Drink This Now: Smith Tower Bar’s Ji Wei Jiu
By AJ Rathbun
January 13, 2017
Boasting an array of Asian influences, this Smith Tower bar cocktail is as lovely as the 35th-floor views
The Cocktail: Ji Wei Jiu
The Bar: Temperance at Smith Tower
The Bartender: Jay Gurney
DRINK HISTORY With a Chinese name that roughly translates to “cocktail,” the Ji Wei Jiu is an interesting match for the new Temperance Café and Bar, tucked into a cozy corner of the remodeled and recently relaunched space on the 35th floor of Smith Tower. Formerly known as the Chinese Room, the space still contains the ornate and legendary “Wishing Chair” and a delicately carved teak ceiling. But lead bartender Jay Gurney (formerly of Bay Café on Lopez Island and The Three Lions in Redmond) actually makes the drink with two Japanese stalwarts: Rock Sake Cloud, a faintly sweet nigori sake (slightly filtered, nigoris have a trademark cloudy appearance); and yokaichi kome, a rice-based shochu, the classic spirit of Japan. Together, they bring earthy notes, along with tropical traces of coconut and melon, which go brilliantly with another ingredient, Yakami Orchard yuzu juice. The juice delivers a flavor mélange of orange, lemon and tangerine, and a vinegary ginger shrub builds even more layers of spice and tang. A heady mix indeed.
THE TWIST Drinking at a fog-level bar is made better by sipping on a cloud, an effect rendered here with the addition of egg white. Egg white (well shaken with other ingredients) tops the drink with an exquisite and lush layer of foam that floats to the top after mixing. Eggs have been key ingredients in many cocktails since the late 1800s (make sure they’re fresh, since one in 20,000 may contain salmonella). The historic note ties in well with the bar’s speakeasy touches, a nod to the Prohibition years when the Smith Tower first opened (the bar staff sports snazzy vests and arm garters). Don’t miss the signs, stories and artifacts in the brief, self-guided tour that spotlights Smith Tower and Seattle history during that dry period. A trip to the 35th floor—including a visit to Temperance—requires a tour ticket ($12, or $10 with a Washington state ID when purchased on site), but it’s well worth the price for out-of-town visitors or for an after-work party, thanks to the atmosphere, drinks and the Asian-inspired food from chef Joshua Beckham (previously at Schooner Exact Brewing Company and Salish Lodge). The dumplings and house kimchi (the latter served on the Reuben sandwich) are divine when paired with the Ji Wei Jiu.
THE TOOLS Find Yuzu juice and other well-curated cocktail tools and ingredients at the Provisions store on the first floor.