Brothers Johnny and Jimmy Rolfe are the co-owners of The Nook at 2206 California Ave SW in north Admiral. The craft cocktail bar brings together unusual ingredients that are the product of their mutual experience and relentless experimentation.
The Nook blends, comfort, craft cocktails and warmth in north Admiral
What is the perfect recipe for a drink? If that’s the quest of brothers Jimmy and Johnny Rolfe they seem to have hit on the perfect recipe for a neighborhood cocktail bar on the way. The Nook at 2206 took over the space previously occupied by Mind Unwind and Treehouse Lounge is the product of years of preparation and four months of build out resulting in a two floor space that is warm, woody, classic and fun. The brothers bring allied but somewhat different strengths to the new business not unlike the drinks they produce as well. Both from Chesterton Indiana, Jimmy, 34, joined the Coast Guard and came to Seattle more than 15 years ago. Johnny, 31, worked in in Chicago at Alinea (named as the Best Restaurant in America more than once) learning about food and beverage pairings, then partnered with a friend and went to Charleston, South Carolina where he created a Farm to Table concept business.
Jimmy always enjoyed the hospitality industry, and wanted to work in it so he began his career at a restaurant in downtown Seattle, and later came to the Matador restaurant in West Seattle where he worked his way up through the ranks to become the Operations Bar Manager. Along the way he did stints at Talarico’s and Jak’s Grill too. Being exposed to so many ways of making drinks gave him a strong background to build on. “That’s where I started geeking out and developing my passion for craft cocktails. I understood that the Matador was not the right “canvas” for that. So I asked Johnny to come out and join me. We both felt West Seattle was lacking a beer, wine, cocktail focus with no distractions from food and no distractions from sports."
That means they concentrate on the somewhat remarkable drinks they dream up, that are often their twist on classics but sometimes something you are not likely to find anywhere else. To meet the state’s license requirement they hit on another unique solution. They worked a deal with Freshy’s coffee just a couple of blocks south to provide sandwiches which they put in a panini press and serve with a bag of chips, meaning they have not just adequate but excellent food on hand. The sandwiches are $9 and range from Black Forest Ham and Cheddar to Turkey and Pepper Jack with Pepperoncinis or Salami and Mozzarella. Jimmy explained, “We’re not just selling sandwiches. We're promoting another small business in West Seattle.”
But the cocktails are the star of the show at The Nook. This is a scratch bar, everything is made on site by hand.
The drinks can and do change from time to time, as the recipes are made (and tried out sometimes on customers) and as the whim hits them.
Some that are worth getting in your car (or better, getting a ride there) to spend time enjoying are:
Smoked Old Fashioned
Rye, Orange, Bordeaux Cherry, Sugar Cube, Cherry Bark Vanilla Bitters, Cherry Wood Smoke
Note: They literally have a portable smoker that they blend the output from with the liquids. The effect is sort of amazing.
Blushing Saint (a big hit they say)
Gin, Elderflower, Aperol, Fresh Lime
Don Julio Reposado, Elderflower, Fresh Lemon, Orange Bitters
Strawberry and Jalapeno infused Rum, Cane Sugar, Lime
Chartreuse, Cynar, Orange
Emerald City Manhattan
Rye, Punt E Mes, Homemade Coffee Bitters
Aged Rum, Pineapple Shrub, Some other stuff
They also offer a lot of local beers, wines and other distilled beverages from the Seattle area and Washington State.
“The aspect of being creative and trying to do things a little bit different than the competitors, and making it approachable.” That process means they are always trying new combinations. For example Johnny said they found that they liked the addition of the smoke flavor to the Old Fashioned more than a Manhattan, something he explained “probably had to to with the bitters used in that drink that didn’t go well with the smoke. We’re considering doing a cigar tobacco smoke on a Manhattan.”
If you ask either of them for a “Bartender’s Choice” you are likely to get a drink they’ve been developing and want your opinion on.
The creative process for craft cocktails isn’t based on any criteria other than,”We want a diverse menu of booze forward drinks, sweet drinks, sour drinks. It’s a balance.” They base the drink prices which run from $8 to $11 “off what it cost us to make them,” Johnny said. They make a drink called the Seattle Grey which is Earl Grey Tea infused vodka, made in house, grapefruit liqueur and a splash of soda that wiil run $8 because it does not cost a lot to make. Conversely a drink called Campfire Mule has expensive ingredients (two of which are literally some pine needles and hand toasted marshmallows) so it’s a bit more.
In a craft cocktail bar like the Nook, don’t expect to get just a huge volume of alcohol. The whole point is the craft aspect, meaning, “Every drink has the amount that suits it’s needs,” Johnny explained.
The Nook can accomodate 78 people and they are open from 5pm to 10pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. On Friday and Saturday they close at midnight. If that seems early for a bar to close Johnny says, “Not in North Admiral.”
They are busy from the moment they open till they close and their early Yelp ratings are five star. If the goal was to assemble 1 part comfort, 1 part warmth, 1 part food, and 2 parts friendly with a wide variety of flavors the Rolfe brothers seem to have found the perfect blend at the Nook.
Follow them on Facebook here.
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