MUKILTEO — Nancy Myrtle has gazed upon the same view out the front windows of her workplace for 33 years, but she never tires of it.
Since 1987, Myrtle’s been a bartender at Arnies Pacific Northwest Favorites, which overlooks Possession Sound and the Mukilteo ferry terminal. Customers come for her super-popular — and super-secret — Bloody Mary recipe — and also her bubbly personality.
Here, Lynnwood resident Myrtle, who declined to give her age, shares the story behind how she became a bartender at Arnies, which drinks are her favorites to make, and what she enjoys most about her job. And sorry, her lips are sealed about that Bloody Mary recipe, but read on for some clues on how to replicate it.
Why did you want to be a bartender?
I’m a people person. I don’t want to be hidden behind a desk. I worked for an attorney and I worked in a hospital, but I kept coming back to the restaurant business because I liked it so much. I’ve been a bartender for 40 years. I started in the 1970s at a classy place in San Jose, California.
How did you end up in Washington?
I came up here on my honeymoon and it was such beautiful weather. Then, we moved up in January in my convertible, and it was snowing. I didn’t know what snow was. I made a U-turn — I told my husband I wasn’t living here. But after we divorced, he went back to the East Coast and I stayed.
What led you to Arnies?
It is kind of a wild story. My roommate worked here, but she quit, never told me and said, “Nancy will take my place.” My best friend, Greg Mulvaney, who was managing here at the time, already knew I could do it because I’d worked with him before. So he said, “Come on, just help me out for a bit.” I told him I’d give them a month to find somebody. And here I am. Greg still comes in to this day and he’ll go, “Still here? Man, you were a good hire.”
Why do you like it here?
I’ve been here almost 33 years in the same bar — that’s very unheard of. It’s spectacular just to be here. I love the view. Everybody has to look at me, unfortunately, but I get to look at the view. Besides that, everybody knows everybody. Everybody comes in and they say hi to each other. It’s a very friendly atmosphere. I feel like I’m just waiting on my family. That’s how I treat everybody when they come in, like they’re sitting on my couch or at my table to have dinner.
Do you enjoy watching the ferry?
Yes, especially when they have the new trainees. I used to know one of the ferry captains on there and he’d call me and say, “Hey, I have a new trainee today. Watch him try to park it.” And we’d be sitting up here and we’d say, “Get another drink, man. This guy is never going to make it.” Even the winters are beautiful. I love it when it’s so foggy that out of nowhere comes the ferry. We also have a picture of the USS Abraham Lincoln when it came through in 2007. My cousin’s husband was second-in-command, so he told all the guys to get on the bow and that all the girls from Arnies were going to wave at them.
What’s the drinking crowd like here?
It’s not a young bar, but young people have a great time when they come here. We have great personalities here. And if something’s going on, everybody is included in it. Most of the time, we get a lot of wine drinkers and beer drinkers. But we have some great martinis; our seasonal drinks probably sell the most.
My favorite to make is a B-52 latte. It has either Bailey’s, Kahlua and Grand Marnier and you put it in steamed milk and serve it as a latte. So, you get a shot of espresso with it. When the snow hits, people from all around have B-52 lattes together.
What’s your most popular request?
I make the Bloody Mary mix here. It’s well known, but I’m the only one who knows how to make it.
Willing to share it?
No (laughs). People say, “Can you tell me what goes in the mix?” and I go, “No, when I retire, I might want to sell it.”
What does it taste like?
It has raw horseradish in it, which makes it spicy. But it’s also the Tabasco and the pepper and a few other little things. It goes down very smooth, and then it has a nice kick at the end. It sneaks up and gets you. It’s a hangover cure. People come in and I see them and I go, “OK, you need two Bloody Marys.” It has something to do with the spiciness and the tomato juice; it’s just rejuvenating. Some people just come in to drink it. I have to make it every week. If I go on vacation, I have to make a couple of batches.
What’s a fun drink you like to make?
We do mai tais in tiki glasses. It’s a Hawaiian recipe, so it’s really something that everybody comes to get during the summer. We sell tons of them, mainly because when people see the tiki glasses go out, they want one of those. It has rum and four kinds of tropical juices and syrups: orange juice, pineapple juice and orange curacao and almond syrup. It tastes fruity and sweet, but with the rum, it all goes together. Rum has a sweetness to it, too, but it’s smooth.
What’s one thing you wish more people know about this place?
They always call Arnies a special-occasion place, but if you come down and try the food, you’ll come back more often. You don’t just have to have a holiday to come in.
Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, firstname.lastname@example.org, @ByEvanThompson.
If you go
Arnies Pacific Northwest Favorites, 714 Second St., Mukilteo, is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. Call 425-355-2181 or go to www.arniesrestaurant.com.