St-Germain is a liqueur made from elderflowers—star-shaped, honeysucklesque blossoms—gathered in the French Alps for a few fleeting days each spring by, I believe, elves wearing berets. A sophisticate would say it's redolent of violets, with notes of lychee and grapefruit; a regular human would say it's sweet. Straight up, it's like drinking a flower. Saint Germain was a buzzkill of a saint, known for shutting down the last Gallic pagan parties and then ensuring Christian celebrations were no fun, too; he was not into excess. St-Germain in its alcohol edition is popping up in drinks all over town, probably due to the fact that world-famous bartender Jamie Boudreau has signed on as its local "brand ambassador" (that is, bar-staff-educator/pimp).
St-Germain is ideal in refreshing cocktails for spring and summer; last week, on the day of the Belltown St-Germain bar crawl, the weather was near-freezing and miserable. Approximately 80 people partook anyway. It was a self-guided, four-bar affair, $20 total for one St-Germain-containing drink at each. Crawlers were to vote for their favorite drink at their last stop. I did not do this, being genuinely unable to decide: Every thoughtfully prepared alcoholic beverage has its merits (as do most harum-scarum ones). Also: When you're going to four bars on a Monday night, everyone wins! (Except you on Tuesday morning.)
The bartender at Rob Roy got bonus points in the weather-appropriate department. She'd been planning, she said, a drink with sparkling wine, but saw the hail coming down that morning and went with what she named the Rye Persuasion. It was smooth, rich, and tawny colored, with the rye mingling nicely with the liqueur's sweet factor. The drink's fatal flaw: no garnish. Fact: People love garnish. This is very likely why Brasa's drink won by a scant two votes: Called the Saint Jolie, it had Hendrick's gin, moscato, and St-G. with a candied dried-orange lollipop for decoration. The drink, by bartender MiNan Ahn, embraced the sweetness, and clearly, if you give people a lollipop, they'll vote for you. Over at Flying Fish, the Saint Elder's Fire went the opposite direction with Patrón Silver tequila, fresh citrus, and Thai chili pepper. If the (admirable) spicy heat overpowered the St-Germain instead of showcasing it, that didn't seem such a crime three drinks in. The prize here went to the crawler in the leather hat who made actually nonpompous conversation about his 3,000-bottle wine collection. (If you're looking to make new, possibly rich friends, these crawls are ideal.) And the winner for greenest, most viscous beverage: the Saint-Germain-des-Prés at Cafe Campagne, like a basil smoothie with a float of sparkling Crémant. It was completely delicious and would've made, as the bartender admitted ruefully, a perfect drink for a hot day. Next up: a champagne cocktail competition in May. Surely the weather will be better.
Belltown Bar Crawl: Piper-Heidsieck and Cointreau edition, May 10, www.brownpapertickets.com.