Murray Stenson is arguably America's greatest bartender. The man is a legend not only in Seattle, where he mans the bar at Zig Zag Café, but across the country. While the classic cocktail movement has gained in popularity and attention over the past few years, Murray has been making classic drinks for decades - and everyone has been ripping them off.
Why should people in Houston worry about some bartender on the other side of the country? For one reason, because Murray has become a nationwide source for revitalizing lost classic cocktails. Seattle bartenders refer to Zig Zag as the "university," and nearly every classically minded bartender in the Pacific Northwest follows his lead in terms of service and attitude toward other bars.
There is a rumor that when classic cocktail bar The Teardrop Lounge opened in Portland, owner Daniel Shoemaker paid for each of his bartenders to drive to Seattle and sit in front of Murray. Sure, Murray makes great drinks, but it is the way that he treats people and other bartenders that is most influential. Cocktail bars around the country regularly receive handwritten notes, passed on by Murray's vacationing Seattle regulars.
As Houston's cocktail community develops, it is important to acknowledge that the classic cocktail movement continues to grow because of a cooperative relationship among bars and enthusiasts. Each of us can play a small part in this movement. Readers might make drinks for friends occasionally instead of serving wine. Bartenders around the city should engage in more cocktail events and recommend guests visit other bars with similar ideology.
When you discover a great cocktail at a bar or restaurant, share your positive experiences with others. There are amazing cocktails being made across our city nowadays, but some of the "newest" and most exciting cocktails are actually extremely old classics -- like the Last Word.
The recipe, after the jump.
The Last Word
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wedge (optional).
This cocktail is an amazing drink, but it would have remained a footnote in a once-forgotten cocktail book if Murray had not brought it to everyone's attention. Murray is simply one example of the great bartenders across the country who have built this movement from behind a bar. It would be nice for Houston to follow their lead. After all, we're all serving their drinks alongside our own.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.