Murray Stenson is a legend among bartenders and lovers of craft cocktails.
The long-time Seattle bartender has been elbow-deep in the craft for longer than most of today’s best bartenders have been drinking anything stronger than juiceboxes. He has won awards such as American Bartender of the Year, and is considered by many bartenders and cocktail writers and historians to be their greatest inspiration.
I’ve met Murray only once. By the time I met him at Zig Zag (where he patrolled the bar before moving on to Canon), the man was already more legend than flesh-and-blood being to me. I took a trip to Seattle to visit a friend who was moving to Austin and wanted a last-hurrah through the bar scene there. We eventually found our way to Zig Zag and waded through the vast sea of patrons. It was crowded. It was loud. It was chaos.
At the eye of the storm was this peculiar old man behind the bar. He didn’t look harried. He looked rather amused by all the hustle and bustle going on around him. We eventually found our way to some seats right in front of the busy-but-not-busy-looking bartender and I was introduced to Mr. Murray Stenson as a lover of rum. Murray smiled and wandered off, grabbing bottles and glasses and making probably five drinks for customers up and down the bar. He eventually returned to me with a drink and smiled before walking back to the other end of the bar. The drink was perfect, and after some serious waiting for Murray to come back, he explained that it was an El Dorado 12 Manhattan (essentially a Palmetto) – and a drink I have never been able to replicate at home or in the bar at 320 Main.
Why am I telling you all of this?
Murray is in trouble. As is true with so many bartenders, Murray has no health insurance, and he now finds himself saddled with a medical condition that requires surgery that he simply cannot afford and that is preventing him from working. It’s an unfortunate story that has played out more than once in this community.
The cocktail community, however, is looking to help out one of their titans.
MurrayAid is a charity that has been created specifically to help raise money to pay for Murray’s medical bills with an interim goal of $50,000 but probably more likely a real goal of $150,000 to $200,000 (thanks for the clarification, Paul). The charity is being run by Evan Wallace of Perlage Systems and has so far (as of October 26th) raised over $30,000. Donations are being handled through PayPal or check or by Evan coming to your house dressed as a grinder monkey*.
Donations are also being handled through benefits and special bar events around the country – err – world. I am very proud to say that Caña Rum Bar, where I host the monthly Rum Society tastings, will be holding October’s Rum Society meeting an hour early so that Allan and his crew can host a MurrayAid event immediately after.
Rum Society for October 30, 2012 – 8pm @ Caña Rum Bar in Downtown Los Angeles – Membership and RSVP’s Required
MurrayAid Benefit for October 30, 2012 – 9pm(ish) @ Caña Rum Bar a very special menu of drinks whose sales will go to help Mr. Murray Stenson return to his rightful place: behind the stick.
If you can make it to the benefit, it will be great to see you there. If you cannot, for whatever reason, I hope that you will visit MurrayAid.org and give a little there.
*Not actually going to happen
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I’m gonna tell Murray you referred to him as a “peculiar old man”–it’s gonna be vodka tonics for life for you after that.
But seriously, the $50,000 is an interim goal–Murray will find out more about his treatment soon, and the final total may be between $150,000 and $200,000, so we need the donations to keep rolling in, as many and as much as we possibly can.
Thanks for spreading the word–
If this all works out, I will happily accept vodka tonics from Murray for two lifetimes!