Co-owners Jim Romdall and Clark Niemeyer found a new spot for their trend-setting craft cocktail bar, a year and a half after the previous incarnation had to close due to lease issues. Seattle's cocktail climate has changed since Vessel first opened in 2006. "We were fighting to change the public's mind," Romdall says, describing that oh-so-long-ago time when $10 cocktails caused gasps and the best bars were known for their excellent rum and Cokes. "We won," he points out, referring to the myriad of places in town where you can now get drinks of the quality that once only Vessel served.
Nobody's resting on trend-setting laurels, though, as the new Vessel has big ideas to roll out. There's no set menu, because there's no set bartender. Twenty-five bartenders rotate through once a month, bringing with them their own set of specialties.
To assist them, there's "The Lab," a street-visible area near the kitchen, which houses a Clinebell Ice Block Maker, which produces 300-pound crystal-clear blocks of ice, as well as ice-breaking tools, including a chainsaw, a bandsaw, and a giant hook. Other parts of the lab are dedicated to making ingredients for each of the bartenders: a world of syrups, tinctures, infusions, foams and "any other crazy whimsies," says Romdall.
Romdall admits that it's a struggle to keep the rotating bartender schedule organized, but he's okay with that in order to offer something that no other bar has. Their also expanding their food program (including serving lunch), and making tap beer available for those not in the mood for a cocktail. "We want to be a fun bar," Romdall said of their attempt to be more well-rounded, "but it's still the same people and same philosophy: to serve good drinks."
About the author: Naomi Bishop is a Seattle based food writer and marketer. Find more of her musings on her food blog, TheGastroGnome, where she claims that being a GastroGnome is not about sitting idly on the front lawn of culinary cottages. You can also follow her explorations of cooking and culture around the world at @GastroGnome.
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