I’ve recently found myself in several after-shift banters with fellow bartenders on the rising popularity of what many consider to be “overrated” cocktails — mojitos, lemon drops, long island iced teas. But the drink that seems to roll the most eyes behind any bar is — you guessed it — the Moscow Mule. Now, I’m the bartender that’ll gladly make you whatever you’re in the mood for, including a Moscow Mule (just remember that copper mugs are not like soap at a hotel and should never end up in your bag on the way out of the bar). I actually enjoy a good Mule on a patio in the peak of summer (typically subbing bourbon or Mezcal with a little cardamom bitters). It’s a classic for a reason. But like many classics, it has become the Pad Thai noodles of the beverage world. It’s the hoodie in everyone’s leather jacket: comfortable and constant.
I know every new cocktail on a list is just a variation of an old recipe, but it’s a variation nonetheless. I think the current Mule-mêlée is a tad overblown. Bartenders aren’t smirking at your order as much as their curled mustaches may suggest; they just want you to try something new. They want to introduce you to your new favorite drink — your new Mule.
So, what are some drinks that have slipped under the radar? I asked some of my favorite Seattle mixologists about the covert cocktails you could be missing out on. Brian Hibbard is the bar manager at Brimmer and Heeltap and has also been seen behind the rail at Seattle’s Oliver’s Twist, Artusi and Local 360. You may also catch him outside of Brimmer picking fruit from quince trees for a quince shrub cocktail he’s developing for a new fall-drink list.
“One of my favorite drinks I think is incredibly overlooked is the Deshler (see recipe below). It’s a pre-prohibition drink that was named after this guy Dave Deshler, who was a boxer. It was originally rye, Dubonnet rouge, and then Peychaud’s and a couple dashes of Cointreau. There have been a couple recipes that have come out of that that people have been playing around with. The most prominent one uses almost a quarter-ounce Cointreau and then dials back the Dubonnet a little bit.
I think the Cointreau and Peychaud’s in here make it like the sexiest kind of Manhattan… ever.
“Dubonnet is really kind of a bitey-sweet vermouth. So it’s kind of similar to Punt e Mes — which I use since I don’t have Dubonnet [at Brimmer and Heeltap]. It’s pretty close to a Manhattan. It’s refreshing — especially if you have customers that are like ‘I want for you to make me something,’ and they’re like ‘I really love Manhattans.’ And this is one option to get close enough. I think Manhattans are just really sweet. I don’t feel like it has a lot of dimension, typically. I think the Cointreau and Peychaud’s in here make it like the sexiest kind of Manhattan… ever.”
Stir ingredients and serve up with an orange peel.
Chris Peterson is one of the bar managers at Percy’s & Co. on the main drag of Ballard Ave. and spends a lot of his time in Percy’s cellar dialing in their countless house infusions.
“The 80’s really kind of screwed everything up. They started taking cocktails and basically just putting a bunch of ingredients together that takes away a lot of the nuance that classics had. We’re just coming out of this rut now, in the last decade, where cocktails are actually starting to become really good again. But my favorite cocktails to make are my own cocktails. Part of the reason I love to bartend is the creativity. It’s like cooking.... You know what ingredients go well together and how much portion to use of each ingredient to make a good cocktail.
The 80’s really kind of screwed everything up. They started taking cocktails and basically just putting a bunch of ingredients together that takes away a lot of the nuance that classics had.
“If I’m going for a fall cocktail, I’ve been working on this one recently that’s super delicious. I don’t have a name for it. I don’t have a name for a lot of my cocktails. I have a little black bible book that I write all my recipes in. I need to start naming some of them. Why don’t we call this one ‘Good Rittens’ (see recipe below) since it features Rittenhouse as the base?”
Peterson’s Good Rittens
Stir ingredients and serve on-the-rocks with an orange peel.
Be sure to stop in to Brimmer and Heeltap to ask Hibbard for his take on a Deshler (or if you can’t remember the name, just inquire about the sexiest Manhattan ever). And, stop by Percy’s & Co. to try Peterson’s fall-forward Good Rittens or any of his other delicious “no-name” cocktails.
James Germain is a graduate from the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs with a degree in English literature. He’s written for CultureMob and Vinyl District in Seattle and has been bartending and playing music for over 10 years. He’s currently the bar manager at Bitterroot in Ballard and enjoys listening to old jazz tunes at home and behind the bar.More stories by James Germain