Bar None #10 // Erik Hakkinen

We took a stroll through Seattle’s historic @PikePlacePublicMarket and met up with Erik Hakkinen at the renowned @ZigZagCafeSeattle. From bussing tables to filling some of the biggest shoes in Seattle’s bartending scene, Erik’s story of grit and ingenuity will be sure to inspire you in this installment of #BarNone 

Read his full story below.

1. Tell us who you are, where you’re from, etc.

I grew up in scenic Tacoma, came to Seattle in 1998 to attend UW. Studied literature, philosophy, and French, which have proven tangentially applicable to tending bar, at best.

2. What’s your bartender story? How did you get into it?

I started in restaurants in ’97 as a busboy and host on the Tacoma waterfront. In Summer ’00, I started working on Lake Union and when I turned 21, they did with me what they do with all of the least disciplined bussers – they put me in the bar. Shortly thereafter I got an offer to start barbacking at a new restaurant with a couple of bartenders who were apparently famous, some guy named Murphy or Monty or something. I learned as much as I could from those guys before they left, then assumed the role of lead bartender at the tender age of 21, which trust me was no position of auspice. In 2007, I got the job at Zig Zag and stayed there until the end of 2016. I learned probably 95% of everything I know working there. The combined experience behind that bar when I started, not including myself, was like 75 years, it was just absurd. So I got really lucky.

3. What’s your favorite cocktail to serve and why? How do you usually match a cocktail to a person or setting?

My personal favorite cocktail is an Old Fashioned. Easy to say, not necessarily easy to execute for some reason that baffles me. It’s simple, effective, and can be riffed on so easily. When offering a cocktail I always like to offer the menu first. A good cocktail bar is always going to put effort into that list. If nothing on the menu strikes a cord, we go down the path: Boozy? Refreshing? Light? Dark? Tart…dry…bitter? With that in mind, I’ll usually work off of 5-6 basic models that all lend themselves to riffing and/or ornamentation. So we’re looking at Manhattan, Negroni, Old Fashioned, sours, slings, fizzes, etc. Eventually, it has most to do with the guest’s endgame. Wanna chill and enjoy something mellow? I got you. Wanna get lit and blow off some steam? Covered. It’s my responsibility to keep you paced, hydrated and mildly distracted.

4. Why do you use Scrappy’s in your cocktails? Has Scrappy’s improved the drinks you make? Favorite Scrappy’s Flavor?
That said, I use Scrappy’s bitters for a number of reasons, but first and foremost it’s because they’re local and I’ve known them for years. Doesn’t hurt that they’re delicious and cover a wide spectrum of flavor. I use Aromatic and Cardamom for all kinds of stirred brown and vermouth-driven cocktails, and I really like Grapefruit and Lime for accenting slings and sours. The Firewater Tincture is probably my wildcard and I’ve added it to everything. People just love that extra heat dimension it offers.
5. What’s your idea of the perfect drink (location, circumstance, etc.)? 

My perfect drink is all about who I’m with. Tending bar, to me, is all about the hang. Also, drinks don’t taste as good when they’re taken too seriously, but I guess the same goes for when they’re just slapped together. So this is going to sound like a staple answer, but well-crafted simple cocktails in a convivial environment with my friends would be my go-to, although I wouldn’t call tequila shots before bowling in Tacoma a distant second.”


1 1/2 oz Sotol Por Siempre

3/4 oz Giffard Wild Elderflower

3/4 lime juice

1 dash Scrappy’s Grapefruit Bitters

1 dash Scrappy’s Firewater Tincture

Posted: Wednesday, March 20th, 2019 at 6:46 pm

Category: blog