Otter on the Rocks celebrates a year of growth and craft cocktails
Tanner Jitmongkonkul and his wife Erin had never run a bar before opening Otter on the Rocks a year ago. He came to the US from Thailand in 2004. He tried a few other business ideas prior including one making some unique snack/dessert style items but the pandemic made that unfeasible. When the location at 4210 Admiral Way became available he and his wife took a chance on his idea for a high quality cocktail bar that serves only flatbreads and cookies.
"On the rocks" is a cocktail term, but Otter? "We wanted something fun and playful. The otter was the first animal that fascinated my brain when I discovered the Otter for the first time at the Seattle Aquarium. You can see them underwater."
"We're definitely a cocktail bar, and we focus on quality ingredients, but we don't want to be snooty about the cocktail scene. All my employees are trained to be able to answer any questions."
That means knowing about the sometimes exotic ingredients from the unique craft cocktails (all made to order) to the gourmet flatbreads that are offered, very quickly by the way, cooked in a special all electric 800 degree oven called the Turbo Chef Fire, capable of cooking them in 2 minutes.
The speed of cocktail service is also quick, generally under 5 minutes "though when we are completely busy it can run longer," Tanner explained.
The model for restaurants, at least some, seems to be moving more toward a fast casual style with higher margins. The focus on quality still has to be there and the food and beverages served have to have the right demographic appeal to provide a good baseline experience.
The flatbreads include the Thai Curry, Fig Goat Cheese, Pesto Veggies, and Apple Bacon.
But Tanner and Erin are very aware of the need to layer on experiences that bring people in.
Those include their new, Cocktail Class once a month in which guests can learn the art of making high quality cocktails, Cozy Comedy evenings once a month on the third Monday, the seemingly new craze #SlientBookClub on the first Thursday of every month, Open Mic is every other Tuesday, Jazz every other Wednesday, and their newest Piano Covers by Request (there's an upright piano in the bar). That debuted on Valentine's Day and will happen again on March 9.
The bar can accommodate "50 to 60 people comfortably (this includes a balcony area upstairs that can seat 15), and Otter on the Rocks is open at 4pm every day but Monday (aside from special events). They close at 1:30am on Friday and Saturday and on other weeknights they close at midnight.
Their signature cocktail is a House Old Fashioned. It's served in a short glass with single cube. Rye, Carmelized Simple Syrup, a hint of maple, Orange and Angonstura Bitters topped with a toasted marshmallow.
Tanner and his bartenders are "constantly experimenting with different drink ideas" which means, even if they hit on a great blend, "It means we have to spit it out, because we can't drink them all."
Clever drink names are entertaining too. On the Winter Cocktails menu are the Harvest Moon (Rye, Brucato Orchards, Borsci Amaro liquer... Booze forward, plum and coffee notes) for $15 and the la llorona (Tequila, Mezcal, Meletti, house allspice dram, house coconut orgeat, lime (contains almonds... Spice heavy, vanilla buttery notes ).
They are working on a brunch idea that may be held the first time this spring or summer.
Another word on the #SilentBookClub. This event is worldwide and has over the last few months been adopted by a number of West Seattle bars. Unlike a regular book club where everyone reads the same book, silent book clubs have no assigned reading. Everyone brings their own book. Club members socialize (and loudly) for a time before hand then for an hour they all read their books in nearly complete silence.
Based on the packed house for the club on a recent Thursday, this cocktail bar in the Admiral District, despite limited parking, a somewhat odd name and a small menu, otter do very well.