Five Questions for the Bartender: Nathan Weber

Every rum is "like a mini time capsule that makes you feel funny," says the bartender at Tavern Law.

February 3, 2011

“Always be humble” is the behind-the-bar mantra of San Francisco transplant Nathan Weber.

“Without this thing called the financial crisis,” says Nathan Weber, “I don’t know if I would have ever moved here and landed the greatest job of my life.”

It was another job altogether that brought the Tavern Law tender to Seattle. He moved here from San Francisco when his girlfriend found work after a long dry spell. Weber brought his resume—which includes stints at San Fran’s Washington Square Bar and Grill and Solstice Restaurant and Lounge—to the cocktail bar on Capitol Hill, and the rest was history.

Working at industry hangout Solstice, Weber met heavy weights like Neyah White and Dominic Venegas. “Spending time with great bartenders really advanced my understanding of building craft cocktails,” he says.

But it was the late, great Neil Riofski who inspired him to be a bartender in the first place. “I watched him and I thought, ‘I want to learn how to do that.’"

Here, five questions for Nathan Weber.

What is the most underrated spirit?

Rum. As great as it is in cocktails, I prefer to sip it neat. Rum can come from many different countries, each one has a different climate, water, barrels [for aging], and different methods for utilizing the sugarcane. Each one is a unique experience that lets you in on all of the variables that went into its creation. It’s like a mini time capsule…. that makes you feel funny.

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

Perhaps you’ve heard of Zig Zag? There is such a great relationship between our two establishments, and I respect them so much. They are the example of class and hospitality that every bar in the country should look to. As far as a neighborhood joint, I also love Sun Liquor. I think that place is immensely underrated, and it’s rated pretty highly.

What drink do you order at that bar?

A good shot and a cheap beer. With the attention cocktails get these days people sometimes forget that straight spirits are delicious. As a barman I find it really important to truly know the intricate flavors of each different brand of spirit. That way I intuitively know which brand to reach for when making any cocktail. As far as beer goes, the cheaper the better. I don’t want too much flavor getting in the way of me appreciating that delicious spirit. The beer has a second function: It keeps me from drinking that spirit way too quickly and thus keeps me out of trouble. Also, cheap beer reminds me to not take this job too seriously. Always be humble.

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

The worst: witnessing a “mixologist” not serve customers who ordered a vodka cocktail. And I’m not talking about one particular bartender. I’ve seen it happen in multiple cities and establishments. This behavior is inexcusable! As a bartender, it is your job to provide your patrons with what they want (even if they don’t know what that is).

Earn their trust. Win them over. And then if they want to venture out of vodka-land, be their guide. But don’t try and force the world to drink gin or rye. Tending bar is about investing in your patrons. Not just giving them what they want. It’s giving them more.

Name three reasons you live in Seattle.

The passionate patrons and enthusiasts, my wonderful colleagues whom I have the honor to call friends, and one impressive lady.

Find Weber at Tavern Law’s main bar on Wednesdays and Fridays. On Thursdays, he works at Needle and Thread upstairs.

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