Walking into Stir Martini + Raw Bar, an upscale cocktail lounge located in the recently renovated Hyatt Regency Bellevue (Wash.), one immediately notes the sexy ambiance, the striking LED Lucite beam lighting and the upscale finishes that convey the space is a sophisticated spot for adult imbibing. But then, the eyes are drawn to the sleek center bar where a shaved-ice-lined trough runs the length of the bar and an ice-encrusted spirits tap stands at its center, and there is no doubt that Stir is serious about spirited libations.
The tap, which has four heads offering Belvedere, Svedka and Chopin vodkas and Knob Creek Bourbon, dispenses spirits at a temperature of 5 degrees, eliminating the need to chill or dilute cocktails with ice; the spirits bottles are hidden from the guest and inverted into a reservoir that feeds the tap. The icy trough keeps signature cocktails refreshingly cool and adds yet another visually attractive element to the space.
“The taps are one of our favorite aspects of our beverage program,” says Matt Bomberger, owner of parent company Solstice Restaurant Group. “Instead of having an ice rail with a Martini glass sitting on it — which doesn’t keep your Martini cold — we actually place the drink directly into crushed ice. You’ve seen those stemless Martini glasses set into a bowl of crushed ice? Well, this is that concept brought over to the bar.”
While the spirit taps — which cost Solstice Group $18,000 — solidify Stir as a libations-forward locale and act as an eye-catching marketing tool, they also posed a challenge. “We had a 2-ounce Martini that’s straight, without being stirred or shaken with ice. It is a lot different looking, i.e. smaller, than a regular Martini customers will see in other bars,” Bomberger explains.
A unique presentation defuses the size dilemma: a trio of deconstructed Martinis ($8 each) that engage guests by letting them play bartender. “These Martinis were shaped around that idea of taking the ice cold spirit and marrying it with an accompaniment,” says Bomberger.
The bartenders “plate” the Martini by placing a chilled stemless Martini glass, a bowl of garnish and a bowl of mixer atop a tray. Then, they fill a cordial glass with a 2-ounce pour of the featured spirit and deliver it and the tray to guests with instructions on how to mix the Martini to their liking; stirring is recommended as one technique, in keeping with the venue’s name. One favorite is the Herbal Martini, which pairs an on-tap vodka with cucumber mint basil slurry mixer and cucumber slices and lime wedges as garnishes.
Soon after its Aug. 1 opening, the concept had attracted a core audience of affluent locals and hotel guests eager to engage with the bartenders and sample the decidedly different cocktails in the chic adult setting. “We’re not in the bar district or a secluded area. We are in the middle of a four-star hotel that’s just had a wonderful makeover and we wanted a place that had refinement with really hot cocktails,” Bomberger says of the concept. “I think we’ve achieved that.” NCB