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  • 08/30/12--14:13: Slide Show: A Year in Drinks

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  • 09/12/12--12:06: A Splash of Autumn
  •  

    While most fans of foodstuffs are busily preparing their palates for the upcoming Feast Portland festivities (and rightfully so), we would be remiss in our duties as culinary curators if we neglected to mention a whole slate of dates aimed at the beer and spirits enthusiast. After all, if a good meal is worth writing about, so too are the beverages that accompany it.

     Bon Appétit Presents “Strange Brew," Sept 21

    Part of the Feast Portland fest, this sipping and sampling seminar is moderated by Bon Appétit’s Andrew Knowlton, and features local beer writer Christian DeBenedetti, and brewers Ben Edmunds (Breakside Brewing) and Ben Dobler (Widmer Brothers) exploring Oregon’s staggering bounty of offbeat ingredients—everything from blueberries to oysters—that somehow find their way into our more adventurous craft beers.

    Portland Polish Festival, Sept 22-23

     It’s not strictly a drinking event, but the presence of piwo (the Polish word for beer) definitely adds some kick to an already carnival atmosphere. Traditionally, we’re talking about a sour, smoked-wheat ale with a slender 4 percent ABV, that allows for dancing followed by even more dancing. The potent combination of polka punk, piwo, and pierogies is usually enough frenzied fun for even the most dedicated debaucher. And admission is free!

    Brewavana’s Gluten-Free Tour, Sept 22

    If you haven’t taken one of Brewvana’s guided bus tours of local (and regional) drinking establishments, then you’re missing out on a guaranteed good time. For this trip, gluten-intolerant and celiac sufferers are invited to get their drink on with an expedition that pays visits to Bushwhacker’s Cidery, Widmer’s Gasthaus, and Harvester Brewing, where all the house beers are gluten free—and delicious. The $79 fee includes dinner at the Gasthaus. 

    OMSI After Dark: Burgers and Brews—Enough Said!, Sept 26

    Who says pigging out can’t be educational? While guests fill their glasses (and faces), they’ll learn about the science involved in the making of their favorite comestibles. How does yeast work? What’s the difference between grass-fed beef and oat-fed beef? Does mustard go on the burger or the bun? Visit OMSI without the kids.

    For those in search of the latest developments in spirits and mixology, the Oregon Distillers Festival and Portland Cocktail Week come a-calling in the latter part of October.  Cheers!

     

     

     

     


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  • 09/20/12--15:27: Spirit Watch: Imbue
  • Imbue Vermouth Illustration
    Image: Kate Madden

      

    To the uninitiated, vermouth is a mystery—a strange European liquid that magically takes the edge off a martini. But Imbue’s bittersweet vermouth, released in 2010, is fortified wine in Oregon’s image: a sip-worthy combination of Willamette Valley pinot gris, Clear Creek Distillery brandy, and botanicals like clove, elderflower, sage leaf, and chamomile. Imbue’s follow-up arrived in July: Petal & Thorn, a brighter, sweeter version aged with cinnamon bark, sugar beets, and orange peel. With a spicy, herbal sweetness followed by a tart punch, it’s the perfect autumn aperitif over ice. Or try an “Inverted Martini”: 2 ounces Imbue mixed with 1 ounce gin or vodka, served over ice with an orange twist.

    Find Imbue at local liquor stores and wine sellers for $24–27. Visit imbuecellars.com for more information.


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  • 09/21/12--08:21: Etymixology
  • In Portland’s booming cocktail scene, aspiring mixologists will do just about anything to stand out. With handmade bitters and barrel-aged booze now simply expected, drink names have gained their own potency, depth, and, sometimes, literary flair. With Portland Cocktail Week upon us (Oct 21–25), we explore some of the best monikers.

     

    Clement's Curse cocktail from Kask
    Image: Mei Ratz

     The Historical

    Clement’s Curse
    (Kask)

    Benedictine liqueur, Broker’s London Dry Gin, Lillet Blanc, dash Regans’ Orange Bitters

    The ingredients provide a rough biography of 14th- century Pope Clement VI: a Benedictine monk, Clement had a tortured reign through the Hundred Years War between England (hence gin) and France (home of Lillet) until his, er, bitter death following the black plague.

     

    Dagobah System cocktail from Free House
    Image: Mei Ratz

     The Geeky

    Dagobah System
    (Free House)

    Bourbon, lime juice, house cola syrup, Fernet Branca, Cock ’n Bull ginger beer

    A dark brown, frothy cocktail, it’s named for Yoda’s swampy hiding place in Star Wars. And, of course, the drink’s bright flavor means it has both a light side and a dark side ...

