Seattle Cocktail Week

Musings on Our Very First Seattle Cocktail Week

Next year the event will return bigger, better, and more organized.

By Allecia Vermillion November 4, 2011

As Seattle’s inaugural cocktail week fades into blurry memory, organizers Andrew Friedman of Liberty and the Washington State Bartenders Guild, Barrio bar director Casey Robison and Little Water Cantina bar manager Ryan Minch sat down with me for a little perspective.

The booze-centric event can be summed up in the story of its signature green passports, which list nearly 70 participating bars. Corralling all these fine establishments on a tight print deadline was no small feat, and as cocktail week loomed, the guys realized that shipping the finished books from the printer in California in time would cost a prohibitive $4,000. The printer ended up driving the booklets up to Portland. Robison boarded an early morning train from Seattle Wednesday morning (yep, the day before this shindig began), and trucked 5,000 books back here in a rented U-Haul. By the next evening, books were in place at bars around the city.

In short: grassroots origins, harried execution, but ultimately a very good time. The books helped guide Seattle’s loyal imbibers through four days of neighborhood-based bar crawls, starting with a benefit event at Rob Roy and culminating in a Sunday night party at Barrio.

However some people were confused by the passports, expecting them to list drink specials or other specific events. That was a bit of a misconception, says Robison. “We just wanted to get something out there this year.” The strategy: enlist bars’ participation and let individual establishments chart their own course.

Our local bars responded with special drinks, events and general revelry. The guys report that Eastsiders were especially enthused; Bellevue’s Lot No. 3 had a record Friday, according to Robison, who oversees the program at Barrio’s sibling bar. To the west, Bottleneck Lounge’s Erin Nestor marshaled the drinking troops on Capitol Hill. Tan Vinh of the Seattle Times tweeted like mad throughout the weekend.

Now Minch, Robison and Friedman are hatching ideas for next year’s go-round.

The specifics of Seattle Cocktail Week 2012 will be discussed at upcoming Washington State Bartenders Guild meetings. One idea: hold it in the summer when the weather’s better. Or, says Friedman, stick to October and coordinate with other events, like restaurant week, for what he terms “one month of sensory overload.”

The wish list for next year includes more formalized events…and most likely an actual website.

While cocktail weeks in cities like Portland and San Francisco are more lavish affairs with major sponsorships, Robison describes them as “by industry, for industry.” Seattle’s is more homegrown, he says, and is aimed at the community.

Meanwhile, most bars distributed all of their passports. “It’s a good guide for good bars,” says Minch. “And they’ll still be there after cocktail week.

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