Chris Ekas has been a bartender and manager of various restaurants in downtown for the last 15 years. Most recently he was a manager of the Davenport restaurants before moving up to be the dining manager at Luna on the South Hill this summer. We caught up with him at Volstead Act, where he still sometimes fills a shift or two, and asked him to share three things he's loving about the bar scene.
Fresh and homemade
"I'm seeing a lot of drinks involving ingredients that are as fresh and local as possible. Many bars are sourcing local herbs, following trends in places like Portland and Seattle.
"Obviously that's a seasonal thing, so the summer has more fruits and herbs, and in winter I've seen more people making their own bitters. I make my own bitters personally to incorporate into cocktail menus. I did a cocoa tobacco bitters for a scotch drink that had espresso beans floating on an orange peel."
Revamping the lost classics
Fittingly for someone who's worked for six years at Volstead Act, named for the act that started Prohibition, Ekas says he's a fan of classic cocktails. Recently, he's seen more people around town ordering the "Last Word" and the "Paper Plane."
"The Last Word was created at the Detroit Athletic Club in the '20s and was kind of forgotten about in cocktail books for a long time. I give most of the credit to Murray Stenson in Seattle. He started putting the Last Word on many cocktail menus and it really caught fire and it's kind of a Northwest classic now. It's a fantastic drink, it's equal parts gin, Green Chartreuse, Luxardo and fresh lime juice. Similarly, the Paper Plane is equal parts bourbon, fresh lemon juice, Amaro Nonino and Aperol."
It's all about technique
"The most exciting thing in my opinion that's happening in Spokane is more on the technique side of things. You're starting to see people do ice cubes made from scratch; They're doing that at Hogwash. And a lot of the making of the bitters and infused alcohols. You're just starting to see bartenders get really creative, and bars are looking for bartenders like that and supporting them. I think that farm-to-table, from scratch kind of trend that has started in the culinary scene and spread to Spokane is really starting to happen in the bar scene, too."