craft cocktails

Brimmer & Heeltap Q & A with Bar Manager Brian Hibbard

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.

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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.

Brimmer & Heeltap Team Member Q&A with Bartender Kate Mcmahon

Kate Mcmahon has been on the Brimmer & Heeltap team as a bartender and server since last spring. Originally from New England, Kate loves the beautiful Pacific Northwest and stays active outdoors with friends and her pup Maggie. She’s also very fond of drinking beers at local breweries and honing her tiki drink-making skills behind the bar. She’s got a knack for soccer, knowing where to find all of the best dive bars, and making genuine connections with her guests. Always laughing and up for an adventure, Kate is a wonderfully kind, big-hearted, and talented member of the Brimmer & Heeltap team. You can learn a little bit more about her in this Q&A.

What is your go-to cocktail to make when you’re trying to impress someone?

KM: Hmm…When I want to impress a bar patron, I usually just pour a good whiskey…but with LOTS of flair.

What spirits and ingredients have you been most drawn to when crafting special cocktails lately?

KM: We've been into making our own ingredients for the bar from shrubbery to Worcestershire sauce for bloodies to Cynar falernum. Hopefully guests appreciate all of the thought and effort that goes into that. If that doesn't do it, I resort to lighting things on fire. 

What is your favorite part about making tiki drinks? How did you first get into/inspired by tiki-style drinks?

KM: Tiki drinks?! I don't like tiki drinks, who told you that?! I think it was me trying to escape winter somehow and imagining myself on a tropical beach somewhere, anywhere, sipping island booze and feeling so relaxed - and wanting others to feel that way when they drink tiki vibes. That's why tiki bars were first invented, to transcend. It's better than nothing, right?

Where are some of your favorite watering holes around Seattle?

KM: Grizzled Wizard in Wallingford, Pacific Inn in Fremont, Duck Island Ale House in Green Lake, Essex (is that still Ballard?) and the Independent Beer Bar in....Everett. 

What differences have you noticed about Seattle vs. Boston bar culture?

KM: Boston drinks more! I don't think Boston is really into Duck Farts (I think they originated in Alaska and didn't catch on out there) or Touchdowns - cocktails that is. Millennials really seem to like Touchdowns, and Trash Cans. Kill me. 

Kate also says that “It's inspiring how many breweries and distilleries exist these days...obviously if they're putting out good product, the more local the better…get it while you can before Trump reinstates prohibition.”

Be sure to say hi to Kate on your next visit to the restaurant. Better yet, ask her to make you a tiki drink!

Menu Ch-ch-ch-changes

At Brimmer & Heeltap, we love change. We embrace it. Change isn’t scary – it’s rad! For us, change means new menu items, beers we’ve never tried before, and the uncorking of unfamiliar wines. There are so many uncertainties that come with being inspired by the Pacific Northwest’s seasons and its whims that we think it’s best to just have fun with it. Here’s some ch-ch-ch-changes to our menu that you might not have had the chance to try just yet.

There are two words that best describe our current menu: creativity and comfort. Chef Mike Whisenhunt and the culinary team have been getting seriously creative with everything from the ingredients they’re using to the plating of our many delicious dishes. Not one to ever play it safe with his flavors, Chef Whisenhunt has been blowing our minds with recent additions to the menu.

Smoked ahi tuna with koji pimento broth, black sesame, and charred scallions. 

Smoked ahi tuna with koji pimento broth, black sesame, and charred scallions. 

The smoked ahi tuna served with koji pimento broth, black sesame, and charred scallions is a perfect example of this. Subtly smoky, and with deep flavors that play off of one another incredibly, this is easily one of our new favorites at the restaurant. We recommend kicking off your meal with this beautiful dish as a way to awaken your palate and ready yourself for more bold tastes to come.

Chef Whisenhunt's delicious lamb shoulder fried rice. 

Chef Whisenhunt's delicious lamb shoulder fried rice. 

Another phenomenal new menu item is the lamb shoulder fried rice. Rich and comforting, this play on a banh mi features warm spices, pickled chiles, carrots, daikon and mint. It’s everything you want to eat when it’s cold outside.

The kitchen isn’t the only place whipping up all kinds of new treats to get excited about. Our fantastic bar manager Brian Hibbard and the rest of our super talented bar team are embracing all kinds of new, unexpected ingredients to make drinks that will knock your socks off. The “Scandinavian Mustache” is a great example of this. Made with Krogstad Aquavit – a flavorful spirit mainly produced in Scandinavia – Cynar, lemon, egg whites, and lavender bitters, this cocktail offers a flavor profile that many of us were unfamiliar with (and instantly gushing over).

Brian prepares the Scandinavian Mustache, a phenomenal new cocktail on the list. 

Brian prepares the Scandinavian Mustache, a phenomenal new cocktail on the list. 

If you’re more into beer and wine than cocktails, our ever-changing offerings definitely won’t let you down. Brian has been doing his part to keep a rotating list of fantastic locally-made brews on tap, so if you love beer from Holy Mountain, Stoup, Avery, E9, Georgetown Brewing Co. and many other amazing local breweries, you will definitely not be disappointed.

We L-O-V-E beer at B&H! Come in soon to try something local and tasty!

We L-O-V-E beer at B&H! Come in soon to try something local and tasty!

Our wine list is also thoughtfully curated, and boasts a beautiful selection of old world wines and bottles from the Pacific Northwest. Proprietress Jen Doak is particularly excited about the 2014 Occhipinti SP68, a super-limited vintage produced by badass female winemaker Arianna Occhipinti. Bold and elegant, this bottle is just one of many that can be enjoyed on its own or paired with much of Chef Whisenhunt’s menu.

The 2014 Occhipinti SP68 is just one of many beautiful wines we're offering by the bottle right now. 

The 2014 Occhipinti SP68 is just one of many beautiful wines we're offering by the bottle right now. 

Another exciting addition to the beverage menu is our just-in-time-for-the-holidays homemade 5-month aged eggnog! Since the early summer months we’ve been excitedly awaiting the release of this seasonal treat, and now that it’s here, we’re all feeling a little more prepared for the cold, damp winter weather we’ve been awaiting. Supplies of this excellent batch are limited, so be sure to cozy up to the bar soon to try it for yourself!

Combine eggs, cream, milk, nutmeg, tequila, scotch, and sherry, wait five months, shake and serve on ice with bourbon and an orange twist and...voila! We give you our over-the-top delicious homemade aged eggnog.

Combine eggs, cream, milk, nutmeg, tequila, scotch, and sherry, wait five months, shake and serve on ice with bourbon and an orange twist and...voila! We give you our over-the-top delicious homemade aged eggnog.

This is just a small sampling of what’s new and exciting on the menu right now. Because our food and beverage offerings change often, what we’re serving now might not be here for long. So, come in soon to try something new! We promise that this change is a good one.

Blog Author: Caitlyn Edson

Images: Will Foster Photography

Embracing the Seasonal Shift: Fall Cocktail Edition

Brimmer & Heeltap Bar Manager Brian Hibbard muses on Autumn, nostalgia, and his brand new cocktail list. 

Brimmer & Heeltap Bar Manager Brian Hibbard muses on Autumn, nostalgia, and his brand new cocktail list. 

You know those times you feel memories being formed in an exact moment? Driving down the coast with your windows down, salty air blowing your hair around while you listen to dream-pop music (okay maybe that’s just one of my recurring fondest) becomes an imprint in your mind, and you feel it. Or the time you experience a newness in life: maybe a newborn, a new job, a new love, or a move that allows new breath and feelings you haven’t felt in the longest time prevail throughout your body. Or maybe it’s smaller: an inspiring conversation, a plate of food that you can’t stop thinking about, a reunion where your nearest and dearest are all in the same room with you.

Seasonal change offers these natural twists and turns; we can feel the vibrational shift and choose to embrace it. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it’s magic, sometimes it's energy that allows for us to create new ritual and new experiences. Fall is an important time for me. I was born and raised here in the Pacific Northwest, and Fall meant rain finally, post-season baseball, wearing layers, last minute camping trips, and foolish road trips to god knows where because hell we’re young and why not?

I recently put out a new cocktail menu to represent and embrace this seasonal shift. Part of the beauty is the we-ness of it all. We all have different tastes, interests, triggers of happiness, and the question remains: how can we create this tangibly in our food and drinks? A few weeks ago we sat around the bar and tasted through these new cocktails. Listening and observing my lovely crew’s reactions and feedback to these drinks is one of the many reasons why Brimmer & Heeltap is a special place. We all have a certain piece, an insight, a suggestion, a thought that makes up these recipes.

Cardamom, rosemary, lavender, sage, allspice, nutmeg, apple…these are all elements of the new menu. While not all of these are specifically Fall flavors and aromatics, for myself and the B&H team, these represent something that we love about the fall and carry a sort of nostalgia. It represents staying cozy, drinking boozy cider with friends, leaves changing color and falling, seasonal beer and planning Halloween costumes. Incorporating these flavors and smells, for example, means more to us than presenting something that is simply delicious. It’s presenting the opportunity for reflecting on good memories and creating new ones.

My mom has a quince tree in her yard, so I’ve been experiencing the delicious, unique flavor and recipes of quince for quite some time. Lucky me, Brimmer & Heeltap has two quince trees right out front that were full of this thick and intense fruit. You’ll find the Lucky Quince-idence on the menu featuring a homemade quince shrub from those trees along with some rye whiskey, white rum, elderflower, and bitters. Another one of my personal favorites is the Market Drop Kick. Combining Brandy, Ramazzotti, Campari and Curacao, this is a big drink - hence Drop Kick - that lingers in a way that will bring up several different flavors while you enjoy it. Allspice hits your nose right from the get go, and serving the cocktail over a large ice cube allows the flavors to meld and come through more and more as the ice slowly melts.

There are many more fantastic new cocktails to try, so come hangout! Ask your kind and knowledgeable server or bartender to share their excitement about the menu with you and let’s choose to drink well and be cozy together. 

Blog Author: Brian Hibbard 

The Comfort Zone

Believe it or not, most of the Seattleites I know delight in the cool, drizzly weather that autumn so often brings. This time of year signifies warm libations, bundling up in sweaters and scarves, spending time in the great indoors, and of course, comfort food. The latter is something that we happen to know quite a lot about at Brimmer & Heeltap; “comforting” is one of the things that defines Chef Mike Whisenhunt’s unique style of cooking.

Our current menu offers an array of dishes that showcase bold flavors, employ familiar ingredients in an inventive way, and kind of just make you feel like you’re being held by your mama. The Yukon potato puree with bonito cream, chives, and a sprinkling of dancing bonito flakes warmed by the starchy layers below is a deliciously comforting fall-time dish. If you find yourself more comforted by carnivorous creations, you’ve got to try Chef Mike’s grilled pork shoulder. Smoky, succulent, and grilled to perfection, this menu mainstay is a favorite of Brimmer & Heeltap’s crew and regular guests alike. See below for Chef’s “mop” sauce recipe he uses to really bring this dish to life.

Personally, there are three things that comfort me most: chocolate, bread, and booze. Happily, these things often take center-stage at the restaurant, where I am lucky enough to have the chance to go wild on our famous bread, spiced chocolate cake, and bartender Brian Hibbard’s genius concoctions more often than I care to admit. With new seasonally-inspired wine and cocktail lists launching this week just in time for fall, an ever-changing dinner menu, and brunch offerings that leave guests feeling happy and satiated every weekend, fall looks really good on B&H.

Stay tuned for more information about seasonal menu changes, and remember that we’ve got a seat waiting the next time you’re in need of some seriously comforting food and libations.