     

    A Personal Matter cocktail from Biwa
    Image: Mei Ratz

     The Highbrow

    A Personal Matter
    (Biwa)

    Irish whiskey, Fernet Branca, Coca-Cola, orange slice

    A literary nod to Kenzaburo Oe’s grim novel of the same name about a man in postwar Japan who drowns himself in whiskey. (The addition of Fernet Branca adds another layer of meaning: people tend to either love or hate this tastebud-numbingly bitter liqueur.)


     

    Make It Work! cocktail from the Bent Brick
    Image: Mei Ratz

    The Inside Joke

    Make It Work!
    (Bent Brick)

    House Spirits White Dog, sweet and dry Vya vermouth, Rhuby Rhubarb liqueur

    When Bent Brick’s manager questioned the purchase of so many exotic bottles of liquor, the bartender set about proving that they could, in the words of Project Runway’s Tim Gunn, make it work!

     

     

     

    Guillotine cocktail from St. Jack
    Image: Mei Ratz

    The Groaner

    Guillotine
    (St. Jack)

    Appleton Estate V/X rum, Cointreau, fresh lemon, house-made grenadine, Kübler absinthe

    The head-spinning potency of this original recipe is, according to St. Jack slinger Kyle Webster, “quick, effective ... and hits the mark every time.” Yeah.

     

     

     


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    great american distillers festival

    In the great tradition of collectively patting ourselves on the backs for making the best food and drink around, Portland will once again become the epicenter of the national craft spirit community with the 8th Annual Great American Distillers Festival, coming to PDX's Tiffany Center on October 19th and 20th.

    The deets: Local and national distillers will be sampling their rum, bourbon, whiskey, vodka, gin, and liqueurs for two days of showcases, tastings, cocktail creations, competitions, and panels. Festival highlights will include Colorado’s Breckenridge Distillery, Texas’ Mockingbird Distillery, as well as local favorites like Bendistillery, Rogue, and Bull Run Distillery.

    Get in on it: A five-tasting, one day pass is available for $15, a five-tasting, two day pass is $25, a one-day pass with 10-tasting tickets is $25, and a two-day, 10-tasting pass is $40. Additional 5-taste tickets are available for $10. All proceeds benefit the Oregon Distillers Guild and Oregon Bartenders Guild. Tickets are available online here. Booze-friendly nosh will also be available for purchase. Happy tippling!

    The Great American Distillers Festival 
    Friday, October 19th from 5 to 10 pm and Saturday, October 20th from 1 to 10 pm. 21+
    The Tiffany Center, 1410 SW Morrison Street
    A take-home bottle shop will be available featuring products from the festival.
    distillersfestival.com


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    Image: Dina Avila

    If you’re serious about drinking, a piece of advice: go see Kyle Webster. Behind a zinc-topped bar lined with obelisks of melted candlewax, the well-coiffed St. Jack barman is likely to beguile you with ancient spirits, otherworldly flavor combinations, and boundless reserves of cocktail lore and history. In short, this is a man who layers his bitters—a precise incarnation of the Reed College English major turned bartender.

    Image: Dina Avila

    Webster’s most recent fodder for experimentation behind the bar is a wine-based aperitif call Byrrh (pronounced “burr”)—a member of the family of quinine-based spirits called “quinquinas.” Made from a blend of red wine, mistelle (slightly fermented grape juice fortified with brandy), and quinine, Byrrh was invented in 1866, but fell out of fashion over time, and wasn’t imported to Oregon until this summer. Webster fell hard: “It was poured into a glass, I tasted it, and it was fantastic,” he recalls. With its herbal bite and subtle sweetness, it fit neatly into his ongoing quest to dry cocktails out without adding citrus. And when he challenged himself to create a cocktail with a foundation of scotch—not his liquor of choice—Byrrh was a natural counterpoint. “It enlivens and enriches what the scotch is doing, and it gives it a body that most cocktails don’t have.”

    The Voleur, French for “thief,” was his answer: robust but not boozy, with an herbal sweetness, it’s perfect as an aperitif or digestif. It won’t blunt your palate before your meals, and it won’t make you go cross-eyed after a couple glasses of wine. The recipe is, admittedly, slightly advanced for the home bartender—you can always make like the French and sip Byrrh by itself over ice. Or you can sidle up at Webster’s bar for a firsthand education.  


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    The Great American Distillers Festival celebrated its eighth birthday last week, cramming 42 distilleries from across the map into one room at the Tiffany Center on SW Morrison. Spirit reps from Colorado, Texas, and Washington made their way to Portland to hawk their wares and “shake” things up for eager and thirsty attendees. Naturally, in addition to merchants from out of state,  there were numerous Oregon distilleries representing, reminding the good people of Portland that homegrown artisan bounty is not limited to coffee and beer. As the hours passed, the temperature rose and drink tokens clinked as they were dropped into plastic buckets at each table.

