A Seattle bar beat out some of the biggest names in the cocktail world to win the title of "Best New American Cocktail Bar."
Navy Strength, a tiki-inspired bar along a sleepy stretch of Belltown, has been anointed “Best New American Cocktail Bar” by Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, one of the drink industry’s highest honors.
In a stunning upset on Saturday at the world’s biggest booze fest, the Seattle bar beat out some of the biggest names in the cocktail world (Attaboy in Nashville, Broken Shaker in L.A. and The Aviary in New York City).
The judging panel didn’t offer details on how it picked the winner, but one thing is clear: Navy Strength was the only bar on the list of finalists that was not an extension of an existing brand. All the other finalists were big-name bars that expanded into other markets: Attaboy was an acclaimed speak-easy that originated in New York City and expanded south to Tennessee; Broken Shaker originated in Miami Beach and cloned itself in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles (it was nominated best new bar for its Los Angeles branch); and The Aviary was started in Chicago and expanded to New York City.
Navy Strength’s beginning is humbler. It was the scrappiest of the bunch. Started by Anu Apte from the bar Rob Roy and her husband Chris Elford, a certified cicerone, the bar was opened on a shoestring budget. The couple often worked 80 hours a week, and they couldn’t afford a PR firm.
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A different kind of tiki bar, Navy Strength adopted little over-the-top, kitschy Polynesian décor. Though there are the usual Mai Tais and Singapore Slings, Navy Strength’s menu focuses on a country, sometimes with few tiki roots, and adopts that homeland’s history and ingredients into tiki drinks. Themes have included the Philippines and, currently, Peru.
Apte and Elford also own the craft-beer bar No Anchor next door on Second Avenue.