Where do I start?
Is it enough that I refer to this bar as my University? I haven't been to class in a while, but I never fail to learn something whenever I visit... a new drink, a cocktail book, an obscure flavoring of some sort, a methodology...
Or, even, my Temple Step down the Pike Place stair-walk and that yellow awning greets you, candlelights backlighting the bar, the crowd of regulars and fellow bartenders and cocktail/spirit enthusiasts hunched on the bar... When I walk in an awe-inspired hush moves through me, all those bottles winking and grinning. Setting my hands on that bar with my back slightly hunched even becomes a sort of half-bow...
...It is my perfect bar. There! I said it. I'm not the only who feels that way, of course. Anyone who owns a cocktail blog and has visited has gushed over it: Robert at Drinkboy, Paul at Cocktail Chronicles, Cameron and Anita at Married with Dinner...several others, and now that collective of unabashed enthusiasts include me.
It starts, of course, with the bartenders. Murray Stenson, has been written about extensively, here, here, and here, to name a few without even including the aforementioned blogs. He is one of the most efficient bartenders I've seen, his technique exact and fluid. His memory is jaw-dropping, his encyclopedic knowledge of cocktails and spirits legendary. All of that comes with an inspiring level of service and an eagerness to share his craft. If anything, the accolades fall far short of the experience.
Most other bartenders (including yours truly) would be lessened in comparison, but Kacy Fitch and Ben Daugherty are most definitely not just 'other bartenders'. They don't get as much press, which is a shame; they are equally skilled, equally knowledgeable, equally a joy to talk to and laugh with.
They are collectively the three best bartenders in the city. How many places can boast that!
Then there's the ambience. Those three could sling drinks out of the back of an ice-cream truck and I'd still go, but the Zig Zag has a unique feel and a pitch-perfect setting. There is a patio ringed with potted plants, intimate tables, circular booths, a standing bar plus a dozen highly-prized bar stools... in short, every conceivable seating request. Behind the bar is the largest well I've ever seen, a staggering collection of booze lovingly lit by candles, and a library of old cocktail books quietly awaiting discovery.
Finally, it is located off the beaten path, lending a type of in-the-know speakeasy element, just shy of a city-wide secret. Borrowing some of that historic, turn-of-the-century vibe doesn't hurt either...it feels like it's been a treasured part of the city forever.
If you're coming to Seattle, it simply has to be on your itinerary. Kacy, Ben and Murray deserve to be among the wealthiest and most universally acclaimed bartenders in America, and you deserve to experience their legendary cocktails and standard-bearing service.
I raise my glass to you gentlemen.
Thank you for making me a better bartender. And thank you for the Zig Zag Cafe.