Sunday, October 21, 2012

Help Murray Stenson

If you drink cocktails in Seattle, you know Murray Stenson. Murray has tended this city’s bars for thirty-plus years, spending over a decade behind the stick at Il Bistro, another ten years at the landmark Zig Zag Café, and lately working at Canon. He’s almost single-handedly responsible for bringing the classic cocktail movement to this part of the world, and countless Pacific Northwest bartenders have learned from and been inspired by him. Even if you’ve never set foot here, you may have felt Murray’s influence. He rediscovered the Last Word, which now appears on menus around the globe and was dubbed “the Official Drink of the Classic Cocktail Renaissance” by the Washington Post’s Jason Wilson.

Murray is not just a crafter of perfect cocktails. More importantly, he is a master of hospitality. Wherever he’s working, you can count on finding a convivial atmosphere in addition to splendid drinks. His peers paid him the highest compliment at the 2010 Tales of the Cocktail, where he was named “Best Bartender in America.” Look him up and you’ll find the same two words used to describe him: beloved and legendary.

Much of what little I know about cocktails I’ve learned from Murray. I’m also proud to say that over those years he’s become a friend. Murray’s a serious film buff and a crime fiction fan; I still remember my amazement when he asked me one day, “Ever hear of a writer named Jim Crumley?,” then revealed that the author of The Last Good Kiss would regularly drive in from Montana and do his drinking at Il Bistro.

And now, Murray needs our help.

He was recently diagnosed with a heart ailment that may require surgery. Worse, he is currently unable to work, meaning he can’t do what he was put here to do, make outstanding drinks and strangers feel welcome. Like many an accomplished tradesman, he doesn’t have health insurance.

One of Murray’s longtime friends has set up MurrayAid, where you can make donations to help defray his medical expenses. The Zig Zag Café will be hosting a benefit for Murray on Sunday, November 4 from 5pm to close, where you can literally drink to Murray’s health. Other events will be announced in the coming weeks. I’ll be at as many as possible.

Over at the Cocktail Chronicles, Paul Clarke writes a lovely tribute to Murray. If Murray has ever poured you a cocktail, give a few dollars. If you’ve ever found a home away from home at a cocktail bar, chip in as well. Help out a good man in need.