Food & Drink

Bar Exam

Cocktail Paradise at Canon

Jamie Boudreau wants you to be "ensconced in booze." From the floor almost to the ceiling at his brand-new bar, there are shelves upon shelves of glowing liquor. It's like a library, but with beautiful bottles instead of books, interspersed with glittering cut-glass punchbowls, mysterious decanters, a hammered copper still, shiny shakers, a very sharp-looking sword. This is Canon: Whiskey and Bitters Emporium (Boudreau's colon).

Boudreau ran the bar of Vancouver's Daniel Boulud restaurant Lumière. Then, at the late, great Vessel, he was the first barkeep in Seattle to give each cocktail on his menu a date, a place of origin, and a composer (as available), way back in 2006. He was also the first in town to deride vodka as lacking complexity and unfit for cocktails—"for amateurs," he said.

Boudreau has since relaxed considerably. You still won't find vodka on his cocktail menu—not the brief list now, nor, one imagines, the 100-drink book that's en route from the printer—but there are two full shelves of it, front and center (if notably low). "There's nothing wrong with beer or wine!" he says to some new arrivals. "We're trying to be a neighborhood bar, not a cocktail paradise." Everybody orders cocktails (no vodka).

The signature rye-and-Ramazzotti Canon cocktail is topped with Cointreau foam, which, in turn, is topped with Angostura mist stenciled in the shape of a cannon. Boudreau shakes a Pisco sour for so long, it goes with him on a walk to the kitchen and back. (The food, by fellow Boulud alum Melinda Bradley, merits consideration another time.) His Old Fashioned syrup is like the soul of the drink itself. In his natty vest and tie, he pours a tiny sip of each and every cocktail into a small golden cup, then tastes it to make sure it's perfect.

Along the bar are copies of Harry Johnson's Bartenders Manual, a seminal work first published in the mid-to-late 1800s (the date, soaked in liquor like most bar lore, is disputed). "The greatest accomplishment of a bartender lies in his ability to exactly suit his customer," it advises. (There should also be proper ventilation, a cuspidor, and "plenty of toilet paper" in the lavatory. Canon's bathroom contains a 1926 prescription for one pint of whiskey, to be taken at bedtime, and an audio recording of The Old Man and the Sea plays.) The bar top is stained with bitters. "On purpose!" says Boudreau—he used Angostura as a stain.

Overhead hang old-timey lightbulbs with flickering filaments, like every other person is having a very good idea. These and the shiny tin ceiling remain from the former occupant, Licorous; otherwise, that place's peachy Dream Date decor quickly, thankfully, becomes a distant memory. Say what he will, Boudreau has created Seattle's latest, greatest cocktail paradise. recommended

This article has been updated to reflect the following correction: It is Harry Johnson's Bartenders Manual, not Jerry Thomas' Bartender's Guide, that is on the bar at Canon. Harry Johnson kicks Jerry Thomas' ass.

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Comments (6) RSS

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Don't think that is Jerry Thomas on the bar, but Harry Johnson's bartenders guide.
Posted by Znachki on September 14, 2011 at 11:44 AM · Report this
I believe that the book that is on the bar is Harry Johnson's guide, not the Jerry Thomas guide.

I'm glad that Boudreau has changed his stance on vodka. While I agree that there are better choices of spirit, if he is in the hospitality industry, he needs to gently educate folks into better booze, not go all elitest on them.
Posted by Znachki on September 14, 2011 at 11:52 AM · Report this
@Znachki: How right you are, DAMMIT—I even wrote it down correctly, but then I was looking on the internet at old-timey bar guides and got mixed up. Fixed, with apologies, especially to Jamie Boudreau, who I believe considers Jerry Thomas a pretender to the bartenders' guide throne.
Posted by Bethany Jean Clement on September 14, 2011 at 12:48 PM · Report this
I saw two books on the bar....

In one book is also a section on Invalid cocktails, I believe for people on the mend
vs. cocktails that are not valid.

If mystified at the wealth of selection, tell him what you want and be prepared to go through a few to find the elixir of your dreams.

I suggest a Brooklyn, or perhaps a Liberal,
rye drinks both with a special ingredient found at only the best establishments.

Posted by Nuclear Marc on September 14, 2011 at 1:49 PM · Report this
biffp 5
That's got to be Freudian. You wrote down Harry Johnson and forget that dick's name? Are you sure it wasn't Fuzzy Asscrack's Bartender's Guide or Halotta Vagina's Bartender's Guide?
Posted by biffp on September 14, 2011 at 7:12 PM · Report this
@bjc - That's OK. I'd just put it down to *really* enjoying Jamie's cocktails....
Posted by Znachki on September 14, 2011 at 9:40 PM · Report this

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