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Galloway’s bartender Chris Cheesman learned the trade in his hometown Bellingham, then spent several years refining his cocktail skills in Ballard before returning.

 

How did you learn to make drinks?
I started as a banquet bartender at Hotel Bellwether. Picture 300 people all lining up at the bar after a wedding at once. It was a great place for a “baby bartender” because I poured a lot of well drinks and learned how to do it quickly.

What is your favorite drink to make?
Oh, margaritas because they are quick and easy. But I also love to make a Corpse Reviver No. 2 (a classic “hair-of-the-dog” cocktail of gin, wine, and orange and absinthe liqueurs). It is a lot of building, but definitely worth the work.

What is your advice to a cocktail novice when ordering?
I’d recommended ordering something like a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned. Those are both drinks that have been around forever, yet they are still popular because they can be tailored. When ordering, you can pick your bourbon, or even rye, to fit your taste. It can also be nice to add a simple syrup to bring up the flavor.

How do you think of new recipes?
A lot of ideas come from the patrons who come into Galloway’s. People visit the bar and they are in the mood for something in particular. I’ve had people sit down and say, “I’m in the mood for something bubbly” or “I’m feeling fruity,” and our bartenders can usually create something that satisfies. Nothing is set in stone, [recipes] are an ongoing experiment.

-Kate Galambos

Galloway’s Cocktail Bar
1200 10th St., Fairhaven
360.756.2795 | gallowayscocktail.bar

Meet Mike Rothmeyer, history buff for all things cocktail and experienced bartending consultant for both The Union Tavern and Corner Pub in Bow.

How did you get into bartending?
As a high school dropout in 1989, it was out of necessity. I was working at a Japanese restaurant in Huntington Beach, Calif. and the bartending position was the best—they had the most fun, made the most tips. When a shift would become available I’d volunteer. It was mostly on-the-job training and a lot of mentorship from seasoned bartenders.

What do you enjoy most about bartending?
People and hospitality. If that’s not your foundation for love of the business, then it’s going to show. It’s hard to fake that.

What are some of the challenges you encounter when helping bars develop their cocktail programs?
Every bartender has baggage—bad habits, cutting corners, “This is the way I was taught,” or “I always shook my Manhattans.” I draw the line on shaking things you’re not supposed to shake or stirring things you’re not supposed to stir. The things I never bend on are quality spirits, a properly trained staff, and properly poured drinks.

What’s your go-to, off-duty drink?
Boulevardier. It’s basically a Negroni with bourbon instead of gin. Most recipes are one part bourbon, one part sweet vermouth, one part Campari, but I tend to do a 2-1-1 ratio. It’s a little stronger.

-Catherine Torres

The Union Tavern
902 Commercial Ave., Anacortes
360.873.8245 | theuniontavern-local902.com
Corner Pub
14565 Allen West Rd., Bow
360.293.8411

Sanjaya Malakar, previous “American Idol” celebrity turned mixologist at The Barnacle, Eastsound, Orcas Island.

How did you get into bartending?
I was a singer for about 10 years. I moved to New York to pursue that and needed a job. A friend said, “Hey, can you watch my bar real quick?” I’d never been behind a bar before. He thought I’d figure it out. I quickly realized years of performance had prepared me to improv and just make it happen.

What do you feel is your responsibility as the bartender?
Creating an experience you won’t get anywhere else. Making it the kind of situation where, if you want that drink again, you have to come here.

I heard you were into tinctures? Tell me more.
My dad is from India and my mom is Italian, so every meal was a production. When I got here and found out I had some creative freedom, I said, “Hey, what about making our own bitters?” I brought my whole spice rack and just made tinctures out of everything.

How often do you get to play with your tinctures?
It depends on the night. Sometimes I have a little more time and freedom with people. If I have a good idea of what they want, then I’ll add a little change. For instance, I’ll use Cynar instead of Campari in a Negroni, and I’ll add my homemade morel tincture to it and it’s a little more earthy and smoky.

What’s next for you?
I’m working on bull kelp infused vodka! I have a lot of ideas.

-Sarah Sibley

The Barnacle
249 Prune Alley, Eastsound, Orcas Island
360.622.2675

Mariah Butenschoen co-owns Everson’s Probably Shouldn’t Distillery with husband Shawn. They bucked convention when they opened their unusually named business, says Mariah.

Where did the name come from?
Well, it’s kind of become our mantra: Everyone along the way has told us we probably shouldn’t do what we’ve done. Start a blueberry farm in Whatcom, you probably shouldn’t do that. Becoming certified organic is too expensive and people don’t really care, you probably shouldn’t do that. Our U-pick blueberry sales doubled the next year. Start a distillery, you probably shouldn’t do that. It’s what we’ve been told all along the way and also a little bit of a nod to that last drink before bed you stay up late to have and probably shouldn’t.

What is your background?
I am an English teacher at Lynden High School, and Shawn has his background as a heavy machine mechanic.

What kind of still do you use?
There are a few people who make stills to produce liquor, but they all cost thousands of dollars. Shawn and his brother built ours from scratch. With a lot of research and his background in machinery, it took them about 100 hours total to build.

What has been the biggest challenge?
The licensing process was quite a challenge and there was a lot we had to educate ourselves on. The process took about three years and it requires a lot of hoops to jump through.

What do you like to make?
Our Old Tom Gin is one of our newest spirits, so we have been using that a lot recently. It makes a great martini. Our apple and blueberry brandy also mix incredibly well into lemonade.

-Joshua DeJong

Probably Shouldn’t Distillery
3595 Breckenridge Rd., Everson
360.410.1632 | probablyshouldntdistillery.com

To continue reading our feature on Spirits, click here!

"'Creating an experience you won’t get anywhere else.' - Sanjaya Malakar"