Behind Bars

5 Questions for the Bartender: Hideki Anpo of Goldfinch Tavern

On the charms of Japanese whiskey and...even blue curaçao.

By Greg Young October 2, 2015

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Hideki at work , adding bitters to his concoction. 

Beyond the lobby at the Four Seasons hotel lies Goldfinch Tavern—180 seats, a view looking out to the waterfront, fire crackling amidst tables and booths, dim lights giving off a romantic ambiance, and Hideki Anpo behind the bar. Formerly a bartender at Poppy, his move to Goldfinch reunites Anpo with fellow Poppy alum Joe Ritchie, whom Ethan Stowell tapped to be the head chef when he opened Goldfinch earlier this year.  

Here are five questions for Hideki Anpo.

What kind of drinks do you typically make over at Goldfinch?

It’s been so eclectic. One of our cocktails, the American goldfinch, has been really popular. It’s a great, clean kind of a riff off a vesper. It’s nice for people who like the standard martini that won’t venture off a little bit. We get a lot of people who know exactly what they want, and they just want their standard martini with the blue cheese. I feel it’s a big hotel thing. I worked at a hotel bar about 10 years ago and that was much more just standard cosmos and martinis, We’re getting a lot more whiskey drinks and a lot more manhattans and old fashioneds than I used to make. It might be because it’s an Ethan Stowell restaurant; The food industry and the drink industry can be so trendy, but I think this resurgence of the classic cocktails and classic whiskey drinks and bourbon selections are here to stay for a long time.

You worked with Joe Ritchie back at Poppy; did the chance to work with him again play a role in your decision to move to Goldfinch? 

There’s a lot of things that drew me here but he was a big part of it. I know that his food is solid, as a bartender that makes my job easier, I can focus on my drinks and my service to the guest. If I recommend a dish, or a guest orders something without me recommending it, I know it’s going to be spot on and delicious. It’s not just his food but his demeanor in the kitchen, too. When a server gets triple sat [aka three tables arrive in one server's section at once] and three tickets come in at once, it can stress them out. So it’s important for a head chef like Joe to be really on top of his game and helping out and controlling that flow too. 

I don’t anything about spirits. What would you make me?

 I love old fashioneds because you can pick a base spirit; a simple old fashioned is sugar, bitters, and orange slice so those other ingredients kind of smooth each other out, but the booze still shines. One of my favorites is a Japanese single malt old fashioned. They’re lighter, not super smoky, they’re great for people who don’t drink a lot of scotch.

If there’s a Seattle artist that would inspire you to create a new cocktail, who would it be and what would you make?

It’s easy for people to get too pretentious or too nerdy about drinks and one thing that falls into that category is blue drinks, like a blue curaçao. It’s known as not being of good quality. And I love Jimi Hendrix. So for me I would think of Jimi Hendrix and I would want to come up with a drink called Purple Haze, and just make a blue drink, but make it cool and good, and I don’t know what it would be yet, but that’s what I was thinking. Just to push the envelope and make a blue drink. Though I’m sure if you did a Google search there are already plenty of drinks called Purple Haze.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen? 

My first bartending job I was working on Lake Washington on a dinner cruise, and we had a high profile guest, no names mentioned. He needed to bring his bed, a full-on king size bed, and we had to put it upstairs. It was really difficult to do. His cruise was only a few hours, but sure enough, he was up there. I had to bartend downstairs; there was no upstairs bar, he didn’t want a bartender up there, but people were up there said he was lounging on his bed, having a good time. 

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