Behind the Bar

Five Questions for the Bartender: Jim Romdall

The bar manager at Vessel tells us about fortified wines, barbequing in the rain, and one thing you should never do against a pinball machine.

December 18, 2009


Vessel bar manager Jim Romdall began his bartending career in college, just after he turned 21.

“After college,” says Romdall, “I decided I wanted to make movies. So I packed up and moved to LA where I became the bar manager of a fine-dining restaurant in Malibu. Got tired of movies, moved back to Seattle, and ended up landing a job behind the bar at Vessel.”

Since taking over management duties, Romdall has turned the austere cocktail bar on Fifth into a welcoming community hub for cocktail geeks, hosting guest bartenders from as far away as Germany (and as close by as other really good Seattle cocktail bars), holding drink-mixing competitions, and making sure no drinking-related holiday goes uncelebrated. He’s also really nice.

Here, five questions for Jim Romdall.

What’s the most underrated spirit?

I’m repeating a previous answer, but I have to go with fortified wine. Vermouth, sherry, port, pineau des charentes, pommeau. These spirits pack so much flavor without the heavy alcohol content, so they can compliment a base spirit wonderfully in a cocktail. I use them constantly.

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

I love all the great cocktail bars in Seattle, but often, my favorite place to go is Shorty’s. Booze, hot dogs, and pinball. Everything that makes life worth living.

What drink do you order at the bar?

Scotch, and likely a beer next to it so it doesn’t get lonely.

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

One time, I witnessed a couple having sex against a pinball machine. When I told them they needed to leave, the man proceeded to tell me that the woman was a famous local porn star and that he was going to get me fired for this. Ahh, sometimes i miss working at a college bar.

Name three reasons you live in Seattle.

The ones I love are here.

There are mountains and trees all over the place.

In another city, if you go out in the rain to barbeque people look at you funny.

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