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Liberty's Andrew Friedman Uses Unflappable Amiability

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Welcome to The Gatekeepers, in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite impossible-to-get tables.
Andrew_Friedman_Portrait_1024.jpg [Photo: S Pratt]

Liberty bar, along with Linda Derschang's Smith, can be credited with reviving food and drink life on Capitol Hill's formerly sleepy 15th Avenue. For the record, Liberty got there first. Established in 2006, co-owner and bartender Andrew Friedman proudly points to the fact that Liberty has been open every single day since it opened. Additionally, Friedman is one of the founder’s and President of the Washington State Bartender’s Guild, and a founding member and VP of the Washington Distiller’s Guild.

Tell us a little bit about your background.

Since my first job ever at the ripe ol’ age of 14ish, I have spent most of it in the service industry. Previous to Liberty, I owned an espresso cart, a café, then a school in Bangkok, and then Liberty from ’06, onward.

It's 8pm on a Saturday. How long's the wait for a party with no reservations?

It really goes back & forth every week, and we really never know what to expect - but for a group of less than eight people, generally the wait is no longer than 15 minutes or so, and we have the couch areas that are great for larger groups.

Any recent celebrity sightings?

Well, we do get a lot of celebrities – mostly musicians, but?they come in because we’re known for never telling anyone about it?

Tell us about some of your favorite regulars?

Liberty is more than anything else a neighborhood bar, so we are lucky enough to have more regulars than I think is normal. Thinking about it, I have two off the top of my head. The first is Kirt D., who; while also having a great palate for rum, has two bands, one of which is called ‘Mayors of Liberty’. Another is a fine fella named Peter and his wife Kit, and Peter has great taste in scotch whisky, while Kit is just plain ol’ great. I look forward to seeing them and many others walk through the door.

What are some of the challenges you face regularly?

Consistency. We train our staff all the time, and we’re lucky to have a staff that wants to absorb information about all things spirit & cocktail related. But, since we have a 40+drink cocktail list with many house-made ingredients, making sure that we have a consistent product between our staff has to be our biggest challenge.

What are your personal favorite menu items/cocktails?

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of whisk(e)y, which is pretty obvious if you look at our backbar. We have over 400 bottles on our shelves that are 4 bottle deep, and then another few hundred special items in back because there’s just no more room out front. I have to say though – Japanese whisky & mezcal have really taken over my interest. For cocktails, I have been playing with room temperature drinks for those that drink neat pours, because with a room temp drink (sometimes called a ‘Scaffa’), many flavors come out that are lost in with the chilling effect of a stirred or shaken drink with ice. If you really like spirits, you like room-temp drinks.

What about when you're not at work? Where do you like to eat and drink?

That’s an easy one. Generally, you’ll find me at Barrio, at Canon, at Ba Bar & Zig Zag. For sure, I vacation at Sambar when Jay is working as often as I can get my passport stamped for Ballard.

So, what's your most important gatekeeper tool?

An unflappable amiability. We are a service industry: It’s service 1st and service last. So, even if a large problem develops, being intractably amiable will win the day.

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Liberty Bar

517 15th Avenue East, Seattle, WA

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