    From moonshine to infused vodkas to the “Neat Glass” (a new nosing glass that's supposed to reveal elusive olfactory flavor notes), the fest had everything a liquor lover could possibly need to enjoy a nice, stiff drink. It was rather daunting to realize there were only five tasting coins issued per person to spend on various drinks. All of my coins were well-spent though, especially with gracious distillers handing over extra tastings for just one token.

    Peach Street Distillers, out of Palisade, CO didn’t just proffer fruit-forward spirits—though their 80 proof pear brandy was stellar, with the crisp essence of pear smoothing over the sting of alcoholic residue left behind on the tongue. Peach Street also has the distinction of being the first company to legally craft and sell bourbon in Colorado, in this case a smooth, warm 92 proof variety that takes two years to make and comes from a small batch of just 200 barrels. 

    Something unusual caught my eye at the booth manned by Novo Fogo Cachaças, from Morretes, Brazil. All of their bottles were made of recycled materials and carried the USDA Organic stamp of approval, which are important considerations for the environmentally conscious imbiber. With a silver and gold cachaça to its name (as well as a Barrel 105 variety that you would be very lucky to find, it seems, with just 30 bottles distributed across the US), Nov Fogo's tropical tastes are perfect for warm-weather cocktails. A little bit vegetal, very fruity, and made from sugar cane, cachaça is a trend waiting to happen.

    The most unique, and I’d venture to say, best, thing I tasted all night was a rhubarb liqueur from It’s 5, based out of Cashmere, WA. After sipping a lot of really strong spirits, it was nice to have something a bit more tame. Since rhubarb is a bitter root, I assumed this liqueur would follow suit. I was pleasantly surprised, though, when a sweet taste rushed across my tongue and didn't dissipate into something overtly sharp and burning. It still has a kick to it, but it's much less aggressive than most of the other tasting samples on display.

    Seen as the opening act for Portland Cocktail Week, the Distillers Festival is a fantastic way to introduce the public to some of the spirits and companies likely to be present; before we blindly throw ourselves into this week’s cocktail frenzy, that is. 

     


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    Bartenders get dunked for charity in a rainy parking lot at Yale Union.

    Portland Cocktail Week won’t be back until next year, but hopefully 12 months will be enough time for everyone’s livers to heal from all the spirits and shenanigans of the past week. With multiple events happening every night from the 10/21-25, reality at present still seems to be shrouded in vertiginous visions of bitters, flair, and clinking glassware. The week kicked off with salutations to the visiting mixologists from across the nation on Sunday evening, then Monday morning commenced with the seminars that make the great bartenders of our nation even greater.

    A seminar hosted by Tad Carducci (mixologist, restaurateur and Tippling Brother), and Todd Richman (corporate mixologist at Sidney Frank Importing) entitled “Blinded by the Dark” not only got Bruce Springsteen stuck in everyone’s head, it also introduced attendees in the Kennedy School’s small but hipster chic Cypress Bar to the history of bitters. Bartenders were challenged to test their palates and attempt to sniff out and identify as many herbs as they possibly could in mystery spirits (Jägermeister, Amaro Averna, and Fernet Branca, among others). Here are some fun facts:

    • Distillation began as a means of making medicine, and alcohol began as a way to cure maladies such as stomach problems, headaches, depression, and cramps (to name a few).
    • Monks took over the distillation of alcohols around 1000 A.D. They intended to do it as a way to serve mankind.
    • Over time sugar was added to spirits because people found that they could taste very good in addition to curing illness. The sugar caused the medicine-like taste to become much less bitter, and distillers would also subsequently lower the proof of the spirits.
    • Caramel is used as the primary sweetener in bitters, and it is revered to the point of there actually being “Masters of Caramel” in Italy.
    • Things were originally chosen to add to spirits based on what grew in the areas immediately surrounding the towns of the distillers.
    • Helpful hint: In between tasting different alcohols, smell your shirt fabric or your neighbor’s shoulder so that you can clear your nose of the previous drink and be better prepared to smell the next alcohol you try.

