Behind the bar

Five Questions for the Bartender: John Atkins

How do you explain to someone how to unlock a lock that he himself locked? The bartender at Lottie’s answers this and five other questions.

May 20, 2009

Like a lot of bartenders, John Scott Atkins is a musician. (But he’s not a “musician.” Check out his impressive musical resume here.) His drink mixing career began while working at Bimbo’s Bitchin Burritos (the original location), where he rolled burritos while not on tour with bands 764-Hero and the Magic Magicians. When the owners of Bimbo’s opened Cha Cha, Atkins suddenly found himself behind the bar.

“We all learned the trade in a trial-by-fire style,” he says, “figuring out how to make things as we went. Music and musicians permeated the environment.”

Last year, when the Cha Cha moved to make room for more Pike/Pine condos, Atkins did not go with it. Instead he headed down to Columbia City where he now holds court at Lottie’s Lounge, a neighborhood cocktail bar possessing what you might call—were you a favorite person of mine who knows his way around an Of Montreal lyric—soul power.

“Over the years I have really ramped up my interest in mixology and enjoy learning about different booze and new cocktails,” says Atkins. “I make cocktails in my kitchen and linger in the liquor store like it’s a Sonic Boom shop." When Atkins feels a need for a bit of the old Capitol Hill chaos, he fills in at Redwood.

Here, five questions with John Atkins.

What is the most underrated spirit?

Calvados doesn’t get its fair shake, I don’t think.

What’s your favorite Seattle bar (other than Lottie’s).

I will always have a soft spot for the Nitelite, as that’s where my wife and I ended up on our first date: Friendly pours by lifer barkeeps and a great perch to zone out on Second Ave on a rainy night. I enjoy 611 supreme, Licorous, and Liberty, for its enthusiasm for bourbon. I also love any bar where my friends are.

What drink do you order at that bar?

Bourbon is my default, though it’s definitely a “when in Rome” situation. I cater my order to my surroundings: beer at the bowling alley, a classic at Zig Zag, and if a place specializes in something I’ll probably check it out.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen someone do in a bar?

One night after close there was a guy shouting from the bathroom, he couldn’t figure out how to get out. How do you explain to someone how to unlock a lock that he locked? “Unlock it!” He finally saw the light and got out. The place was covered in claw marks, he had gone all animal. On his way out, he asked if we were hiring.

Name three reasons you live in Seattle.

It’s a great place for bicycles, music, and beverages. You know, quality of life stuff.

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