bar days.  

Here, five questions for Mike McNett of Lark:

What is the most underrated spirit?
I'd say Becherovka. It's an herbaceous bitter from the Czech Republic that's much more approachable for people than something like Fernet would be. Becherovka is perfect on its own but also fantastic in cocktails and could go in any drink as a substitution for chartreuse, something along the lines of a bijou.

What cocktails do you think will be popular this winter?
The hot toddy, which I think is great any time of the year.

Do you have a favorite bar in Seattle?
The Streamline Tavern in lower Queen Anne was. (RIP) However, I just recently moved to Tangletown and so I think Leny's Place is my new favorite spot out that way. It's similar to the Streamline except that they have food. I happened to be there the last Seahawks game and it was an awesome welcome to the neighborhood. It just feels like home now. 

What do you do differently from other bartenders?
My biggest thing is I tend to smile a lot. If I'm in a good mood I'm smiling and when the pressure gets high I'm also smiling. It's a nervous thing; luckily it's smiling.

What's the craziest thing you've seen working behind the bar?
I was working at a hostel in this little beach town in northern Peru, a resort for backpackers if you will. It had a large pool right off of the bar that would get a little wild at night. One night a coworker, an Irish guy who would get really really drunk while we were working, decided he would take off all of his clothes, get completely stark naked, and leap past the crowd off the top of the bar into the pool. For whatever reason I had a couple drinks myself and climbed on the bar and followed suit. Before you knew it there were 40 naked people swimming in the pool.