    Organic cachaça makers Novo Fogo attempted to wake up the hard-partying bartenders with breakfast and Brazilian beer bright and early Thursday morning before a “friendly” game of soccer—Portland vs Seattle—at the Portland Futsal. Seattle and Portland bartenders like Ricky Gomez, Tommy Klus, Robert Rowland, Art Tierce, Nick La Porta, Jacob Grier, Matthew Bailey, Mary Bartlett, Sean Hoard, Chip McLaughlin, Kyle Webster, and Jay Kuehner took to the indoor field to duel it out with some fancy footwork. Though Seattle may have come out victorious in this epic sporting battle, we’re just going to blame it on the two missing Portland bartenders who were “sick” (bartender code for an epic hangover). Next year, Seattle, next year… 

    The weather was damp at the Pig & Punch event, but plenty of pork kept spirits high.

    Meanwhile, San Francisco-based cocktail and spirit consulters The Bon Vivants brought Pig & Punch to the public in a rainy parking lot outside of Yale Union, offering up beer, six different kinds of punch, dunk tanks, old-timey string music, and a huge spit that rotated massive pigs for general consumption. The event saw the public shivering as they consumed glass of punch after glass of punch, with bartenders shivering even more as they took short, repeated baths in the dunk tank all in the name of charity and a good time. Alcoholic hot chocolate and infused Voodoo doughnuts were consumed whilst fiddles were fiddled and shirts were handed out to commemorate the inaugural collaboration between Pig & Punch and Portland Cocktail Week.

    The main event of the week was undoubtedly the Red, White, and Booze event at the Jupiter Hotel Thursday night. All 34 chapters of the United States Bartender’s Guild were slinging drinks that represented their home states. There was a Polu & Storm from Hawaii, Burnt Ends from Texas, Big Apple Buzz from New York, and, the most glorious drink on the face of the planet, a 5th& Broker’s from Connecticut, made from Broker’s Gin, Skinos Mastiha (a flowery Greek liqueur made from tree sap), fresh lemon, honey, and apple foam—an alcoholic orgasm for your taste buds). Attendees wandered around reading chalkboards of ingredients at each stand and eagerly handed over drink tickets in hope of something life-changing. The only downside of the event was heading home and coming to the realization that the next time I’m feeling thirsty for a signature cocktail from Colorado, I might have to book a flight to Denver.


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  • 12/11/12--20:15: Cozy Winter Cocktails
  • What: Coming Attractions 

    Where: Beaker & Flask

    Why: Winter calls for something sparkling—preferably served in a flute, with a touch of spice. B&F injected this spirit-boosting formula with the deep, earthy sweetness of pinot noir grenadine, crafted in-house from Apolloni Vineyards grape juice. Anise and herbal notes from Bonal and Herbsaint play off the fruit, while a float of French sparkling cider makes the Coming Attractions worth watching.

     

     

     

     

     

    What: Jet Pilot

    Where: Hale Pele

    Why:As our collective yearning for warmer climes mounts, a cocktail at this new tiki refuge offers an antidote. A blue lagoon, flickering torches, tiki totems, and puffer fish light fixtures transport you to the South Seas, aided by the Jet Pilot’s balanced blend of aged rums, cinnamon, and Falernum (a mix of ginger, clove, lime, almond, and overproof rum). Still not having fun? The flaming crouton should do the trick. 

     





    What: Tom & Jerry

    Where: Teardrop Lounge

    Why: Who cares that the holiday season is officially over? The combination of rum, cognac, eggs, sugar, and spices is delicious any time of year—why limit it to the season when we’re too stressed out to actually enjoy it? Teardrop Lounge continues its meticulous, time-intensive preparation of the classic Tom & Jerry, a piping-hot mug of belly-warming cheer, through January.

     

     

     

     

     

    What: Barrel-Aged Negroni 

    Where: Clyde Common

    Why: The best (read: only) way to drink gin in January? A negroni. The best way to drink a negroni in Portland? At Clyde Common, where the enterprising Jeffrey Morgenthaler ages a classic combination of Beefeater gin, Cinzano sweet vermouth, and Campari for two months in Tuthilltown whiskey barrels before delivering it to your barstool, garnished with an orange peel.



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  • 01/23/13--12:14: Aria Gin
  • cocktail
    Image: Kate Madden

    All forms of alcohol capture something of their origins. Wines vary as the climate, soil, and topography do. Spirits, however, take the essence of some thing—barley, botanicals, corn, or rye—to produce a less skittish and more potent liquid. The distiller’s motto: find a formula you like, guard it with your life, and replicate it. 

    Over the course of four years and about 100 recipe revisions, Ryan Csanky has been honing the recipe for his Aria Portland dry gin. To blend traditional gins with what he calls Northwest Pride, he tweaks the proportions of 10 ingredients from North Africa, Madagascar, and other ports of call: juniper, coriander, angelica, cardamom, grains of paradise, cubeb berry, orris root, lemon zest, orange zest, and cassia bark. “But the water is all local, all Cascade,” says Csanky, cofounder of Martin Ryan Distilling Company and bar manager at Wildwood. “This purity and softness contribute to the uniqueness of a Portland gin.”

