Happy Hour Report: The specialty cocktails at Moshi Moshi Sushi in Ballard are wondrous things, created by bartender Erik Carlson, a Seattle native who learned his cocktail craft in San Francisco.

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You would think I had sashimi on my mind at Moshi Moshi Sushi in Ballard. But I came for the cocktails.

There hasn’t been a cocktail menu this exciting, or a bartender’s debut this inspiring, in Seattle in some time. It’s not that Moshi Moshi’s happy-hour tempura shrimp and spicy tuna roll are bad, but compared with the drinks, the snacks are just pedestrian. At Moshi Moshi, a cocktail is a complex thing, ambitious with layers of exotic flavors. Take the “Angel’s Share,” with glazed-pecan-infused bourbon, vanilla liqueur, basil, lemon, agave and egg white; the creamy, nutty concoction could almost pass as dessert.

Or the Repo Man Cocktail. I thought I knew what was coming when I whiffed its piney notes — tequila, mezcal, agave, angostura and orange bitters — but instead a surge of cool caramel rolled off my tongue.

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There’s even a banana-chip-infused rum with Averna (an Italian liqueur), lemon, maple syrup, orange zest and egg white.

Bartenders and cocktail geeks have already made this bar a must stop, even though Moshi Moshi just opened last month, and even though its $8 specialty cocktails aren’t discounted during happy hour.

Bartender Erik Carlson, formerly of the famed The Slanted Door in San Francisco, is the creative mind behind the two-page cocktail menu. The Seattle native spent 11 years working in bars in San Francisco, one of the country’s top cocktail scenes, before returning last year to develop Moshi Moshi’s drink menu.

In Seattle, many young bartenders are influenced by the cocktails they’ve seen from trendsetters Murray Stenson of Zig Zag Café, and Jamie Boudreau of Tini Bigs Lounge and formerly of Vessel. Carlson’s Bay Area influences may explain why his approach seems so refreshing, his drink menu so different from other local bars.

Moshi Moshi Sushi, 5324 Ballard Ave. N.W., offers happy hour 4:30-6 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, and 10-11:30 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays and 11-1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Sushi rolls and other food, $1-$5; well drinks and house wine, $4; hot sake, $2-$4; and beer, $2 (206-971-7424 or www.moshiseattle.com).

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or tvinh@seattletimes.com

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