Tuesday 10 January 2012

Review: The Hideout

My lady and I made a trip to Seattle in November for the horror exhibit at the EMP (which was amazing), some vintage clothes shopping, some good food and theater, cheap booze (notably Martin Miller's gin, American rye, Carpano Antica, and a beautiful liqueur de violettes), and of course, some cocktails. I knew I had to visit the Zig Zag Cafe because of Murray Stenson's legacy there and the award-winning cocktail menu, but our other night was a wildcard. So, I used Yelp to find the best reviewed bars anywhere near our location in Seattle, as well as Jamie Boudreau's list of Seattle watering holes, and came up with a short list. We checked out websites, cocktail menus where applicable, and of course, pictures. We ultimately decided on The Hideout based mostly on the look and the general description on their website.

Walking into the Hideout we were immediately excited to see a bar with a very different look than what you usually see. The ceilings were sky-high, the lighting was dark, the mood very casual, and the walls were completely covered in local artwork. According to their site, there are over 70 paintings on the walls, staying for weeks to years, and most of the pieces are for sale.
This art continued in some really interesting ways: there is a vending machine near the washroom that sells only small, quirky art pieces, and there is a book on the bar filled with impromptu drawings and writings done by patrons. (I say vending machine, but it's actually a self-proclaimed robot - the Robotic Art Dispenser named Earl 3.0).
While all of this could impart an heir of pretension and hipster-ism, we didn't get that feeling once we sat down for our drinks. The bartenders were very friendly and skilled, and flipping through the art journal we got a good couple hours of entertainment before reaching our unfortunate alcoholic limit.

While the food menu is very limited, the cocktail menu is excellent. The selection of spirits is large and diverse, and the cocktails are modern but not over-complicated with some really interesting ideas. It includes a new classic, the Trident, and an obscure classic from the Savoy Cocktail Book, the Champs Elysees. On top of this they have the following selections that I feel really show how great this bar is:

The Andy Warhol
A Cosmopolitan and a polaroid picture of yourself
(and there was a collection of these pictures for viewing at the bar)

The Hemmingway
A shot of Hornitos, bottle of Carta Blanca, and a Nat Sherman cigarette

Every drink on the menu looked great, and the last drink we tried seemed like a combination you'd only come up with by being really creative, or really crazy (probably both): The Profanity Hill with Blackstrap rum, Fernet Branca, blackberry preserves, and Gosling's ginger beer. This is one of a very small handful of Fernet cocktails that I don't feel are overpowered by the extremely potent Fernet flavours.
We had the pleasure of being served by the lovely and talented bar manager, Kristen, who actually came up with the Profanity Hill cocktail, as well as one I'm going to share below, the Swan. She was very friendly, made some excellent drinks, and was happy to give me the below recipe, which has become a regular addition to my home menu.

All in all, we didn't really have anything negative to say about our experience at the Hideout, other than our disappointment we couldn't drink more (after drinking too much the night before). Great menu, great bartenders, unique decor, and interesting art in all directions. I highly recommend you stop by if you find yourself in Seattle - but for drinks, not for food, as that's just not their thing.
(Their website doesn't seem to have their cocktail menu for you to peruse yourself, but I'm hoping they'll change that soon! If I was deciding on where to go for drinks, their menu would definitely keep them at the top of my list)

The Swan Cocktail
(not to be confused with another couple cocktails online with the same name that feature either very different proportions with Abbott's bitters, or *shudder* stawberry vodka, stawberry liqueur, and creme liqueur. Did I say *shudder* already?)
1&1/2 oz gin
1&1/2 oz dry vermouth
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes absinthe
Combine all ingredients, add ice and shake, strain into a cocktail glass. 

This is a very well balanced cocktail that very interestingly uses a whole 1 and 1/2 oz of dry vermouth - but don't let that scare you if you don't like vermouth. It doesn't taste vermouth heavy at all, but the herbal notes are still present and play well with the gin and absinthe. This is definitely one you must make for anyone who says "I hate vermouth!"
For gin, Kristen used Gordon's. This confused me because Gordon's in my opinion is really not a good gin at all, but perhaps this is a Seattle thing as the bartenders at Zig Zag were using it as well, even on more delicate cocktails. I suggest using something with more interesting herbal character, like Tanqueray, or Hendrick's or Martin Miller's if you have them.

Enjoy! Thanks to Kristen for her skill and hospitality, and thanks to the Hideout for being a great bar.

[[ Check out "Profanity Hill" cocktail here ]]

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