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Monday, May 5, 2008

Vessel Loses Top-Rated Bartender

posted by on May 5 at 13:08 PM

Bartender Jamie Boudreau has parted ways with posh downtown bar Vessel. Vessel’s doom was falsely rumored early last week; Boudreau’s employ by the bar ended May 1. Vessel’s been in the news before, in June 2007, for alleged failure to pay bills. The Boudreau/Vessel split sounds as if it may not have been completely amicable: On his blog, Boudreau specifically denies rumors that he is consulting for Vessel and says a private party gig was his “first payday of quite some time.”

According to Boudreau’s blog, he will muddle for food—and he’d love for someone to help fund his own bar. He’s been written up bountifully in the local and national press (Time, Details, Esquire) for his cocktail genius. When Vessel opened in autumn of 2006, he lectured me about how vodka is unfit for consumption, at least by people with any taste. He’s the kind of guy you feel lucky to be lectured by:

Bar manager Jamie Boudreau, imported from Vancouver’s vaunted Lumiere and given his full druthers here, achieves curiosities and wonders, exploiting the rich history of alcohol and his own clearly fixated imagination. He is a man of strong opinions when it comes to liquor: Vodka does not now and never will appear on his cocktail menu, as it is “for amateurs,” lacks complexity, and lies beneath consideration. He imparts this extreme prejudice with mesmerizing charm; he wears arm garters. Each drink on his menu bears a date, a place of origin, and a composer as available; you may get knocked on your ass here, but it’s knocked on your ass by art.

Boudreau moved here specifically for Vessel; Seattle will be lucky if he sticks around. After all, he’s either Seattle’s best or second-best bartender.

UPDATE: Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, Vessel remains open for business.

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No! God I love that place. It's spoiled me on drinking cocktails any place else. I try to explain to people that it's a bit pretentious and fiddly but it's successful at what it does. I'm trying to remember if I wrote down the instructions for the thoroughbred though I doubt I'd be able to duplicate it.

It always seemed like a bit of a tough location though and I often thought it should have more people in it. Not sure why the blinds were always drawn, it looked closed.

Anyway, at least we still have the zigzag. I got a bourbon tasting from Murray many years ago, but somehow it wasn't until recently that I moved from the whisky to their menu and realized that they have a selection of vessel-esque cocktails. Mmmm...

Posted by daniel | May 5, 2008 1:19 PM

Hm, I was always under the impression that one of the beauties of vodka was the fact that it imparts little or no flavor to a cocktail, allowing the other ingredients to have a more prominent effect on the taste-buds.

Guess Mr. Bodreau isn't going to get to be quite so picky about what kind of alcohol he does or doesn't serve, now that it looks like most of his gigs are going to be freelance for a while.

Posted by COMTE | May 5, 2008 1:25 PM

I, too, love being lectured by the ignorant and ill-informed. Vodka, as its name and etymology imply, is to be consumed like... water.

Posted by umvue | May 5, 2008 1:39 PM


those were some tasty fucking cocktails.

that place out in Ballard where Venus Velasquez wrecked her career is pretty good, too.

Posted by max solomon | May 5, 2008 1:47 PM

Looks like another prime location for a new church location!

Posted by Mark Driscoll | May 5, 2008 1:48 PM

Maybe they just didn't pay their phone bill.

Posted by Ima Nodetective | May 5, 2008 1:51 PM

Oh, no! Where will the liquor snobs go next?

Posted by Jason Josephes | May 5, 2008 2:47 PM

It's not just the phone bill; I can confirm that I served them eviction papers a while ago.

Posted by Tizzle | May 5, 2008 3:29 PM

I have to say that unquestionably Sunny Seattle is losing something if Jamie is drawn away from our city. That 'something' is a person who is nationally recognized as being at the forefront of the new generation of bartenders that are elevated from being 'bartenders' to great chefs but using a different medium.

Here in Seattle, we are lucky to have a number of worldclass bartenders (mixologists?) such as Murray of Zig Zag and others, so I do hope that Seattle is able to keep Jamie around.

Posted by Andrew | May 5, 2008 3:34 PM

That place was full of trendy pretentious a-holes. Good riddance!!

Posted by Cato | May 5, 2008 4:05 PM

Jamie rocks. Vodka sucks ass. Nuff said.

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | May 5, 2008 4:44 PM

Christ! False alarm. I thought you were talking about a "vessel" and not Vessel. Isaac can't leave - how would Doc pick up on passengers?

"You got it!"

Posted by MacBastard | May 5, 2008 11:29 PM

My name is Jim Romdall and I have taken over managing the bar at Vessel. I have been bartending there for over a year now, and have worked closely under Jamie Boudreau. I am quite sad to not be working with him anymore. His shoes are next to impossible to fill, and I can only hope to do justice to the bar he has helped to build.

In regards to the silly vodka debate, i share the same views as Jamie does. Vodka doesn't belong in a cocktail as a main ingredient because it is designed to have no flavor. I know when I cook that I prefer to have a main ingredient that actually tastes like something.

Next to address all the people out there who have assumed we're closing, or that we might as well have without Jamie. We haven't closed for a day, nor do we plan to. I don't plan on changing the philosophy or the nature of the establishment. If you think we can't live up to the high standards set by Jamie Boudreau, all I can say is to come in and test us.

Posted by Jim Romdall | May 6, 2008 2:31 AM

Bartenders reject staple spirits at their own risk.

Posted by Greg | May 6, 2008 9:58 AM

To clarify: I have vodka and serve quite a bit of it. There's nothing wrong with drinking vodka, it just provides little in an actual cocktail, and therefore won't find it in any cocktail on our list.

Posted by Jim Romdall | May 6, 2008 11:43 AM

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