Casey Robison has been working in Seattle’s cocktail scene before there was even a cocktail scene, when it was just him and a handful of dudes nerding out over drinks and hanging out at Zig Zag where Murray Stenson still worked and was just an eccentric bartender with a weird collection of obscure cocktail recipe books.
Robison's been running the bar at Barrio for about seven years now. These days he’s the spirit director, and the guy behind the impressive mezcal collection.
Here are five questions for Casey Robison:
What are people drinking at Barrio?
It’s kind of twofold. This is a Mexican joint, so naturally the number one thing that we sell is the margarita. Predictably. It’s the most popular cocktail in the entire world. Nobody goes into a Mexican restaurant and doesn’t order a margarita at least once. That’s probably 50 percent of our liquor sales right there. We sell mezcal. We sell a lot of mezcal. Monday nights we do 50 percent off tequila and mezcal and so if you drink it neat it’s 50 percent off.
What is your go-to drink?
I have two. When I’m out I usually do a shot and a beer—it’ll be a neat mezcal, and something cheap and Mexican. If it’s going to be a long night, and I know it’s going to be a long night, I’ll usually go for Campari and soda, something low ABV [alcohol by volume]. But if I’m having one it’s usually a mezcal.
What would you be doing if you weren’t bartending?
In a heartbeat, if I thought I could make money traveling, and being a travel photographer and a travel writer that’s what I would do. That or politics but I don’t think I would want to do that. But my dream, my perfect vocation would be travel photographer and writer. My wife and I like to travel a lot. We got married in Mexico and I go to Mexico at least once a year.
Did getting married in Mexico have anything to do with your appreciation for mezcal?
Sort of. She and I went to Mexico together, both of us our first time, in 2012 and due to my association with the restaurant we got set up with people in Mexico to do some [mezcal] tours. I liked mezcal but at the time we couldn’t get much of it because we were still a control state. It was a place we both fell in love with. The mezcal thing was just a nice perk.
What Seattle artist that you would base a cocktail on?
He’s not Seattle necessarily but he’s Washington, and I’m going with Tom Robbins. And the drink will be called Jitterbug Perfume. And I’m going to figure out how to make it and I think I’m going to put it on the menu.