The world didn’t need another run-of-the-mill vodka, said John Lundin; countless vodkas are already being produced. So, when he was mentally sketching out the blueprints for a small-batch distillery after a career working in the construction and engineering industry, he knew his product needed to have a worthy mission — beyond just great-tasting vodka. Inspired by his Swedish heritage, Lundin decided to turn his focus toward organic and sustainably minded spirits.
“I thought, we as consumers, especially in the Seattle area, go to PCC Community Markets, and we buy grass-fed meats and organic vegetables, but then we pick up an industrial bottle of liquor,” Lundin said. “There’s an opportunity to close the loop here on applying a natural, organic foundation to spirits and to this market. Beyond that, it’s just the right thing to do.”
In the summer of 2010, the first bottle of Bluewater Organic Vodka was released. The inception of Bluewater Organic Distilling came to life while Lundin and his wife were living on a sailboat in Seattle as he tinkered with distilling craft spirits. It was 2008, and the economy had crumbled. Without really knowing where his career might take him, Lundin had been taking on bigger and bigger projects at his construction job to prepare himself to launch his own business. He’s known since he was a little kid that he wanted to run his own company, so when the economy crashed, Lundin decided it was time for a change.
“I think for a long time, I had been looking for a new industry that would pique my curiosity to pop up on my radar, and it wasn’t until small-batch distilling started trickling up as an idea,” he said. “I thought, the timing is right. I have a lot of spirits knowledge and interest. What a great opportunity to be on the ground floor of this trend.”
Now with a full line of craft, organic spirts — vodka, gin, and aquavit — each is distilled in Old World copper stills. The history of distilling liquor over an open flame in copper kettles is a centuries-old practice, and it’s quite rare for a small-batch distillery to operate that way, Lundin said.
“I think it’s a quality of distillation that you can never replicate on an industrial scale,” he said. “They’re not easy stills to work with, because you have to be so attentive to them. … All our spirits go through the stills. It’s kind of where our trademark sweetness comes from. Our stills allow us to knock off that burning edge that most vodkas have, and our ability to remove that through the distillation makes our flavor shine through so well.”
Bluewater was born in Seattle, but Lundin moved its operations to Everett early on. As he was growing the company, Lundin started scheming the evolution of Bluewater with a cocktail bar and restaurant, which opened in 2015.
The restaurant side of the business came about as a vehicle to serve great cocktails, and Lundin envisioned having a simple menu to complement the drinks. However, he quickly realized a local need for a date-night restaurant with an approachable menu spotlighting the freshest ingredients. Located on the water’s edge in Everett, Bluewater Bar + Bistro is thriving as just that — a community hub where you come for the drinks and stay for the outstanding dishes.
“Our food has far surpassed my hopes of what we should and would do,” Lundin said. “I’ve always been impressed by that. We started with a really simple kitchen, and this last summer, we did a major kitchen remodel. I thought the restaurant was going to kill me the first year, and it’s become this wonderful thing.”
A mainstay, must-try, according to Lundin, is the rustic mac and cheese, crafted with tender rotini pasta, spiced creamy béchamel, percornio romano, provolone, and fontina. If you’re wanting a lighter option, the marina greens salad with fennel bulb, candied walnuts, apple, dried cranberries, and shallot vinaigrette is a favorite. While, in many cases, a salad can feel like a menu downgrade, they’re something special at Bluewater. And if you’re one who treasures a good salad, you know they can be hard to find at a restaurant.
When you visit, however, be sure to give extra attention to the specials on the menu, which is where the Bluewater chefs’ artistic and creative visions really shine, Lundin said. Everything is seasonal, based on whatever ingredients are freshest, and it tends to be a bit more adventurous.
What becomes really clear about Bluewater is how everything is a labor of love; Lundin went so far as to craft the restaurant tables himself. The entire business runs deep in Lundin’s veins, and everything is steeped in meaning — often returning to his passion for the water (the moniker itself is a nod to deep-water sailing). Lundin’s passion for quality and creating the best products possible out of respect for the planet and his customers are what make Bluewater so endearing. While the spirits and menu might draw you in to Bluewater’s front doors, it’s Lundin’s palpable passion, which permeates throughout the space, that likely will bring you back.