Drinking the Water
At the end of May, an innocuous invitation coupled with a piece of alarming information arrived in the Bar Exam mail: "Why not soak up the sun and action at Ivar's Salmon House's waterside deck on Lake Union?... The Salmon House boasts a local cocktail favorite, dubbed 'The Lake Union Water'... composed of vodka, Midori, Blue Curacao, pineapple, and Lake Union Water."
The shores of Lake Union are lined cheek-by-jowl with houseboats, marinas, endeavors of mysterious industry, and the immense, rusting silos of Gas Works Park, where signs warn you not to eat the dirt. According to the King County Water Quality and Quantity Unit, the lake is a receptacle for the sanitary and industrial "discharges" of its urban Seattle watershed, including "combined sewer overflows (CSOs)." The water of Lake Union is not potable.
An investigation into the contents of the Lake Union Water and the sun/action of the waterside deck, long delayed by inclement weather, was finally conducted last week. During happy hour on a 71 degree day, the Salmon House's Whalemaker Lounge was standing room only, with a waiting list for seating outside. The barkeep laughed in a surprised but uncontemptuous way and said no, the Lake Union Water does not contain Lake Union water.
The Whalemaker Lounge, however, does contain whalemakers: two preserved Orca phalli, poised overhead at the corners of the central bar. For three-foot-long-plus male sex organs, they are easy to overlook, leathery and brown, blending into the lounge's woodwork. Ivar is said to have acquired them from the Hells Angels of Alaska. The primary quality of the Whalemaker's happy-hour food is, notably, limpness—uncrispy calamari, ditto fries, squished pork mini-sandwiches, mushy edamame. But $3.25 beer and wine are the best accompaniment for the unquestionably lovely glinting lake view.
The majority of would-be Lake Union Water drinkers reportedly reject the Lake Union Water as "too sweet." Can they not read? The ingredients are practically granulated, with the approximate flavor profile of Fruit Stripe gum. It tastes pink.
The bartender also reported that the most common response to the cocktail is "Eew." Whatever the drink lacks in literalness of name, it makes up for in highly accurate appearance: The dark gray-green color of the water along the Salmon House dock is an exact match. (Members of the boating class are invited to moor here while drinking or dining, but: "No shirt, no shoes, no salmon.") The Lake Union water between the dock and the deck held a miniature Great Pacific Garbage Patch—plastic bottles and bottle caps, lip-balm tubes, used Band-Aids, and the like. The Lake Union Water comes without garnish.
Ivar's Salmon House, 401 NE Northlake Way, 632-0767.