Behind every great restaurant, there’s a great bartender; at Monsoon (Eric and Sophie Banh’s Seattle Vietnamese gem) that bartender, Jon Christiansen, used to work behind the scenes at their Capitol Hill branch. Thankfully, the recently added bar gives him a suitable stage to show off his mixology skills. The expanded space, which features soaring windows and a glowing, red bar, puts Monsoon on the map for equally tasty drinks and eats.
Christiansen, the beverage director at Monsoon and Ba Bar, creates quaffs that compliment (rather than clash) with the Banh siblings’ flavorful fare. His offerings are bold and food-friendly; a favorite is the Grand Âne Moustache (a.k.a. Big Ass Moustache, for you non-French speakers), a bourbon, pineapple, Champagne vinegar, and amaro blend that’s boozy with just the right dose of sweet. With over 20 years of experience behind the bar, Christiansen is armed with enough liquor know-how to justify a little arrogance, yet he’s one of the most affable bartenders in town.
As a cocktail chef, Christiansen incorporates several ingredients from the kitchen: lemongrass, dried longan — a lychee-like fruit — and pho broth, the centerpiece of his Bloody Alternative, a funktastic spin on the brunch classic. Bitters, gommes, and tinctures are made from scratch; Jon’s bar is a booze laboratory. It is only fitting he’s also an amaro maker.
Christiansen is one of 13 mixmaestros participating in Project Amaro, Brovo Spirits’ line of bartender-made amaros. The bittersweet, Italian digestivo has no recipe rules — as evidenced by the variety of amaros on the market — so the bartenders had free rein. The process was pure trial-and-error for the first-time liqueur-maker, yet the result, the “#11, is wonderfully complex and refined.
The #11 is a traditional amaro; 15-plus ingredients brimming with notes of floral (marigold), citrus (grapefruit), bitter (Gentian), and sweet (vanilla bean). Christiansen unintentionally created both an aphrodisiac (by including damiana, a Mexican shrub) and a hangover-healer (thanks to the anti-inflammatory herbs).
Intended as a mixer, the #11 goes well with brown or white spirits. Christiansen combines the amaro with gin and grapefruit liqueur for the EU 238 — sort of like a white negroni — which is perfect for this extended summer. It’s refreshing, but potent enough to temper autumn’s chill. The name is a nod to amaro’s European origins and uranium, the main element in nuclear weapons. Christiansen explains that as uranium unravels “civilizations across the universe,” but all we know is the EU 238 will leave the “whole world hopelessly drunk.” Voila! See the recipe below:
½ ounce #11 amaro
¾ ounce Giffard Crème de Pamplemousse rosé
1½ ounces Copperworks gin
3 dashes rhubarb bitters
3 drops Ricard pastis
Stir and strain into a coupe glass