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Doug Clark: Davenport takes another Purple Bull run

The Purple Bull was a popular drink in the '60s and '70s at the Davenport Hotel's Matador Room. 
 (Jed Conklin / The Spokesman-Review)
The Purple Bull was a popular drink in the '60s and '70s at the Davenport Hotel's Matador Room. (Jed Conklin / The Spokesman-Review)

As further evidence of my commitment to journalism, I volunteered to taste-test icy alcoholic beverages Tuesday afternoon at Spokane’s Davenport Hotel.

Honestly, I couldn’t care less that the hotel’s mixologists were on a quest to bring back something called the Purple Bull, the legendary signature drink of the Davenport’s long-gone Matador Room.

I got involved because this was a rare opportunity to drink on the job without fear of being caught and promoted to upper management.

COLUMNIST INTERRUPTION: Yes, readers, I am aware that a Spokane police officer has resigned after being accused of eating marijuana cookies at a Tool concert. The high calling of law enforcement will be my topic for Sunday so – for the love of ganja – stop e-mailing me!

Purple Bulls came in a complimentary Matador Room glass. You also got a glass swizzle stick topped with a wide-eyed purple bull. The little critter even had a real tinkling bell around its neck.

Alas, the Matador Room was torn down. It was not included in the magnificent new Davenport Hotel makeover. And with the passage of time and cirrhosis, the Purple Bull recipe became as elusive as an Iraq war exit strategy.

Until now, that is.

Beginning tonight (and through Saturday), the Davenport Hotel will offer the reborn drink along with the music of The Terriers, a folk/comedy trio that played in the hotel back in the early 1960s. The Terriers comprise three former Washington State University students: Jerry Altig, Dave Vik and Jerry Thomas.

According to Tom McArthur, the Davenport’s resident historian and official mouthpiece, Purple Bulls were a rite of passage for people turning 21.

Linda Quick, who now lives in Vancouver, Wash., was one such celebrant. She hit the legal drinking age on Oct. 7, 1967. Quick, along with her husband, Bob, and her parents, marked the occasion with a stop at the Matador Room.

Not much of a drinker, Quick said she started with a pink lady and then moved on to “two or three” Purple Bulls.

The young woman was feeling fine – until the next morning.

“I still have my Purple Bull stirrer sticks,” said Quick, adding that her grandkids marvel at the cute keepsakes.

She laughs. “Little do they know.”

My 21st birthday was equally memorable although not by a Davenport standard of classy. A college buddy took me to a strip joint where we watched an energetic dancer perform some positively gravity defying spinning maneuvers with glow-in-the-dark tassels.

Uh, I’m sorry. What were we talking about?

Oh, yeah. So like I was saying, Tuesday afternoon found me in the Davenport’s Peacock Lounge with several other volunteers. That’s when things began to sour. Jon Jordan, the Peacock’s general manager, whipped up two Purple Bull variations.

I quickly did the math.

Two drinks. Five or six tasters. This is not my idea of a hearty party.

Jordan made one Purple Bull from a recipe that supposedly came from a former Davenport bartender. The other one was Jordan’s attempt to update the basic drink.

Both were mixtures of crushed ice, citrus juices and booze. We tasters preferred the more modernized version.

Then Walt Worthy came waltzing in acting like he owned the joint – which he does.

Not impressed with either cocktail, he began adding and subtracting ingredients like a mad scientist. I’m pretty sure this is how they came up with a cure for polio.

“We’re gonna make this into a painkiller,” Worthy vowed.

By the time the Davenport owner finished he had created a bartender’s nightmare with nine elements including brandy, vodka and rum and some kind of raspberry liquor float.

This drink has little bearing on the traditional Purple Bull. Customers don’t get a special glass. No special swizzle stick. But there’s way more hooch in this beast.

Any way you pour it, that’s progress.

Worthy even came up with a name for his new concoction: The Purple Bull Ride.