WRITTEN BY REBECCA TEAGARDEN
PHOTOGRAPHED BY KEN LAMBERT
Murray Stenson | Tending to trends and troubles
In the 28 years he's been setting them up at the bar, Murray Stenson's served cocktails in 60 or so of our local drinking emporiums, He was the longtime tender at Il Bistro, and now conjures cocktails at Zig Zag Cafe on the Pike Place Market Hillclimb. Most importantly, when you ask around about Stenson, universally you hear, “Oh, yeah, everybody knows Murray!”
The Chas Cocktail
By Murray Stenson
11/2 ounce bourbon
1/8 ounce amaretto
1/8 ounce Benedictine
1/8 ounce Cointreau
1/8 ounce orange curaçao
Stir with ice.
Strain into a martini glass.
Garnish with an orange twist.
In the 28 years he's been setting them up at the bar, Murray Stenson's served cocktails in 60 or so of our local drinking emporiums. He was the longtime tender at Il Bistro, and now conjures cocktails at Zig Zag Cafe on the Pike Place Market Hillclimb. Most importantly, when you ask around about Stenson, universally you hear, "Oh, yeah, everybody knows Murray!"
Q: The Zig Zag has a young clientele and a lot of smokers. You're 55. How's that?
A: We have a younger crowd earlier at night, but later we get a lot of 50- or 60-year-olds. Once or twice a year I'll get a piercing headache from the smoke, but other than that it doesn't bother me. I find smokers to be much more interesting people to be around. I don't smoke, and I'm actually a very boring person, but I live vicariously through other people.
Q: How in the heck do you become Seattle's "legendary bartender"?
A: A lot of people have done it to work their way through college, and I never worked my way through college. I kept working at the bar. I always enjoyed it, and it's been good to me.
A: Probably champagne. Just the good stuff. The bad stuff will give you an incredibly bad hangover.
Q: How have we, on the other side of the bar, changed?
A: People are drinking less, but drinking better.
Q: Do you just hate muddling all those mojitos?
A: I felt like a complete idiot, because I thought it was just a trend. A lot of bartenders complain about making mojitos, and I say, "You know, they had them in a James Bond movie, and as soon as it's in a James Bond movie the trend has peaked." But then I saw an article that said mojitos had been around since 1468, or something like that, in Cuba. So apparently it's a 500-year-old trend.
Q: What's your pet bartender peeve?
A: People being uncivil to each other or to wait staff. Unfortunately, I think there's a trend toward uncivility to each other. We're becoming a big city, and that's part of the problem of being a big city.
Q: Longest regular customer?
A: I've had two that I met in 1976. One of them is a gentleman named Al Noriega. In fact, he was in just the other night.
Q: Do people confess their sins to you?
A: That's one of the first things I learned as a bartender. Whatever a customer says to you must be considered like a confessional. You hear a lot of stuff about infidelity and money problems. Sometimes you think, gosh, I'm glad I'm not that person. It's made me slower to judge.
Q: What's your recommendation for a hangover cure?
A: Don't drink.
Q: Shaken or stirred?
A: Martinis and Manhattans should be stirred so the drink remains clear. If you have a juice drink, like a whiskey sour, it should be shaken. I'm eccentric in that vodka martinis I shake, and gin martinis I stir. Most vodka martini drinkers want something really cold; they're not so concerned with taste. Stirred gin martinis don't get the ice chips in there. Unfortunately, a lot of bartenders shake everything. I've seen shaken Manhattans presented to the customer with a head on it. I like a head on my beer, but not my Manhattan.
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