Refreshing Gin & Tonic Hits Capitol Hill
Naka’s new slant on the hot-weather classic
By AJ Rathbun
June 13, 2016
The Cocktail: GiNakaTonic #3
A truly legendary combo, the gin and tonic traces its roots to the 1700s when the Brits were colonizing India, where malaria was a problem. Gin, sugar, water and lime made the curative quinine more palatable. Since then, the G&T has become a spring and summer standard throughout the world. Beyond the use of locally made Bradley’s Kina tonic concentrate (crafted with spices, citrus oil and Peruvian cinchona bark, which brings the quinine), the GiNakaTonic #3 (the latest in a series that expands on the G&T) adds an individual and memorable spin to the drink’s core ingredients, thanks to a tangy house-made rhubarb shrub and locally made lime bitters.
Mix these with a base of local gin and you’ve got a Northwest G&T that’s historic and inventive all at once, with loads of citrus tones and tartness.
The Restaurant: The Bar at Naka
Naka is known as the place in town to enjoy kaiseki (multicourse Japanese dinners often paired with sake or wine). You can delve into the rotating cocktail list on the restaurant side, but don’t skip going into the bar: It has a different food menu of noodles and shared plates, and different drinks, too. Try the Chef’s Fashion, a variation on an old–fashioned, highlighted by a seasonal syrup, such as a caramel soy syrup, created by chef Shota Nakajima.
The Bartender: Nik Virrey
Engaging, intelligent and just plain fun, Naka bar manager Nik Virrey (who is also an award-winning barista, director of education at Slate Coffee Roasters and former Liberty bartender) was named Seattle’s Most Imaginative Bartender for 2015 by Bombay Sapphire and Bartender of the Year by Eater in 2015. Watching him serve The Gospel, a Naka favorite aromatized by a bowl of freshly lit bamboo charcoal, you can understand why. But it’s how he uses his imagination to build off the traditional that really impresses. His GiNakaTonic series, which he plans to continue with variations on the classic drink, is a perfect example. But what does he love about a G&T? That it “nails all the senses perfectly.”
Try his newest and you’ll agree. Capitol Hill, 1449 E Pine St.; 206.294.5230; nakaseattle.com
2 ounces Copperworks gin (distilled in downtown Seattle)
1 ounce Bradley’s Kina tonic
¾ ounce rhubarb shrub*
3 dashes of locally made Scrappy’s lime bitters
2 ¼ ounces soda water
Lime, rhubarb or rosemary for garnish
»Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway with ice cubes. Add the gin, tonic, shrub and bitters. Shake well. Fill a highball glass, or something comparable, three-quarters full with ice cubes. Strain the mix into the glass, then top with soda water. Stir well. Garnish with a lime wheel, sprig of rosemary or rhubarb slices.
For Naka bartender Danae Rose’s recipe for rhubarb shrub, visit seattlemag.com/recipes and search “shru