Hey, do you guys know Arc in Phinney Ridge yet? This little pastel bar-resto opened in the old Park Pub space in May of 2022, a year and change ago, and this place is a pure joy to step into. Pink and turquoise, wacky and clashy, with bright garlands of papel picado and pops of vivid floral wallpaper to catch the eye. Guests are greeted in the foyer by a golden fake rhino head and an old phone booth outfitted with clouds, all on a black-and-white checkerboard floor. It’s kind of like if Clarissa’s bedroom were a bar.
I originally went to Arc for a totally different cocktail. It was the Tom Khall Me in the Morning that drew me in—a combo of coconut cream, allspice dram, lemongrass, fish sauce (!!), Strega, shiso-infused soju, and baijiu, which I didn’t even know what that was, that had me dying of curiosity. But the evening took a turn.
Like the decor, the cocktail menu at Arc is deliberately eclectic. I don’t care what your job is; nobody’s gonna look at this list and know what every single spirit is. A non-industry person might be familiar with half. They’re clearly mixing weird shit together on purpose here, and to my great delight. Even more impressive to me is that almost all the weird shit in this cocktail I’m finna tell you about, the Peter Pollen Mary, is produced in Washington State: the berry-flavored mead, the thyme-infused gin, the lemon verbena liqueur, the blackberry soda, and even the garnish are all from these parts.
The mead comes to us from Dizolve here in Seattle, a micro-meadery run by Daniel Belarmino, a friend of Arc’s. “Daniel used to work here, and we love his product,” says Todd Hamm, Arc’s co-owner and the creator of the Peter Pollen Mary. “Mead is his passion project, and yeah, his space is just down the street in Ballard. Super local!” Mead, of course, is made from fermented honey, and Belarmino only uses honey from Washington State, so the localness going on here is exponential. My god, the layers. Aside from the blackberry-strawberry mead used in this drink, Belarmino makes a few other mead flavors, like spiced pear-vanilla and peach-cherry-orange, as well as the classic version.
Just down the highway in Kent, Sidetrack Distillery makes this lemon verbena liqueur and it fucking rules. So pleased to have learned about this stuff! The flavor reminds me of Chartreuse or Strega, but it’s less bombastic, milder, more vegetal. A nice herbal-citrus digestif made from lemon verbena flowers grown right on the farm down in the Green River Valley. Which, by the way, per the photos on their site, looks stunning, like a dream-sequence flashback to someone’s Southern Gothic childhood in an Oprah’s Book Club book. Blueberry hedges and apple orchards alongside a lazy river. I didn’t know they had anything this beautiful in Kent.
The gin is by Capitol Gin in Ferndale, near Bellingham, and Hamm tells me they steep the thyme in it in-house. The blackberry soda is by Seattle Soda in Auburn, made with real fruit and cane sugar, and it’s plain marvelous all by itself. Arc even has it on the gun. “Back when I was managing Cantina Leña in Belltown,” Hamm says, “I was like ‘I wanna go all non-Coke. Is there a local soda product that I can get on the gun?’ And so Seattle Soda had everything we needed—cola, root beer, everything—and it was largely local and natural products. Perfect for Arc!”
I also like that blackberries appear twice in this hyper-local cocktail, in both the strawberry-blackberry mead and the blackberry soda, because what’s more Summer in Seattle than an overabundance of blackberries? Nothing.
This drink is also very pretty. I’m a well-documented mark for a drink with a flower in it, and the last time I ordered a Peter Pollen Mary, I got TWO FLOWERS. Extra pollen! I guess! The flowers are local too, naturally. “This time of year, most of the drink garnishes are from my garden,” Hamm says, confirming that that’s where the nasturtium and lavender in my cocktail came from. He adds that he grew up like two miles away from Arc, in Ballard, and he tries to keep it local at the shop as much as he possibly can. “I think the only thing that’s not local in this glass is the apple cider vinegar,” he says, “and actually, if anyone knows of a local ACV producer, I’d love to know about it!”
The cumulative effect of the thyme-enhanced gin, the fruity-funky mead, the sweet berry soda, the sharp citrusy-herbal digestif, and the tang from the vinegar is just divine. From reading the description on the drink menu, I’d thought the combo might be too sugary, but it’s not at all, and that vinegar pop just sends me over the moon. I slammed this whole thing into my neck in under a minute on an 80-degree day and was instantaneously ready for another. The Peter Pollen Mary is absolutely the cocktail of my summer—or the rest of it, anyway.
And actually, the blackberry soda all by itself is my new favorite don’t-feel-like-drinking foxtail, although I will require it to be festooned with flowers from Todd Hamm’s garden. It’s the base of the Phone Booth as well, one of Arc’s handful of innovative zero-proof drinks, along with blue spirulina, lemon, fruit boba, and whipped cream, so… note to self to try it that way too.
I should also add that the Peter Pollen Mary is really fun to say, and it’s the very first item on the cocktail list, so you are impelled to say it out loud right away. “The young crowd doesn’t get the reference,” Hamm laughs.
Back to the aforementioned Tom Kha-ll Me in the Morning for a sec because I want to point something out. I confess that I didn’t love this cocktail, mostly due to the baijiu, a powerful sorghum-based liquor from China. But I like Hamm so much for putting it on Arc’s menu. This is a straight-up bizarre drink—an alcoholic take on tom kha soup—and he admits that baijiu is a strong, potent flavor and he knows it’s not for everyone… so then he pours fish sauce on top of that. It’s a ballsy move, to say the least.
Hamm explains that he met the owner of Snowbridge Spirits, Xue-Qiao Zhao, who lives in the neighborhood, and she told him the story of how her grandfather came from a long line of baiju makers in Sichuan and was executed when he refused to give his baiju business to the Chinese government during the Chinese Communist Revolution. “But the family later moved here, and two generations later, she decided to get back into the family baijiu business. After I heard that story, I just had to serve it at Arc, and I thought it mixed really well too. So I came up with this cocktail, just to showcase the spirit.”
That’s cool, you know? I’m still glad I tried it, and I think other people might be too. Like, the baijiu will take the enamel off your teeth, but you can at once maybe see it becoming an acquired taste down the line. The shiso soju in this cocktail is compelling too, perhaps mimicking the bite of the lime juice in the soup, and everyone likes coconut cream. Even though I didn’t fall in love with the Tom Khall Me in the Morning like I did the PPM, it’s interesting, and it made me learn things. Everything isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay.
Arc does DJ nights and occasional live music, and I’m stoked to try the food—seems like a Roy Choi-inspired mix of Latino and Korean, lots of baos and tacos, great date-night fare. This is such a fun new neighborhood joint, a voluptuous burst of color and character along the strip, and Phinneywood’s lucky to have it. As for Arc’s intentionally zany cocktail menu, I’m considering it my personal to-do list from now on. It’s where I met the drink of my whole summer, after all.