Ernie Salotti, bartender at Amore Infused, bring the craft of cocktail making to the candy cocktails and vodka drinks that are among the most requested at his bar.

Happy Hour |

Recently, during happy hour at Amore Infused, I ordered a strawberry candy cocktail and on another visit, a cosmo. (Don’t judge.)

Three months ago, this Belltown restaurant moved a few blocks closer to Denny Way, trying to win the hearts and stomachs of the dwellers nearby. It’s a large Italian restaurant, with a lounge featuring movie nights and live jazz and a cocktail bar. Let’s talk about that bar.

Bartender’s name: Ernie Salotti. Every patron seems to know his name. He hits Pike Place Market for kumquats, berries and seasonal produce and makes his own sour mix, trademarks of a seasoned bartender who specializes in craft cocktails.

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

Only the drinks that came out of Salotti’s workstation were candy cocktails and vodka drinks, the kind most cocktail geeks abhor.

Salotti can make a whiskey cocktail, bitter and spirit-forward like I prefer.

But the reality is most patrons like vodka and fruity drinks, he said, so that’s what he features.

He makes cosmos from scratch. He muddles fresh cranberries and uses a fresh batch of sweet-and-sour mix he made that morning. Not your usual overly sweet, triple sec cosmo served in clubs. It’s more balanced, with just enough sweetness to tone down the tartness from the cranberries.

These are some of the most labor-intensive candy cocktails I’ve seen. He muddles fresh strawberries and lime wedges for his “Strawberry Fields” cocktail, with strawberry — and rhubarb-infused gin, rhubarb syrup, sour mix and topped with Prosecco. Big fruity flavors, though so sweet that it drowned out all the botanical notes. No doubt, a cocktail made for the young Belltown crowd.

Bar-food menu seems typical: sliders, mac and cheese, and truffle potatoes. The most interesting was the deconstructed Caesar salad, with a lettuce wedge grilled for a smoky flavor, topped with the usual Caesar condiments, served with a buttery toast.

Around Seattle, I’ve seen bartenders talk patrons out of a cosmo or candy cocktail for a sophisticated drink more worthy of their cocktail dens.

Salotti’s approach is refreshing. “Part of bartending is we’re servers,” he said. “We’re not here to change them. We’re here to give them what they want.”

Amore Infused, 522 Wall St., offers happy hour all night on Wednesdays and on other weekdays from 4-7 p.m., Sunday 4-8 p.m. and Sundays-Thursdays from 10 p.m.-1 a.m. with $6-$7 cocktails, $6 wine and $4 beer and bar-food menu, $5-$12 (206-770-0606 or

Tan Vinh: