Brian Hibbard is Brimmer & Heeltap’s beloved Bar Manager. Funny, sweet, and ever-considerate, Brian brings a level of sincerity and warmth to our team that keeps regulars coming back time and again to sit at his bar. A Pacific Northwest native, he loves all things outdoors, making music, and is our resident Twin Peaks aficionado. Read on to learn more about his thoughts about bar industry trends, run-ins with local celebrities, and what inspired recent additions to our craft cocktail list.
* * * * *
What spirits and ingredients have you been most drawn to when crafting special cocktails lately?
BH: I love amaro; it was the category of booze that attached me to mixology. When a new (or new to me) amaro presents itself, I often use it in all experimentation to figure out how to use it best. Sfumato Rabarbaro, a smoky rhubarb amaro from the Italian Cappelletti family, is a perfect example. It was released in the US last year and, to no surprise, gained popularity quick and you can now find it almost everywhere. It’s smoky, earthy, with some notes of bitter berries and a lingering note of gentian on the finish. It’s a great sipper for the brave, or an essential amaro for the bitter cocktail explorer.
As far as ingredients go, I’m playing around with fresh juices, beet and carrot specifically, to add a fresh and somewhat healthy approach to drinking. I’m working with Chef Mike and our excellent sauté cook Ike on some delicious sodas for the Summer.
What is your go-to cocktail to make when you’re trying to impress someone?
BH: Some sort of riff on a Trinidad Sour, the genius who came up with using an unhealthy amount of Angostura bitters has changed every bartender's life. Seattleites seem to love it when you bust out some seasonal herbs, bonus points if you have them growing in the garden outside. Also fire.
What do you like to drink when you’re not working?
BH: A Negroni made with Punt e Mes is my number one dinner companion, lower ABV sour beer like a Berliner Weisse or Gose during the Summertime, or a Rainier tallboy with a mid-shelf rye whiskey for all occasions. And at home I drink Pamplemousse La Croix like every good hipster should.
What’s been one of your proudest moments as a bartender?
BH: Serving Ben Gibbard on many occasions in multiple restaurants without losing my cool and shouting that he’s my musical icon while pointing out that our last names are almost the same.
What's your favorite cocktail on our list currently? How did you come up with the concept for it?
BH: The Red Lodge is brand new to our list. It’s a mixture of Overproof Rye Whiskey, Campari, Amaro Meletti, Dry Vermouth, Peychaud’s Bitters, and Absinthe. It’s perfect, I think, for springtime. It’s a great sipper that calms more as it dilutes and still has some beautiful bitter qualities. We had a similar cocktail on the menu called Our New Pal, which was a play on a New Pal, which is a play on an Old Pal, so I thought I’d get out of the Pal naming and add my own twist.
As for the name origin, I’m a Twin Peaks believer and this is our nod to its greatness and forthcoming sequel season.
As someone who works closely with food/drinks/people what are you most inspired by?
BH: The kindness of strangers/acquaintances/friends. There’s a lot of shit going on in our world right now, and while it’s perfectly understandable to walk around with a cloud over our heads or to have little amounts of good to say, or to be skeptical of the future, those who trade all of that for public kindness, warmth and approachability, thank you. This is who I strive to be and why I do what I do. This attitude plays into every aspect of bartending, including celebrating with guests about the weekend, coming up with custom cocktails on the fly for the enthusiastic patron, or trying to think of a witty cocktail name to make someone chuckle and get beer to come out of their nose.
What cocktail or beer trends do you think we’ll be seeing more of in the coming months?
BH: More Rum, more tiki, more pineapple, more drinks that make you start empathizing with those who wear Tommy Bahama.