Interview: bartender Jim Romdall (Vessel)

Bartender Seattle

Photo courtesy of Jim Romdall

Jim Romdall was having visions, but it’s not what you think. The Seattle native, who majored in Film Studies at the University of Washington, moved to L.A. and made movies, which provided a creative outlet. However, while he was in L.A., he discovered a different passion: bartending. His first bar job was in college, and he even managed the bar at Wolfgang Puck’s famed Malibu restaurant – Granita – before returning north. Back in Seattle, he caught on at Vessel, and through sweat equity, became part owner of the venue, which will reopen in a new location by summer 2011. We recently spoke by phone, where he further explained his background and approach.

What was your first bar job?

Working at a college bar, during college, at Dante’s in Seattle. I’m pretty much worked in bars ever since. When I moved to L.A., I got a job at a fine dining place in Malibu – Granita – and became the bar manager.

How did that come about?

Like most bartending jobs, Craigslist. For some reason, they decided to hire a guy who worked at a college bar…The hardest part of bartending is getting a job, and if you don’t know people, Craigslist is pretty much where it is…although now it’s overwhelming. The last time I put up a server ad, I got 200 responses in a day.

How did the opportunity come about at Vessel?

Craigslist. I met with them before they opened and didn’t get the job. They had an opening five months later and put an ad on Craigslist. I responded to it and got the job. I am the manager and one of the owners now…I worked there for about a year. That’s when Jamie [Boudreau] left, and I took over management. I gradually took over the General Manager position, and a year later, I became part owner.

Do you have a first cocktail memory, good or bad?

Oddly enough, I didn’t really make real cocktails until working at Vessel. Most of my first cocktail memories are of me making them. I made silly college cocktails, packing as much vodka and flavored liqueurs into them as possible.

Did you become interested in spirits or cocktails first?

Spirits. When I was living in L.A., I got really into wine, scotch and whiskeys. I didn’t really know what a cocktail was until coming back to Seattle.

Would you say that you have any mentors?

Jamie Boudreau hired me at Vessel and gave me the big introduction and taught me about cocktails. Without him, I wouldn’t know what cocktails were. After that, the typical Seattle answer, Murray Stenson. The man is simply a different species. He comes from a planet of all bartenders.

Who are some bartenders you haven’t worked with that you admire, and how come?



Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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