Chef Mike’s Pork “Mop”


300 grams (1 1/3 cups) water

1500 grams (6 1/2 cups) sugar

1500 grams (6 1/2 cups) sherry vinegar

250 grams (1 cup) Urfa Biber*

To make:

1.       Heat water to boiling and add sugar; boil until sugar is dissolved and begins to caramelize.

2.       Add sherry vinegar and boil until reduced by half.

3.       Add Urfa Biber to the reduction; stir until blended evenly.

4.       Apply “mop” generously with a basting brush to poultry, pork or beef before and after grilling.

*Urfa Biber, also known as isot pepper, is a dried Turkish chili pepper, cultivated in the Urfa region of Turkey. World Spice calls it a “luscious pepper flake” with an “earthy, smoky edge that hits at chocolate and tobacco.” You can purchase it at World Spice Merchants as well as other specialty spice shops.

Blog Author: Caitlyn Edson

Images: Will Foster Photography

Breaking the Ice

New techniques, flavors, and ingredients are being used at Brimmer & Heeltap this summer, and not just in the kitchen. Getting our guests excited about trying something unexpected is one of our very favorite things, and, lucky for us, there are many things to get excited about these days thanks to our fantastic bartenders.

Ever curious and passionate about libations, B&H bartender Nick Barkalow has extensively researched and tested new techniques as a way to continue elevating the bar program at the restaurant. Such care and time spent innovating our offerings has resulted in a list of phenomenal new cocktails, including one standout dubbed the “Clear Cut.” Inspired by Dave Arnold’s James Beard Award-winning book Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail, Nick set out to create crystal-clear ice cubes, a task that is surprisingly complicated. Suddenly, a drink that would normally take 2 minutes to make takes over 48 hours; elevating a process as simple as freezing water in order to enhance the entire cocktail experience is one of the things that makes Nick such a fantastic bartender.

Nick's "Clear Cut" cocktail.

Nick's "Clear Cut" cocktail.

Have you tried Nick’s “Clear Cut” cocktail yet? A beautiful thing to behold, at first glance it looks like nothing more than a clear spirit filling your glass. After a moment though, you’ll notice the sharp edges of a large square ice cube – hand carved and clear as crystal – floating among a balanced combination of gin, Salers, Pisco, Lillet Blanc, and bitters. It is the perfect cocktail to sip on as you begin your meal, and can also stand alone if you fancy a cocktail experience sans food.

Of course, this is just one of a handful of new drinks Nick has created just in time for summer. “My summer menu reflects what I would want to drink if I was sitting on the patio enjoying our famous steak tartare or our incredible duck fried rice,” Nick recently told Seattle Magazine of his food-friendly, imaginative cocktails. The “Porch Reviver” is another standout. A play on the classic “Corpse Reviver” that utilizes mezcal, Cocchi Americano, Ancho Reyes, and lime, this cocktail embodies Nick’s idea of a great summertime drink in all of its smoky, citrusy glory. 

Ryyan hard at work stirring something delicious. 

Ryyan hard at work stirring something delicious. 

These cocktails are fantastic to sip on before and during a meal at Brimmer & Heeltap, but we suggest trying Nick’s take on espresso to really end your night on a high note. Inspired by the idea of an after-dinner espresso, our bartenders have been infusing scotch with a rotating selection of fantastic coffee beans from Seattle-based Slate Coffee. The 24-hour infusion creates a delicate flavor profile that evokes espresso in a completely inventive way. Served with a side of soda water to cleanse the palate, this after-dinner drink option is truly not to be missed.

Summer isn’t the only time you’ll find thoughtful, creative techniques elevating beverages behind the bar; ongoing projects spearheaded by our bartenders are giving us lots to look forward to year-round. A house-made eggnog recipe that utilizes tequila, scotch, and dry sherry was recently perfected, batched, sealed, and is now being aged for 5 months. We can’t wait to taste the finished product this coming holiday season when it will be ready! Our Bloody Mary, tested and tweaked with great care by our brunch bartender Floyd Bender, is another cocktail that takes hours and hours each week to prepare. The homemade Worcestershire sauce alone takes 5-7 days to develop its funky flavor, Floyd says, not to mention the homemade pickles, freshly made tomato-based mix, and the careful execution of the cocktail itself each weekend during brunch.

