Update: Tiny Bigs closed in March 2017.
Tini Bigs is one of Seattle’s most revered cocktail bars. Located at the very base of Queen Anne just a few blocks from Seattle Center, it has carved out a place for itself among the city’s finest watering holes thanks to its menu of unique drinks and its knowledgeable staff. For those who not only enjoy drinking the cocktails at Tini Bigs but want to understand what makes them tick, the bar hosts a monthly mixology lesson with guest speakers, gourmet edibles and naturally a tasting of the day’s featured spirit.
The Local Dish was on hand for the September class at Tini Bigs when the day belonged to Absinthe, perhaps the most misunderstood liquor in history. Marc Bernhard, the man behind Pacifique Distillery in nearby Woodinville, Washington, was on hand to give a few lively liquor lessons to his bar stool students about the history, character and versatility of the Green Fairy. Bartender Mike McSorley backed him up with an age-old Absinthe cocktail and his own lesson about digestivi, the class of liquor to which Absinthe belongs.
For those who have never tried Absinthe (don’t feel bad if you haven’t as none was produced in the United States between 1912 and 2007), it’s a potent, green liquor distilled from a variety of herbs, most prominently the bitter wormwood leaf and the powerful candy flavors of anise and sweet fennel. The drink’s reputation as an hallucinogenic drug is a falsehood resulting from Prohibitionist propaganda and incorrect medical conclusions in the early 20th century. It’s actually just another liquor, like whiskey or gin. Originally concocted as a medicinal extract, Absinthe has a very high alcohol content and is meant to be served with as much as five parts water for every one part liquor, the water introduced slowly while running over a cube of sugar. This is known as the French Drip method. The resulting solution should have no more alcohol content than a glass of wine.
The digestivi, so named because they are meant to be served after a meal, featured in the second half of the lesson were Amaro, Fernet Branca, Drambuie and Chartreuse. Amaro has a sweet top note with a bitter orange finish, while Fernet Branca has an unusual minty flavor that goes strangely well with a squirt of cola. The scotch-based Drambuie is much like modern liqueurs with its syrupy feel, though it ends with a deep sting most first-time drinkers don’t expect. Finally, Chartreuse may be green like Absinthe but its flavor, reminiscent of cinnamon and ribbon candy, couldn’t be more different.
Because of the leisurely pace and small crowd at the Tini Bigs mixology liquor lessons, the bar’s kitchen has a chance to roll out some of its more time-intensive dishes, specials that usually don’t appear on the regular menu of classed-up bar food available at Tini Bigs any night of the week. September’s students were treated to a mushroom and mozzarella crostini followed by a savory, Asian-inspired eggplant spread and a thin-crust pizza with roasted red peppers.
The mixology classes at Tini Bigs aim to make sure their students get the most out of each lesson, so their day and time tend to revolve around the availability of guest teachers. You can contact the bar through their website to receive a full schedule of upcoming classes.