Wednesday, June 23, 2010

On the Road: Vessel, Seattle, WA

On my first business trip to Seattle, I wasn't able to stay in the city because I had an early business meeting just outside the city in Renton the following morning.  I did, however, make it in for dinner with my sales rep and we enjoyed some sushi at a restaurant that I've forgotten.  It was pretty good "American" sushi, with flavorful rolls and such.  Since then, I've been back to Seattle a few times and on the last two trips I've stayed right in the city so that I could be in close proximity to a new customer I developed over the past few years.

Staying in the city meant having a little more freedom when it came to food and drink as Seattle is pretty easily to navigate by foot.  The first time I stayed in the city, I arrived around 2pm and checked in at my hotel and then walked around and did the tourist thing since my appointments weren't until the following morning.  After a long walk to the Space Needle and back, I decided to search Chowhound to find a place for happy hour.  It was there that I learned of Vessel, a recommended bar for happy hour that served a wide array of bourbons.  SOLD!  It was also a block away from my hotel! 

 Bartender Jim is master of his domain

I found a seat at the bar and was greeted by the bartender, Jim, who offered me a menu to look through while he made a few drinks for some other patrons.  We talked bourbon for a bit and I learned that this dude was a serious bartender, one who really appreciates his craft and has absorbed an insane amount of information to dispense to those like me who love drinking spirits.  It was tough keeping my eyes fixated on the menu because Jim was mixing up some drinks that looked crazy good!  There was the Bootleg Fizz, a traditional gin fizz made with gin, egg white, simple syrup, lemon juice, and soda, all frothed up with a hand mixer.  The Vessel 75, a concoction of bourbon, peychaud's bitters, simple syrup, orange zest, and maple syrup foam, was a favorite on my latest visit.  Then there was quite possibly the best looking Mint Julep I'd ever seen - a pile of crushed ice in a silver cup with a sprig of mint strategically placed next to the straw to charm the olfactory senses with each sip.

Vessel 75

 Bootleg Fizz

I remember on my first visit starting with a traditional Manhattan that was on the happy hour menu and it was perfect.  I decided to ditch the cocktails and go with a bourbon, choosing Blanton's to get me going.  Jim returned with my Blanton's on the rocks as requested, or should I say, rock.  This was the first time I'd ever had a bourbon served with a ball of ice rather than cubed ice.  Jim informed me that the ball of ice melted much slower than cubes so the bourbon could be enjoyed cold without becoming watered down too fast.

 Straight Ballin'

In addition to a spirits and cocktails menu, Vessel also has another menu that contains rare spirits.  On my first visit, I enjoyed an Eagle Rare 17yr bourbon that is part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection and also on that earned Bourbon of the Month earlier this year.  On my last visit, I tried a Willet 16yr bourbon, a brand I'd never heard of but enjoyed.  After that, Jim (who was tending bar on both of my visits) brought out an old looking bottle.  It's label read "Special Old Reserve" and Jim told me to look at the dates printed on the neck.  They read, "Made 1917.  Bottled 1933".  Yup, this was a 77 year old bourbon, 93 years since it had been barreled!!  Naturally, I had to give it a try but it was a little on the pricey side so I opted for a 1oz pour.  At 77 years since bottling, my suspicions were confirmed when I found this bourbon to be pretty sweet, almost like a port wine, lacking a strong alcohol burn.  The alcohol had most likely burned off a little bit over the years.  Still, it was pretty cool to drink a bourbon that had been around since before prohibition.

Pre-Prohibition Bourbon

In addition to all of the brews and spirits, Vessel has a pretty good looking menu of small plates.  I've yet to eat there though.  On my first visit, I told Jim I was looking for a good Japanese restaurant and he recommended Tsukushinbo.  I had one of the best Japanese meals I've ever had there and have gone back on every trip since.  More on that someday when I stop procrastinating.  In the meantime, take my advice and visit Vessel next time you're in Seattle.

No comments: