|© J. Adrian Wylie|
by Sally Mitani
During Art Fair, the newly expanded Blue Tractor shut the doors to its downstairs bar, all that was left of Cafe Habana's original two-level location. Habana was just marking time there while its new berth was being prepared on Main Street.
The space reopened as Mash, a bar specializing in fine sippin' whiskey and, a few nights a week, live listenin' music. (Laith Al-Saadi and his bluesy rock trio have a gig there every Thursday night for the foreseeable future.)
"We always wanted to open a whiskey bar. So many of our people like whiskeys and bourbons," says Greg Lobdell, who has a penchant for bland understatement. Lobdell and his partners, Jon Carlson and Chet Czaplicka, own 2Mission, Blue Tractor's parent company, which employs about 900 people around the state. Lobdell doesn't even think to mention that some of his people like whiskeys and bourbons so much that 2Mission bought them their own artisanal distillery: Civilized Spirits, housed in an historic building on the Old Mission Peninsula. Mash carries Civilized vodka, gin, and an unusual white whiskey that looks like vodka and tastes like bourbon, but you have to ask for them. They aren't listed on the menu, which emphasizes the mellow golden brown spirits.
"To call something a bourbon," says Blue Tractor/Mash manager Steve Barnes, "it has to be 51 percent corn whiskey made in Bourbon County, Kentucky." There are sixteen of them on the menu, and they can be ordered in flights, to compare and contrast. There's also a reserve list of other bourbons, whiskeys, and ryes, several costing more than $15 a shot. But straight whiskey is a connoisseur's game, and there aren't enough of them in town to support a bar, so Mash--like a lot of bars in town--has come up with its own creative bag of tricks to lure in less serious drinkers.
Ice, for instance. "We have flavored ice for different drinks. Some have pieces of mint leaf. We have ice made from smoke-flavored
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