Brandon Wicklund describes The Real McCoy Home Bar & Kitchen in downtown Bellingham as a place to “come for the drinks and stay for the food.”
No wonder, given that it’s a bar foremost — one owned by Wicklund, a bartender who learned the craft of cocktails from one of its legends, Jim German, at the now-closed Jimgermanbar in Waitsburg, near Walla Walla.
After his internship, Wicklund struck out on his own. He created a traveling bar where he made cocktails for private parties and events, before opening his intimate and cozy bar in February 2013 in the space that was once home to Prospect Street Café, a fine-dining establishment that closed in May 2012.
The name “The Real McCoy” is a nod to William McCoy, an East Coast bootlegger and rumrunner during Prohibition.
There’s been talk of a growing cocktail movement locally — the inaugural Bellingham Cocktail Week was held in 2015 — along the lines of what has occurred in big cities. It’s the idea of a bartender being like a chef, organizing components and flavor profiles.
The Real McCoy is part of that movement. Wicklund’s goal was to give his space an upscale but relaxed feel, with creations from the bar and kitchen offering something special.
There’s also history in The Real McCoy, with pictures of bygone Bellingham hanging on the walls, and the feel of the speak-easy bars of the Prohibition era. The name itself is a nod to William McCoy, a bootlegger and rumrunner who sold alcohol along the East Coast during Prohibition.
So it’s no surprise, then, that Wicklund is steeped in the history of cocktails, and has an appreciation for the classics with an eye toward innovation.
His Old Fashioned is a staple and a customer favorite when it comes to cocktails. It’s made in batches, put on tap, and pushed with nitrogen. Wicklund described it as a quick and consistent drink.
“I also think it’s damn good,” he says.
Don’t feel like having an Old Fashioned? Try the I Pity The Fool, made with Zapopan Blanco tequila infused with smoky lapsang souchong tea, oloroso sherry, Meleti Amaro liqueur and chocolate bitters.
The menus at The Real McCoy change seasonally, but the Old Fashioned is an ongoing favorite.
On the food side, Braised Painted Hills Oxtail, with preserved lemon polenta cake and truffle roasted asparagus, is a favorite of diners.
The Real McCoy Home Bar & Kitchen
Location: 114 Prospect St., Bellingham
Hours: 4 to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.