Obama-rama Drama

Sour grapes between two local bars over a vodka-based Baracktail

February 5, 2009

A few sips into a Moretti lager at The Pink Door last night, I looked up to see a waiter carrying a familiar drink across the bar. Oobleck-green and poured into a sugar-rimmed martini glass, it had a little American flag—squishy green grape speared to its toothpick pole—peaking out from the ooze. Kind of unforgettable. But where had I seen it before? Suddenly, I remembered: this was the Obama-rama, a cocktail Seattle Met featured in the November issue’s Cocktail Caucus. According to us, however, that drink was only available through election month. Curious, I called Jacqueline Roberts, owner of the Pink Door, to inquire.

Roberts, who invented the Obama-rama, told me she renamed the drink Jubilation 09 after her candidate won in November. “And I’m thinking of trademarking it,” she said. Why trademark a drink? That’s where it gets interesting: According to Roberts, after the Pink Door put the recipe for the Obama-rama on its website, “So many restaurants ‘borrowed’ it.” Among the mixer marauders, she says: Boom Noodle on Capitol Hill. “They named it something different,” she says “and stirred in a little lime yuzu, but it’s the same recipe.”

I checked with Boom Noodle owner Steve Rosen, who called the accusation “really offensive,” but was eager to give his side of the story. According to him, on the day before the inauguration, he asked his bartenders to come up with a theme cocktail for the big day. One of them, he says, did an internet search and found the recipe for the Obama-rama: vodka, with freshly pressed grape juice, Cointreau, and lemon juice, with a grape garnish. In keeping with Boom branding the bartender gave the ‘rama the Japanese treatment (in fact adding yuzu lemonade, not lime), and a special inaugural menu was printed.

But then, trouble. Says Rosen: “I got a call: ‘This is Jackie at the Pink Door. I want you to know I invented that drink and I’m going to sue you if you don’t change it.’” While he says the legal threat didn’t concern him, Rosen worried about bad blood. “We’re huge fans of the Pink Door.” He says. “If anyone wants me to, I’ll have a drink at Boom Noodle called ‘I Love the Pink Door.’” Rosen said he called Roberts back right away to make peace, but never heard back. Then, a Seattle Times reporter called asking him to respond to allegations that Boom was stealing drinks from the Pink Door. The Times story never ran, and Rosen heard no more about it until today, when I asked him the same thing. “For anyone not giving us the benefit of the doubt and continuing to bash us” says Rosen, “…it’s irresponsible.”

Boom Noodle did serve its version of the drink on Inauguration Night. Called the Barack Attack, it was made from Absolut vodka, Blue Curacao, white grape juice, Calpico, and yuzu lemonade. But you won’t find the concoction on the menu there—the restaurant stopped serving it on January 21st. The Jubilation 09, however, is available for the foreseeable future at the Pink Door, and costs $9.

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