     

    Aria Gin
    Image: Kate Madden

    Aria stands midway between London dry and the more pronounced, Plymouth-style gins. With an intense botanical freshness followed by a warm surge of alcohol, it combines with Bull Run Distilling Co’s Medoyeff vodka and Imbue’s sweet vermouth to round out a Portland take on a classic Vesper martini.


    Find Aria Portland dry gin at local liquor stores for $24. Visit ariagin.com for more information.



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    With recent years' blossoming of interest in artisinal bitters and infusions and the growth of local micro distilleries, Portland has become home to a vibrant and lively cocktail culture. All we're missing is knowledge of the gardening side of cocktail culture. Which begs the question: what plants can we grow in our gardens that will provide inspired infusions, garnishes, swizzle sticks and muddling herbs for our mixed drinks? I asked Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist, what she recommends growing for the Portland cocktail aficionado's garden.
     
    Here are six of her favorite cocktail plants, hand-picked for Portland's climate:
     
    'Mojito' mint - According to Amy, it's the actual strain of spearmint grown in Cuba, which is only available because Canadian tourists were taking it out of their mojitos and bringing it home with them.
     
    'Red Venture' celery - Amy says, "I would have never in a million years thought it worthwhile to grow my own celery, but this stuff is fabulous. The stalks are much smaller than those big green bunches you by the grocery store, so they actually fit in a drink, and they are beautiful dramatic red. The flavor's much stronger than regular celery, so it's great for muddling into a savory drink. And they will pretty much keep going all year round. You will find the once you have a steady supply of celery, you'll use it in everything."
     
    Black currant - "The Pacific Northwest is great for any kind of berries, and I'm very excited about growing my own black currants to make cassis.  Really, any kind of berry belongs in a Portland cocktail garden."
     
    Mexican sour gherkin cucumbers - "Not technically a cucumber, but a very close relative. Each one is about the size of a grape or an olive. The flavor is a bit more tart than a regular cucumber, but they pair very well with gin and they make a beautiful garnish — and the vines are freakishly prolific, so this is one really worth growing."
     
    Grafted tomatoes - "Portland's climate is kind of like mine [northern California], where summer comes late in can be kind of iffy. I am very excited about these tomatoes that are grafted onto sturdier commercial rootstock. This is what commercial tomato farmers do, but it only recently occurred to anyone to start selling them to home gardeners. It's the same concept as a grafted fruit tree — you'll get more disease resistance and therefore a more vigorous, productive plant.  You can also get a combo plant with two varieties grafted onto one rootstock. I know it sounds like a freak of nature, but it's just very old-school technology — you're pretty much just mashing the cut stem of one plant up against another."

    Stewart has put together six collections of cocktail-friendly plants to go with her book - the Drunken Botanist Plant Collection, grown by Log House Plants and available through Territorial Seed Company and at garden centers up and down the West Coast this spring. The collection is comprised of six different tray packs themed around particular spirits: the Old Havana Rum Garden, the Heart of Agave Tequila Garden, the Farmers Market Vodka Garden, the Old Tom Gin Garden, the Southern Belle Whiskey Garden and Mixologist's Simple Syrups Garden. According to Stewart, "the challenge was coming up with an assortment of plants that pair well with that spirit, but also grows in jumbo sixpacks. So I would normally want to put peaches with whiskey, but we can't exactly put a peach tree in a sixpack!" The pairings may not all be 100% conventional, but they are inspired and sure to delight. The same link, above, brings you to a list of other great plants that are essential for summertime cocktails. Recipes making use of all the plants are included (on the plant tags). Here is what Amy wrote about the collections on her website.
     
    The plants should be available this spring at New Seasons Markets as well as a number of garden centers including Cornell Farms, Portland Nursery, the Urban Farm Store, Drake's 7 Dees, Portland Homestead, The Garden Corner in Tualatin, Good News Gardening in Hood River, Schedeens in Gresham, 13th Street Nursery in Salem, Garland Nursery in Corvallis, and Bird's English Garden in Ridgefield, WA

    If you're intrigued about designing a cocktail garden of your own, check out Amy and her fellow bloggers' writings about it on Garden Rant here (the design of Amy's cocktail garden) and here (the design before-and-after). And here are tips on growing a cocktail garden, with lots more plant suggestions.

