Spring has sprung overnight with a vengeance, it’s 81 degrees for some unfathomable reason as I type this, and we need something easy. In springtime, my fancy always lightly turns to thoughts of gin, so why not write about the MVP of all G&Ts? The Gin Griffey Juniper is it. 

I know fuckall about baseball, but I understand that some is happening right now? So the timing’s perf, right? And even a rube like me got the joke when I first spotted this one on the cocktail list. How I laughed. In addition to having the funniest, punniest name on Seattle’s cocktail lists, this unfussy restyling of the classic gin and tonic is exactly what I daydream about on PNW scorchers like this. 

(I know, you’re from Florida or something and you don’t think 81 degrees is hot, but it is and I don’t like it.) 

All the GGJ is is Aloo Gin, tonic, a drop of berry shrub, some fresh herbs served en twig, and a couple fresh berries from nearby Pike Place Market. It seems to change from drink to drink, but last time, I drew a sprig apiece of thyme and rosemary, plus a blueberry, a raspberry, and a fat blackberry, all skewered on a toothpick like a kebab. Then it’s served over cubes in a giant etched glass goblet like a medieval king might drink from. I’ve received it with basil leaves, cucumber ribbons, orange slices, and fresh flowers as well—pansies, if I remember correctly! It's a little different every time!

This kind of highly decorated gin and tonic, by the way, is called Spanish style. You’ll see it throughout Spain but particularly in the Basque region, although they usually serve it in a coup de ballon and will typically add dried juniper berries and citrus slices among the other fruits and herbs. 

Anyway, I always suck this thing dry like Bunnicula. Can’t help it. I don’t even really like tonic that much, and still, it disappears in a couple minutes, despite my restraint. It’s easily imaginable without tonic, btw—you could swap in soda and a touch more shrub. I am v. glad this one didn’t have dried juniper berries in it because I was in such a hurry to drink this that I would’ve boba-ed them and then choked. 

The recipe breakdown is pretty straightforward, nothing too complicated in here. Aloo Gin is a down-to-earth gin that’s made by SoDo’s own OOLA Distillery. It’s London gin, very dry and juniper-forward, but still something you’d find in a well at an upscale joint (for example, Ben Paris, which does have it on well). Working-class, mid-range, blue-collar gin, but definitely not broke. The Metro bus driver of gin. This gin has a pension and full medical/dental. 

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A post shared by Som Cordial (@somcordial)

Som Cordial is from Portland. Owned by Andy Ricker, the chef behind the Pok Pok empire (RIP), they do so-called drinking vinegars, made from cane sugar, totally booze-free. There are at least a dozen flavors of Som and I keep a few in my bar at home, just to add some facets to a boring drink, or just to accent a La Croix. (Honey, ginger, and Thai basil are my best flavors.) In the Gin Griffey Juniper, they’re using the Oregon berry one—a sweeter choice in the Som pantheon, but there’s just a tiny bloop of it in the mix here. It’s a little bit tart too, and it makes things pretty and pink. 

I dunno what kind of tonic they use, but it’s not the kind that makes me feel like I’ve been huffing mosquito repellent. Something mild that plays well with others and disappears into the background under the sugar and botanicals. Have I mentioned that I don’t really like tonic? This one’s just fine.

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A post shared by Ben Paris (@benparisseattle)

Along with having a lovely bar, Ben Paris has a lovely backstory. It’s the hotel bar at the State Hotel, in the bottom of the historic Eitel building at Second Avenue and Pike Street, but the location may be better known to longtime Seattleites as “Scary-Yaki,” aka Osaka Teriyaki. It’s kinda dazzling, to walk into this breezy, sunlit, high-ceilinged bistro and then try to picture the scuzzy and somewhat dangerous fast food joint it used to be. No more visible cockroaches on the walls. But a century ago, long before Scary-Yaki took over the space, it was… Ben Paris! Originally called Ben Paris Cigars, Lunch & Cards, the diner was opened by Seattle entrepreneur Benjamin Paris, an avid sportsman who sold fishing rods and gaming equipment in the restobar, in 1922. (He’s also remembered by PNW historians for fighting for Seattleites’ right to drink beer on Sundays, a battle he took to the Supreme Court in 1934 and lost.) The restaurant was actually in the basement level of the Eitel Building, while Bartell Drugs took up the main floor. 

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Pacific Northwest historian Paul Dorpat, on the subject of Seattle’s best-loved curmudgeon, journalist Emmett Watson, writes:

Emmett interviewed his friend Guy Williams, a wit and legend among local promoters and publicists. Emmett asked Guy and Ivar Haglund, the fish restaurateur who sat next to him, “Where did you guys hang out in the 1930s?” Guy answered, “Ben Paris. Everyone was going there. You could cash your check—if you had one. Get your shoes shined. Shoot snooker. Play cards. Get a roast beef sandwich with plenty of gravy. I mean that was one great place… There’s been nothing quite like it. There wasn’t a phony thing about it. There were fighters in there, newspaper guys, politicians. 

Ivar answered, “Oh, that was wonderful!”

The Ben Paris restaurant in the Eitel Building was eventually moved over to Fourth Avenue, across from the Bon Marche—this location was famous for having a pool of live bass inside the restaurant—and another location was later opened on Westlake Avenue. Benjamin Paris himself died in 1950, and the owners of the current, reanimated Ben Paris have no relation to the Paris family—the name is just an homage. As the State Hotel website put it: “He’s our kinda guy.”

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A post shared by Abigail Gullo (@abigailgullo)

Back to the lecture at hand: What cocktail genius invented this divinely springtimey cocktail? Bartender Brian Lee tells me, “The Gin Griffey Juniper is easily our most popular cocktail here, but the former bar manager who came up with it actually doesn’t work here anymore!” He told me her name, and I did a little Google-stalking—although it seems that Abigail Gullo now lives and works in New Orleans, I found a VERY HEARTWARMING THING in the process. 

Like you, upon reading the name of this cocktail, I immediately thought, Okay, but do you think Ken Griffey, Jr., knows about it? Wherever he might be these days?

WELL, he DOES. Back in 2019, @benparisseattle tweeted a few snaps of Junior at the restaurant, enjoying the drink that bears his name (uh, sort of). Here he is with Gullo, the mastermind behind it:

This made me so fucking happy, and I don’t even like baseball. Or tonic. I just like this. It’s all so perfect: the name, the timing, the drink itself, the history, this photo. As our dearly departed Dave Niehaus might say, get out the rye bread and the mustard, Grandma—this one's a grand salami.