Mixologist of the Month: Jim German

Owner/bartender at jimgermanbar, Waitsburg, Washington.

Waitsburg is a small farm community set in rolling wheat land about 20 miles north of Walla Walla. It would seem to be the last place that urbanites from Seattle and Portland would congregate.

But since the watering hole opened in the summer of 2007, it has become a mustsee destination. The region’s wine and food community and an eclectic mix of locals and travelers all stop in to see what the buzz is about.

They come out of curiosity and stay for the hospitality, captivated by the cooking of Jim’s wife and business partner, Claire Johnston, and the classic, impeccably made cocktails.

Johnston and German, veterans of the Seattle bar scene (Il Bistro, Campagne, Place Pigalle), relocated to this historic town seven years ago. Intent on pursuing art (both painting and sculpting) as well as owning their own business, they set to work renovating a pair of derelict, century-old Main Street buildings.

Why Waitsburg? “It’s a reverse psychology challenge,” says German. “Urban folks said country people won’t appreciate it. Country people said no one will come out here. For me, it’s not about location; it’s atmosphere.”

Patrons who walk through the door immediately feel at home. A seat at the bar comes with a guarantee that you will not only eat and drink well, you will make some new and interesting acquaintances.

“We want to create an atmosphere with a good balance,” German says. “[It’s the] same with our cocktails. We constantly ask ourselves, ‘What can we take away from this cocktail and make it better?’ Less is more!”

He is determined to avoid what he calls “the Baskin Robbins effect”—a youthful exploration of every ingredient under the sun. The classic cocktail is the paradigm, three or four simple ingredients. Perfect simplicity. That’s jimgermanbar.

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