The Tiki Torch Burns Bright at Canlis

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James MacWilliams w torch.JPGFormer Belltown barman James MacWilliams, who used to dazzle late-night diners at Wann Izakaya, has moved to a far, far better bar atop Queen Anne: Canlis. And as Seattle's most venerated shrine of elegant dining celebrates its 60th anniversary, it fell to MacWilliams to research and resurrect the cocktail scene of the 1950s. Tiki drinks were particularly exotic; founder Peter Canlis was friends with "Trader Vic" Bergeron as well as the legendary Hawaiian mixologist known as Don the Beachcomber, so it was natural that the restaurant, in its earliest years, served them. They eventually faded from view (as did the kimono-clad waitresses) only to be revived now, modified slightly to suit current tastes for drinks that are less sweet. No extra charge for the fireworks, or the fancy garnishes.

This one's called "Yes sir, Mr. Canlis," a mixture of Gentleman Jack, pineapple, Pernod and Benedictine topped with a brûléed banana meringue. "Have a drink with us," a customer might say 50 years ago to Peter Canlis, no doubt assuming he'd have something simple like a rum and Coke. "My usual," Peter would signal. "Yes sir, Mr. Canlis," the waiter would say, and return ten minutes later with this elaborate cocktail. Tastes like a toasted marshmallow.

Bonal cocktail.JPGFor all that, Cornichon's personal taste turns to the Negroni and its various Campari cousins. Among them, the version at Canlis that features a newcomer to American's shores, Bonal. It's a century-old recipe that starts with mistelle (grape must whose fermentation is stopped by adding alcohol), infused with quinine and gentian and whatever else they find growing on the slopes of the Grande Chartreuse mountains of southeastern France.

Just remember: at Canlis, you cannot be overdressed.

Canlis, 2576 Aurora Ave N., 206.283.3313  Canlis on Urbanspoon

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This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on September 2, 2010 9:00 AM.

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