Behind the Bar

Five Questions for the Bartender: Andrew Friedman

Liberty’s own consummate barman loves gin, Japanese "whisky," and the city he calls home.

August 19, 2009

A Cleveland native, Andrew Friedman moved to Capitol Hill in the summer of 1991. In 2006 he opened Liberty on 15th Ave E, lending the Group Health hamlet its first real cocktail bar and a much-needed hangout alternative to the Hopvine and Canterbury (Smith was yet to come). Liberty’s principal eccentricity is how it dealt with that pesky must-serve-food law: Friedman installed a small sushi bar. Cocktails + sushi = weird, for sure. But it works.

The bar’s other eccentricity is its day job, it doubles as a coffee shop (the only one on the street with ample couch seating) where laptop gazers sip Stumptown espresso as they wait around for cocktail hour.

“I have worked in restaurants for years,” says Friedman “in both front and back—the kitchen being my favorite place to work.” You’d never know it from his friendly front-of-the-house style—on warm evenings, you’ll often find him outside at one of the sidewalk bistro tables. If you see him, say hello.

Here, five questions for Andrew Friedman.

What is the most underrated spirit?

Gin. Gin is simply improved vodka. Don’t fear gin, and if you don’t believe me, try Washington’s own delicious Voyager gin, made in Woodinville at Pacific Distillery.

What’s your favorite Seattle bar (other than Liberty?)

Seattle is one of America’s most notable cocktail-oriented cities. And, in a city deserving this reputation, my favorite bar is the unquestionably praiseworthy Zig Zag, because of not just their outstanding liquor list, and not because of the consistent quality of their cocktails both classic and improvised, but because they are consummate barmen.

What drink do you order at that bar?

Anyone who has had me sidle up to their bar more than a few times knows that I am a big fan of straight whiskey. Of late, I have been a big fan of Japanese whiskey, but in Seattle, it’s very difficult to find Japanese whisky (they spell it without the E, as we do with American ‘whiskey’), but if you see the Suntory Yamazaki 18yr on someone’s bar back, I’d suggest that it’s worth the risk.

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

The worst thing that I have ever seen is blatant pomposity—which is really plain rudeness—on the part of the bartender to their customer. Being rude to the customer is never appropriate. Quite honestly, when I see this happen, I cringe a little and want to buy this poor bar goer a Molly Moon ice cream and let them know that everything will be okay.

Name three reasons you live in Seattle.

To make Seattle, it seems that someone took a lot of the good things that make up San Francisco and New York but left out the expense of both and the extremes in weather of the latter.

I love that we understand that fresh is better than fast, and finally, I love that for a short period in the early 90’s, we caused Michael Jackson and his pop ilk to be rightfully ignored and replaced by the “Seattle Sound” of deserving bands such as Nirvana and Soundgarden.

Soon there will be more Liberty for you to love: The bar is expanding into the florist shop next door.

Find previous Five Questions posts here.

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