It is 6:30pm on a summer Thursday, and I am watching a group of five people, who appear to be a wedding party, pose with shots of Hornitos tequila and wedges of lime. A woman in a palm-leaf printed dress and denim jacket takes their picture with her phone. They knock back the shots, each in a tiny red Solo cup, then walk away in Sea-Tac Airport's Concourse B in the direction of either a Starbucks or a Sbarro.
I am at Shot Bar, a walk-up window which opened this March at Sea-Tac’s perplexingly apostrophed Rel’Lish Burger Lounge. The idea is that, with preflight and inflight libations limited because of Covid restrictions, you can still get efficiently buzzed before departure. Shot Bar consists of a counter, a protective plexiglass window, a sink filled with ice and liquor, a few small plants, and a melange of Solo cup decorations. There are shot-size Solo cups with string lights tucked into their bottoms and comically large Solo cups, a sort of bro-y sibling to oversize wine glasses.
I approach the window and wait. No one is behind the register. The palm-leaf dress woman, alone at a table, smiles and watches. People sit around me at Rel’Lish’s tables. The menu on the screen behind the counter implores me to “Order - Pay - Shoot Shot - Fly Off.” My embarrassment mounts. I realize that to promptly order, pay, shoot shot, and fly off sounds almost fun—a jaunty bit of pre-vacation hedonism. But I am not doing anything so terse and imperative. I am a man blankly waiting in an airport for a shot of Hornitos, or Jack Daniel’s, or Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey, or Fireball, or Heritage BSB, or Crown Apple, or, if I am so inclined, Ketel One Botanical Cucumber and Mint. A single shot runs $7, a double $10.
Eventually an employee appears. I order a BSB because I’ve never tried it and it doesn’t sound frightening. The employee asks if that’s a double. I say yes. He says, “Might as well, right?” He sets the little cup on a napkin, fills it to the top, and I pay.
Shot Bar is directly beside a door to Rel’Lish’s kitchen and as I situate myself to shoot shot, a cook erupts from behind the swinging stainless steel door, and the wedding party is back now, crowding around me to get to the counter for a second round of tequilas. I—vaccinated, but not quite acclimated to non-distanced living—dodge to the side with my tiny and outrageously full cup, hover above a garbage can fearing I might spill, lower my mask, and in what feels like a minor triumph finally shoot shot. It reminds me of Quaker Oats's brown sugar oatmeal packs, with whiskey.
I flick my cup into the trash and suddenly my experience with Shot Bar has ended. I’m now delicately buzzed and standing in an airport. I go to Starbucks to use a gift card that’s been in my wallet forever. I wait in an interminable line for a microwaved egg and sausage sandwich. Then I take a flight that ends with a small child covered head to toe in his own vomit being walked off the plane by his mom—“I got a puke kid coming through”—and I sense that, in spirit, Shot Bar fits quite well with the experience of air travel.