Remembering Murray Stenson
This evening, Paul Clarke, the editor-in-chief of Imbibe magazine, shared the sad news that Seattle bartending legend Murray Stenson, the man who ushered new life into the forgotten Last Word cocktail, has died.
“My career wouldn't have existed without Murray's friendship and guidance and encouragement over the course of the past 20 years, and I know he's touched countless others over the decades he spent behind the bar, at Zig Zag Cafe and Il Bistro to the many other places he graced. I had plans to have dinner with Murray next month, and was greatly looking forward to that. I'm sorry I missed one last chance to chat with him. He is irreplaceable, and this is a great loss to the cocktail world”
Having lived in Seattle for over a decade I was fortune to have spent time sitting across the bar from Murray and kept in touch with him. When I was back in Seattle in 2012 when he was briefly tending bar at Canon, he asked me, “What’s a guy got to do to get a signed copy of Bitters?”
I had always intended for Murray to be the last featured bartender in my book Last Call, but he was unavailable for an in-person interview and photo shoot while photographer Ed Anderson and I were in Seattle working on the book in 2018. He was a hard man to pin down but one night we eventually had a long phone call. Ed and I were preparing to make a special trip back to Seattle to shoot his portrait for the book but a few weeks later he texted that he was back in the hospital. Paul was kind enough to interview me at my Fall 2019 event for Last Call at Book Larder and Murray had hoped to make it but texted that he wouldn’t be able to be there (I made sure to send him a signed copy).
There will be a lot of Last Words, raised glasses, and shared memories of Murray around Seattle this weekend, and I’m sure around the world. I’m grateful for the moments I had with him and send all my love and condolences to his family and friends.
You can read more about Murray Stenson from these Seattle writers:
“Prominent Seattle Bartender Murray Stenson Dies at Age 74” by Tan Vinh (Seattle Times)
And here is my own writing about Murray, from the final chapter of Last Call.
Rest in Peace, Murray…
Epilogue: A Last Word with Murray Stenson
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Last Call to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.