Floyd spends hours each week perfecting our Bloody Mary recipe for brunch. 

Floyd spends hours each week perfecting our Bloody Mary recipe for brunch. 

Do carefully prepared ice cubes make cocktails taste better? How could we make awesome Worcestershire sauce in-house? What if we infused scotch with some of the best coffee beans in the city? How can we inspire our guests to get as stoked about mezcal as we are? It’s the questions that our bartenders continue to ask – and the creative, playful answers they come up with – that make sitting at the bar such a treat. Come in soon for beautifully executed cocktails and the chance to geek out on libations with some seriously talented bartenders.


Blog Author: Caitlyn Edson

Images: Will Foster Photography

The Summer of Hibiscus

Brimmer & Heeltap's wonderful crew member Nicole Hardy waxes poetic about hibiscus-infused cocktails.

Brimmer & Heeltap's wonderful crew member Nicole Hardy waxes poetic about hibiscus-infused cocktails.

They say once you notice a trend it’s already over. Which I hope is not the case, in the case of hibiscus-infused cocktails—though at first I had serious doubts. I saw hibiscus twice in two weeks on different bar menus, and groaned—still scarred by the year of the pomegranate. Fully dreading another food craze about to take over the world: hibiscus cupcakes, with bacon sprinkles! Hibiscus infused ganache for your cannabis brownies!  

I’d have never ordered a drink as floofy as a Hibiscus Sour without some serious prodding from Max the bartender at Maggie’s on the Prom in Seaside—a restaurant I found only because I was walking on said Prom. It was there, and it was beckoning, with its outdoor tables overlooking the beach.

Gin, Chambord, fresh lemon juice and house-made lavender honey syrup. Sure, it sounded good, but so many specialty cocktails are syrupy. And this one had syrup in it.  

“It’s the first sunny day of spring,” Max said. “Trust me.”

I resisted: I’m a dedicated drinker of bourbon, I said, and suspicious of any cocktail featuring more than three ingredients. But eventually, he convinced me. Max was handsome, and persistent—as so many bartenders are. He was also correct: it was the first sunny day of spring. A time when gin is virtually irresistible.

It was the deep shock of magenta, though, that really won my heart. And with every sip, that cocktail got better. The lavender! The honey! Just enough to balance the tart burst of lemon. The floral taste and scent perfectly complemented the gin, and I could’ve stayed in that chair, drinking Hibiscus Sours all afternoon. I would’ve, had I brought more than $20 when I left for my walk.

And since then, I’ll admit I’ve developed a little obsession. Though I’m far too lazy a bartender to infuse anything. Luckily, a quick internet search led me to hibiscus tea cocktails. A drink easy enough even I, lifetime fan of the three-ingredient drink, could manage to make.

Also, it’s fun to have an alternative to margaritas or sangria—my usual summer go-to, when hanging out with friends in the backyard or at the beach. This pitcher cocktail—gorgeous, refreshing, easy—has already been the hit of the season. One note, though: you do have to plan ahead a bit. The recipe is easy, but takes a couple hours to chill.

Combine a cup of sugar in three cups water in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil until the sugar is dissolved, then remove the pan from the heat, and add six hibiscus tea bags. Let the tea steep for 5 minutes, then take out the tea bags, return the pan to the heat, and cook, until the liquid reduces by half. Chill it for another hour, and add it to a pitcher along with a cup of orange juice, a cup of tequila and half a cup of lime juice. Throw in a sliced lime, a sliced orange, and a bunch of fresh raspberries. Let it chill for another hour, then serve your cocktail over ice, topped with club soda.

Finally, get ready to be very, very popular.

If you’d rather be drinking cocktails than making them, you know where to find us! Pull up a seat at the bar or on the patio and we’ll craft you something seasonal, boozy, and delicious!

Author: Nicole Hardy

Images: Will Foster Photography