    Of course, no writing about cocktail gardens would be complete without a seasonal recipe making use of the delectable late winter citrus:

    Here's a drink I made for a gathering of librarians and booksellers in Seattle.  I called it the Dewey Decimal 580, 580 being the section in the Dewey Decimal system devoted to the botanical sciences.  I thought the librarians were going to be much more impressed with that than they were, but I guess they've seen it all.—Amy Stewart

    Dewey Decimal 580
    1 oz gin
    1 oz Lillet Blanc
    1.5 oz fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice  (about 1/3 to 1/4 of a grapefruit, depending on size)

    Shake over ice, serve over ice in short rocks glass. Garnish with a long strip of grapefruit peel.

    For more home and garden ideas and inspiration, sign up for our weekly At Home newsletter, subscribe to our RSS Feed, and visit our Home & Design page.


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  • 03/21/13--15:07: Consider the Daiquiri
  • Rum Club Daiquiri from Michael Shea
    Image: Nomad
    LOCAL TWISTS: Put some Portland spirit into your daiquiri with Bull Run Distillery’s Pacific Rum or New Deal Distillery’s Workshop White Rum.

    Hold on. Before you protest, lend an ear: we speak not of the blended strawberry abominations you’ll find poolside in Las Vegas. No, a true daiquiri bears almost no resemblance to such imposters. A true daiquiri is a classic—it belongs in the cocktail hall of fame, right alongside the martini and the manhattan, and it deserves your attention. 

    As the Rum Club’s Michael Shea explains simply, a daiquiri is “rum, lime, and sugar, shaken hard and served up.” That’s it: two ounces rum, one ounce lime juice, three-quarters of an ounce simple syrup, and you can’t go wrong. But, as with any classic, the formula is both an archetype and a springboard for tinkering. Hemingway, for instance, preferred his daiquiris with grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur in place of sugar. (He also preferred them as doubles, and was known for downing dozens in a single sitting.) With slight adjustments, homing in on your own tailored version à la Hemingway should be a pleasant exercise. 

    First, experiment with different proportions and white rums—a few of Shea’s favorites are Chairman’s Reserve, Bacardi Heritage, and Banks 5 Island, all of which deliver the requisite body for a good backbone of flavor. Next, take your simple syrup up a notch by using demerara or palm sugar for a little tropical terroir. If you’re feeling bold, see what a little Bénédictine does, or a drop or two of Herbsaint, or a few dashes of bitters.

    In short, the daiquiri is your playground—refreshing, sour, and endlessly entertaining. The Rum Club’s signature version, deeper and richer than the original but still zippy on the palate, is an exhilarating discovery you’re unlikely to grow tired of. There’s a good reason it’s Shea’s favorite way to cap a night behind the bar.  

    Cocktail Tools
    Image: Nomad

     



    RUM CLUB DAIQUIRI

    • 2 oz Bacardi 8 rum
    • ¾ oz fresh-squeezed lime juice  
    • ½ oz demerara syrup
      (2:1 demerara sugar to water)  
    • ¼ oz maraschino liqueur
      (Shea recommends Maraska) 
    • 2 dashes Angostura bitters 
    • 8 drops absinthe

    (1) COMBINE all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker.
    (2) SHAKE hard for six seconds and strain into a coupe.

     


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  • 09/21/12--08:21: Etymixology
  • In Portland’s booming cocktail scene, aspiring mixologists will do just about anything to stand out. With handmade bitters and barrel-aged booze now simply expected, drink names have gained their own potency, depth, and, sometimes, literary flair. With Portland Cocktail Week upon us (Oct 21–25), we explore some of the best monikers.

     

    Clement's Curse cocktail from Kask
    Image: Mei Ratz

     The Historical

    Clement’s Curse
    (Kask)

    Benedictine liqueur, Broker’s London Dry Gin, Lillet Blanc, dash Regans’ Orange Bitters

    The ingredients provide a rough biography of 14th- century Pope Clement VI: a Benedictine monk, Clement had a tortured reign through the Hundred Years War between England (hence gin) and France (home of Lillet) until his, er, bitter death following the black plague.

     

    Dagobah System cocktail from Free House
    Image: Mei Ratz

     The Geeky

    Dagobah System
    (Free House)

    Bourbon, lime juice, house cola syrup, Fernet Branca, Cock ’n Bull ginger beer

    A dark brown, frothy cocktail, it’s named for Yoda’s swampy hiding place in Star Wars. And, of course, the drink’s bright flavor means it has both a light side and a dark side ...

