By Dr. Ink | Come On, Get Happy!
Local distiller Nick Apostolopoulos has finally come into his own with an established line of vodkas picked up by retailers statewide, plus a very cool tasting room from which he can sell them.
Set within a stripped-down structure that used to be a house many years ago, 619 Spirits North Park held its grand opening over Labor Day weekend. A separate building on the property serves as the distillery.
Apostolopoulos took up distilling in 2012 in Bend, Oregon before moving his stills to Encanto, where he began securing a foothold in the consumer market. With five types of vodkas in his initial portfolio — cucumber, rose petal, coffee, scorpion pepper and plain — he now brings them into a well-stocked bar featuring a host of other liquors from local distilleries.
There are also several beers and wines on tap, plus a kitchen that sends out dishes ranging from casual chicken wings and Philly cheesesteaks to bistro-style steak frites and shrimp and grits.
By all accounts the 619 vodkas are smooth and fine enough to drink straight up, just as a bar patron I spoke to did as he savored the summery tasting cucumber-infused version. I was about to take the same route with the scorpion pepper vodka until seeing that it was combined with the irresistible juice of blood oranges in what’s called “blood of the scorpion.”
Cocktails made with 619 vodkas are $8 during happy hour. Those made with guest spirits by distilleries such as Malahat, Liberty Call and Old Harbor are $9. Either way, they all receive pours measuring 1 1/2 ounces. In addition, a few select noshes are $5 off their regular prices.
The reddish-hued scorpion drink was icy, refreshing and mildly spicy. It didn’t sting like the name implies because the sweetness from the blood-orange juice beautifully counterbalanced the heat of the chili-pepper vodka.
Other cocktail choices using the house spirits include a “princess cosmo” combining the rose-petal vodka with lime and cranberry juices; a white Russian blending the coffee vodka with heavy cream; and the 619 mule made with plain vodka, ginger beer and bitters.
In between my heavy sips of the juicy cocktail, I munched from an order of pita and hummus, which was anything but boring. Embedded in a substantial streak of the bean puree on the plate were olives, radishes, pickles and almonds — a deliciously pretty presentation I’ll be stealing next time I throw a party.
But for now, it’s all about the celebration at 619 Spirits, which joyfully shakes up North Park’s ubiquitous beer scene with unpretentious libations served within a laid-back atmosphere where you’ll find plenty of indoor-outdoor wiggle room.
It’s open seven days a week and offers brunch from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. That menu includes short rib hash, orange French toast with bourbon-maple syrup, and a spinach omelet with goat cheese.