Behind the bar

Five Questions for the Bartender: Erik Carlson

The mystery man behind the bar in Ballard is making some of the most innovative drinks in town.

March 18, 2010

Catch him if you can. Erik Carlson is behind the bar at Moshi Moshi Tuesday night through Saturday.

After 11 years tending bar all around San Francisco, Erik Carlson moved back to Seattle to help his friends Kevin and Tracy Erickson open Moshi Moshi sushi bar in downtown Ballard.

Raw fish is fine and good, but right from the start Ballardites recognized Moshi Moshi as their favorite new cocktail bar. They told tall tales of a brave new bartender and the wicked tasty cocktails he created with inventive infusions and rare spirits.

These tales were told from behind Seattle’s bars as well: Some of the city’s most discriminating drinkslingers welcomed him as the newest member of their rarefied brood. And yet, he is a rare sight around town, a mystery man who is seldom seen outside his shifts at the sushi bar.

Where has he been all your life? Here, Erik Carlson answers that question and five more.

What is the most underrated spirit?
I would have to say pisco [a South American brandy]. I always have a revolving pisco drink in the brandy section of my cocktail menu.

People who are unfamiliar with pisco see the “brandy” moniker and are put off for some reason, but pisco is one of those spirits that I use to turn on hardcore vodka drinkers and convert them. There is nothing more refreshing, midsummer, than a pisco punch.

What’s your favorite Seattle bar (other than Moshi Moshi’s)?
I’ve been a real deadbeat when it comes to getting out and supporting other Seattle bars since I’ve been home. Ask around, I’ve been a ghost.

There is a handful of bartenders that continue to catch my eye around town, however. Anu Apte and Zane Harris from Rob Roy and Jim Romdall from Vessel really laid out the welcome mat when we first opened. Andrew Bohrer from MistralKitchen and Jay Kuehner from Sambar run awesome bar programs and continue to put Seattle on the map as a cocktail-forward city.

What drink do you order at that bar?
Anything with rye or rhum agricole, the latter makes me nostalgic for San Francisco.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen someone do in a bar?
One night I was breaking up an argument at the bar in the Redwood at the Clift Hotel in San Francisco. It was between three loud patrons. When I approached the woman who was the loudest and most aggressive out of the bunch, she turned on me and began screaming and swinging wildly at my head. Luckily as I peddled backward, one of my bartenders, who had similar experiences while working at a methadone clinic, sprinted at her and tackled her onto the floor. He then pinned her to the ground for about ten minutes while her liquid courage wore off and security arrived.

Name three reasons you live in Seattle.
Quality of life. I moved my beautiful wife and daughter out of a junior one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco to a big house in Seattle with a yard and free parking. I also traded nights on the town for family dinners at home. I couldn’t be happier.

Family! My Mom and sisters argue over who gets to watch my daughter, I have the three best nannies in Seattle on my team.

Memories. I moved home to give my family the same great experiences I had growing up here.

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