     

    A Personal Matter cocktail from Biwa
    Image: Mei Ratz

     The Highbrow

    A Personal Matter
    (Biwa)

    Irish whiskey, Fernet Branca, Coca-Cola, orange slice

    A literary nod to Kenzaburo Oe’s grim novel of the same name about a man in postwar Japan who drowns himself in whiskey. (The addition of Fernet Branca adds another layer of meaning: people tend to either love or hate this tastebud-numbingly bitter liqueur.)


     

    Make It Work! cocktail from the Bent Brick
    Image: Mei Ratz

    The Inside Joke

    Make It Work!
    (Bent Brick)

    House Spirits White Dog, sweet and dry Vya vermouth, Rhuby Rhubarb liqueur

    When Bent Brick’s manager questioned the purchase of so many exotic bottles of liquor, the bartender set about proving that they could, in the words of Project Runway’s Tim Gunn, make it work!

     

     

     

    Guillotine cocktail from St. Jack
    Image: Mei Ratz

    The Groaner

    Guillotine
    (St. Jack)

    Appleton Estate V/X rum, Cointreau, fresh lemon, house-made grenadine, Kübler absinthe

    The head-spinning potency of this original recipe is, according to St. Jack slinger Kyle Webster, “quick, effective ... and hits the mark every time.” Yeah.

     

     

     


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    great american distillers festival

    In the great tradition of collectively patting ourselves on the backs for making the best food and drink around, Portland will once again become the epicenter of the national craft spirit community with the 8th Annual Great American Distillers Festival, coming to PDX's Tiffany Center on October 19th and 20th.

    The deets: Local and national distillers will be sampling their rum, bourbon, whiskey, vodka, gin, and liqueurs for two days of showcases, tastings, cocktail creations, competitions, and panels. Festival highlights will include Colorado’s Breckenridge Distillery, Texas’ Mockingbird Distillery, as well as local favorites like Bendistillery, Rogue, and Bull Run Distillery.

    Get in on it: A five-tasting, one day pass is available for $15, a five-tasting, two day pass is $25, a one-day pass with 10-tasting tickets is $25, and a two-day, 10-tasting pass is $40. Additional 5-taste tickets are available for $10. All proceeds benefit the Oregon Distillers Guild and Oregon Bartenders Guild. Tickets are available online here. Booze-friendly nosh will also be available for purchase. Happy tippling!

    The Great American Distillers Festival 
    Friday, October 19th from 5 to 10 pm and Saturday, October 20th from 1 to 10 pm. 21+
    The Tiffany Center, 1410 SW Morrison Street
    A take-home bottle shop will be available featuring products from the festival.
    distillersfestival.com


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    Image: Dina Avila

    If you’re serious about drinking, a piece of advice: go see Kyle Webster. Behind a zinc-topped bar lined with obelisks of melted candlewax, the well-coiffed St. Jack barman is likely to beguile you with ancient spirits, otherworldly flavor combinations, and boundless reserves of cocktail lore and history. In short, this is a man who layers his bitters—a precise incarnation of the Reed College English major turned bartender.

    Image: Dina Avila

    Webster’s most recent fodder for experimentation behind the bar is a wine-based aperitif call Byrrh (pronounced “burr”)—a member of the family of quinine-based spirits called “quinquinas.” Made from a blend of red wine, mistelle (slightly fermented grape juice fortified with brandy), and quinine, Byrrh was invented in 1866, but fell out of fashion over time, and wasn’t imported to Oregon until this summer. Webster fell hard: “It was poured into a glass, I tasted it, and it was fantastic,” he recalls. With its herbal bite and subtle sweetness, it fit neatly into his ongoing quest to dry cocktails out without adding citrus. And when he challenged himself to create a cocktail with a foundation of scotch—not his liquor of choice—Byrrh was a natural counterpoint. “It enlivens and enriches what the scotch is doing, and it gives it a body that most cocktails don’t have.”

    The Voleur, French for “thief,” was his answer: robust but not boozy, with an herbal sweetness, it’s perfect as an aperitif or digestif. It won’t blunt your palate before your meals, and it won’t make you go cross-eyed after a couple glasses of wine. The recipe is, admittedly, slightly advanced for the home bartender—you can always make like the French and sip Byrrh by itself over ice. Or you can sidle up at Webster’s bar for a firsthand education.  


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    The Great American Distillers Festival celebrated its eighth birthday last week, cramming 42 distilleries from across the map into one room at the Tiffany Center on SW Morrison. Spirit reps from Colorado, Texas, and Washington made their way to Portland to hawk their wares and “shake” things up for eager and thirsty attendees. Naturally, in addition to merchants from out of state,  there were numerous Oregon distilleries representing, reminding the good people of Portland that homegrown artisan bounty is not limited to coffee and beer. As the hours passed, the temperature rose and drink tokens clinked as they were dropped into plastic buckets at each table.

