As a proud son of this Evergreen State, apples are something I have always known. From pie to slices, from butter to cider, apples and I go way back. So when I got the chance to visit Capitol Cider’s Drink and Draw event last Thursday, I figured that while I wasn’t the most accomplished artist, at least I knew cider.
Jason’s drawing after one drink.
With its famous red neon sign, the bar and restaurant is tucked into Pike Street just west of Broadway. Entering Capitol Cider, customers first come into a wide floor of booths and tables. Serving up gnocchi, a Fisherwoman’s Stew, gluten free options and plenty of other plates, the restaurant is open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. on weekends. But if you’re like me and have more liquid aspirations in mind, take the second right and head downstairs to the cellar bar, which holds the same hours.
I’ve been to Capitol Cider once or twice, but I have never seen it as packed as it was on Thursday night at the Drink and Draw. People crowded the tables, huddled over the bar and filled the spaces in-between. Some had elegant little glasses of golden cider, some had long necked bottles of water and everyone had a sheet of paper. Charcoal in hand, with everyone in the bar focused on a single model sitting in a wooden chair. I scooped up a page, slid by the bar to grab a drink and found a couple willing to afford me the end of their table.
Right as I settled in, the host stepped up on the stage and called for a five-minute break. The Drink and Draw event works in 20 minute cycles, to give the model a break and let patrons grab another cup or two. My thoughts focused in on the deep amber liquid in front of me. “Bad Apple,” my first drink, had just the right kind of bite. It washes in with a wave of fizz and foam and then recedes into a lingering sour to be quenched by the next quick sip. Sometimes it’s the bad apples in the bunch that make all the difference.
Jason’s drawing after three drinks.
Five minutes had passed and I laid out my sheet then threw an intent stare at the model. Though my career in drawing had all but ended in my 10th grade composition notebook, the atmosphere—and cider—seemed to inspire me. 1,200 seconds flew by and to be honest, I was pretty proud of what I had made with just two pieces of charcoal. A wild haired man two tables over put it best when he exclaimed, “Well it’s not perfect, but at least art happened.”
To celebrate, I grabbed a second glass of cider called “Honey Moon Quince Cider.” I’d like to say I chose it based on some notion of quality, but to be honest I chose it because I liked its name. I sipped on my drink and gazed out at the shuffling crowd. A completely different beast entirely, “Honey Moon” opens with a cold bitter, then grows and glows into that warm honey taste that inspired the name. Like honeysuckle and cold summer dew.
The last 20 minute interval was upon us as the model turned to form a striking silhouette. Though you could say it was the cider, I like to believe I had tapped into some sort of creative fount and took more liberties with the second piece. Was the result better? I’m not sure, but I know that I was pretty proud as I ordered a third cider from the waiter.
The event now over, my table broke into a short conversation about our pieces, the bar and drawings. A man with square spectacles directly across from me was a retired Disney animator and his blue pencil drawings were beyond beautiful. A silver haired woman on my left said that it was her first time at the event while she gently smoothed out the creases on her wonderful purple drawing. I enjoyed the rolling bite of the “Smooth and Bitter” in my hand and couldn’t help but marvel at the community of kind artists created around me.
My charcoal drawings are now hung lovingly on my wall and I hope to add more in coming weeks. No matter how good of an artist you are, with a glass of cider and the encouragement of some new friends, all that really matters is that art happens at Capitol Cider’s Drink and Draw.
Jason may be reached at [email protected]