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Originally published July 25, 2010 at 2:39 PM | Page modified July 27, 2010 at 12:27 PM

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Corrected version

Bartender at Seattle's Zig Zag Café named best in America

Murray Stenson of Zig Zag Café in Seattle was named "Best Bartender in America" by his peers Saturday night at the Tales of the Cocktail festival, one of the highest honors in the industry.

Seattle Times staff reporter

NEW ORLEANS — Murray Stenson of Zig Zag Café in Seattle was named "Best Bartender in America" by his peers Saturday night at the Tales of the Cocktail festival, one of the highest honors in the industry.

Tales is arguably the world's largest festival focusing on spirits and the history and craft of cocktails. The event in New Orleans drew many of the top mixologists and drink historians from around the world.

While cocktails have seen a resurgence in recent years, Stenson has crafted sophisticated and classic cocktails for decades.

Stenson has been credited with inspiring hundreds of bartenders over the years. Some have come from as far as San Francisco and New York City to Zig Zag to sit at the bar and watch Stenson work.

Stenson, who was not at the festival, said of the honor, "too many more deserving bartenders out there. Better palates, more efficient, more likable personalities and easier to work with. I'd like to think it was a vote for just showing up to work day in, day out for weeks, years and decades. Or maybe the whole thing is a beauty contest?"

"To see his talents get recognized in this way is just further proof of his unique skill and personality," said Robert Hess, of Lake Forest Park, a cocktail historian and a judge for the contest. "Seattle is lucky to have such a treasure behind the bar. ... Not only is he the embodiment of true hospitality and service, but he dazzles us all with great drinks as well."

Another of the judges, David Wondrich, a leading cocktail historian and drink writer for Esquire magazine, said Stenson is mostly responsible for the emerging Northwest craft cocktail.

"It's long overdue," Wondrich said. "He should be knighted, but this will have to do."

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or tvinh@seattletimes.com

Information in this article, originally published July 25, 2010, was corrected July 26, 2010. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated how long Murray Stenson has worked at Zig Zag Café. He has crafted cocktails in Seattle for decades.

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