Behind Bars

Cocktail in Profile: Radiator Whiskey’s the Water Line

Lift your spirits before a market stroll, or a trip to the intersection-adjacent gentleman’s club.

By Stefan Milne July 14, 2016

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Image: Stefan Milne

The Water Line, a favorite cocktail creation of Radiator Whiskey’s manager Sara Rosales, combines two things Seattle bars love: barrel aging and aquavit. 

Rosales even named the Water Line by translating its star spirit: Aquavit Linie—aquavit meaning “water of life” and linie meaning “line.” The caraway-forward Norwegian liquor is aged in sherry casks and sailed across the equator line. Rosales likes it because it's a little more approachable than other, rougher aquavits. 

But Linie’s sherry barrel is only one of three barrels the Water Line commingles with in its journey glassward. Rosales mixes Aquavit Linie with Templeton Rye—itself aged four years in oak—the dominant flavor of each spirit acting as classic complement, caraway and rye.

Cynar, a trickle of Cointreau, and orange and black walnut bitters complete the drink. Then the Water Line enters its last cask, a retired single-malt barrel that Westland Distillery gave to Radiator. That barrel’s flavors were Rosales's inspiration for the Water Line. For at least four months, the casked cocktail sits in the bar’s corner, maturing. 

Radiator also keeps an unaged version on its menu. In the young drink, there’s an assertive pull between untamed rye—astringent, spicy—and the sweetness and citrus.

But aging rounds the flavors, and deepens them, the way a good stew melds after a few days’ rest. The color darkens. Vanilla notes occur. Anything dissonant, anything aggressive, is soothed. The older drink sips dangerously easy. There is a new maturity. Kind of like barrel-aged cocktails’ own progression from trend to crafted mainstay in Seattle bars.

Radiator opened its current cask this week, and its contents, enough for a about hundred cocktails, should last through the weekend.

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