Nestled in Downtown Seattle a short jaunt away from the Emerald City’s famed Pike Place Market is Rider.
Located inside the boutique Hotel Theodore (named after Theodore Rosevelt), the impressive eatery caters to regional grub: think local clams, Steelhead caught that morning, as well as truffles foraged nearby. And under the direction of Blake Lord-Wittig, its bar program is just as closely sourced as its food menu.
“What I think is exciting, and special, about our bar program is the collaboration between the (whole) team,” says Lord-Wittig of Rider, named after Roosevelt’s famed Rough Rider cavalry. “We take wild and seasonal ingredients that our Chef Dan Mallahan is currently using in the kitchen and apply those same principals to the bar. It literally adds endless possibilities of flavor.”
It’s a connection that has its roots in Lord-Wittig’s background previously working as an executive chef in both New York City, Seattle and nearby Tacoma. “Our secret weapon is a liquor that is infused with Douglas Fir,” he says of one example of its hyper local focus. “It has an amazing aroma and gives you the sense of walking through the Cascades. It’s nostalgic for me in some ways, having grown up in this (part of the country).”
Another Rider standout stems from a house-made hoshigaki, made from persimmons. “We used the tops of hoshigaki and infused proofed rum,” says Lord-Wittig of the concoction. “It makes the best Mai Tai I have ever had.” Meanwhile, he says Fernet is another go-to. “We use it the most in all of its forms. I tend to find a way to put one of my many varieties of fernet in the cocktail, one way or another.”
Meanwhile, when it comes to Rider’s most popular order, he points towards Old Fashions. “Seattle is currently on the bourbon train,” he says. “So it pretty much dominates the orders at Rider. We currently have two different versions on the menu.”
And regarding one spirit Lord-Wittig says every bar should be stocked with, he shouts out the Sardinian liqueur Mirto. “I think it has a lot of characteristics that make it useful as a substitute for amaro or vermouths in cocktails,” he says. “It really adds a lot of depth.”