Behind Bars

5 (More) Questions for the Bartender: Anu Elford of Rob Roy

On ice, travel, and one unexplained interlude with a dude in a carrot costume.

By Greg Young February 1, 2016

Welcome to Five (More) Questions for the Bartender, where we check in with bartenders we interviewed back when the city's craft cocktail culture was finding its legs.

Anuapte cocktailsheadshot vzazdg

Photo curteousy of Dylan + Jeni

Anu Elford has been a significant figure in Seattle's bar and cocktail culture since there's been one—though for most of it she's been known as Anu Apte. Now, after running Belltown staple Rob Roy for years, Elford recently announced she's opening two new watering holes with her husband Chris Elford. In other words, things have changed since our last conversation with her in 2009

Here, five more questions for Anu Elford:

What’s different in bar culture since 2009?

One amazing thing that’s changed is the travel associated with it. I’ve traveled so much, which I did not think would be part of my job. I was just in Puerto Rico visiting rum distilleries. I’m a part of a group that sends me to camps, like Puerto Rico, and once they sent me to a bourbon camp in Kentucky four years ago, which is where I met my husband. I also get paid to do small consulting gigs in places like California, or guest bartending shifts is a big thing now. My first one was in 2008. Usually a friend of yours runs the bar you get to have your own special menu for the bar that night and you work. So yeah, travel. 

How did you decide on a career in cocktails?

I moved here to look at graduate programs at UW. I needed a job and started working at Cafe Minnie's on First and Denny (now closed). Everyone I worked with were all kinds of crazy humans who wanted to work in this divey, crazy place, and they embraced me like family. I started going out to other bars and met people at other restaurants and found this big network of people. I fell in love with it.

What's the ice program all about?

I had seen in national press and visiting bars in New York that there were bars doing these large format ice cubes and I thought that was so cool. So after doing little bit of research I learned about Japanese technique. A lot of bars in Japan still don’t use refrigeration, or freezers, so they buy their ice for the day and use it up. They would get a block of ice and chisel away and when that was gone it was gone there was no more ice. So in 2009 we started ordering 300 pound blocks of ice. Rob Roy was the first bar in Washington State to start an ice program now there are several bars that follow suit.

What Seattle artist would you make a drink after?

Ted Munat. He's a writer. He now lives in Spokane but was a Seattle resident for a long time.  The truth is I've already made a cocktail for him, TLTLC, Ted Loves the Ted Loves Chartreuse cocktail. That was years ago and now I'd like to make another drink in his honor. Miner of Hedges. I'm not sure what will go into it yet but it will probably change with the seasons and get more complex as time goes on.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen?

We had a guy dressed up as a carrot come in and sat down at the bar, acted like nothing was happening. He was sulking, just drinking his whiskey, and I think he had a beer also. If he was joking and having a good time with other guests then we would have asked him about the costume, but he just sat there in a carrot costume. He had one round, paid his tab, and left. We got no answers.

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