    From moonshine to infused vodkas to the “Neat Glass” (a new nosing glass that's supposed to reveal elusive olfactory flavor notes), the fest had everything a liquor lover could possibly need to enjoy a nice, stiff drink. It was rather daunting to realize there were only five tasting coins issued per person to spend on various drinks. All of my coins were well-spent though, especially with gracious distillers handing over extra tastings for just one token.

    Peach Street Distillers, out of Palisade, CO didn’t just proffer fruit-forward spirits—though their 80 proof pear brandy was stellar, with the crisp essence of pear smoothing over the sting of alcoholic residue left behind on the tongue. Peach Street also has the distinction of being the first company to legally craft and sell bourbon in Colorado, in this case a smooth, warm 92 proof variety that takes two years to make and comes from a small batch of just 200 barrels. 

    Something unusual caught my eye at the booth manned by Novo Fogo Cachaças, from Morretes, Brazil. All of their bottles were made of recycled materials and carried the USDA Organic stamp of approval, which are important considerations for the environmentally conscious imbiber. With a silver and gold cachaça to its name (as well as a Barrel 105 variety that you would be very lucky to find, it seems, with just 30 bottles distributed across the US), Nov Fogo's tropical tastes are perfect for warm-weather cocktails. A little bit vegetal, very fruity, and made from sugar cane, cachaça is a trend waiting to happen.

    The most unique, and I’d venture to say, best, thing I tasted all night was a rhubarb liqueur from It’s 5, based out of Cashmere, WA. After sipping a lot of really strong spirits, it was nice to have something a bit more tame. Since rhubarb is a bitter root, I assumed this liqueur would follow suit. I was pleasantly surprised, though, when a sweet taste rushed across my tongue and didn't dissipate into something overtly sharp and burning. It still has a kick to it, but it's much less aggressive than most of the other tasting samples on display.

    Seen as the opening act for Portland Cocktail Week, the Distillers Festival is a fantastic way to introduce the public to some of the spirits and companies likely to be present; before we blindly throw ourselves into this week’s cocktail frenzy, that is. 

     


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    Bartenders get dunked for charity in a rainy parking lot at Yale Union.

    Portland Cocktail Week won’t be back until next year, but hopefully 12 months will be enough time for everyone’s livers to heal from all the spirits and shenanigans of the past week. With multiple events happening every night from the 10/21-25, reality at present still seems to be shrouded in vertiginous visions of bitters, flair, and clinking glassware. The week kicked off with salutations to the visiting mixologists from across the nation on Sunday evening, then Monday morning commenced with the seminars that make the great bartenders of our nation even greater.

    A seminar hosted by Tad Carducci (mixologist, restaurateur and Tippling Brother), and Todd Richman (corporate mixologist at Sidney Frank Importing) entitled “Blinded by the Dark” not only got Bruce Springsteen stuck in everyone’s head, it also introduced attendees in the Kennedy School’s small but hipster chic Cypress Bar to the history of bitters. Bartenders were challenged to test their palates and attempt to sniff out and identify as many herbs as they possibly could in mystery spirits (Jägermeister, Amaro Averna, and Fernet Branca, among others). Here are some fun facts:

    • Distillation began as a means of making medicine, and alcohol began as a way to cure maladies such as stomach problems, headaches, depression, and cramps (to name a few).
    • Monks took over the distillation of alcohols around 1000 A.D. They intended to do it as a way to serve mankind.
    • Over time sugar was added to spirits because people found that they could taste very good in addition to curing illness. The sugar caused the medicine-like taste to become much less bitter, and distillers would also subsequently lower the proof of the spirits.
    • Caramel is used as the primary sweetener in bitters, and it is revered to the point of there actually being “Masters of Caramel” in Italy.
    • Things were originally chosen to add to spirits based on what grew in the areas immediately surrounding the towns of the distillers.
    • Helpful hint: In between tasting different alcohols, smell your shirt fabric or your neighbor’s shoulder so that you can clear your nose of the previous drink and be better prepared to smell the next alcohol you try.

    Organic cachaça makers Novo Fogo attempted to wake up the hard-partying bartenders with breakfast and Brazilian beer bright and early Thursday morning before a “friendly” game of soccer—Portland vs Seattle—at the Portland Futsal. Seattle and Portland bartenders like Ricky Gomez, Tommy Klus, Robert Rowland, Art Tierce, Nick La Porta, Jacob Grier, Matthew Bailey, Mary Bartlett, Sean Hoard, Chip McLaughlin, Kyle Webster, and Jay Kuehner took to the indoor field to duel it out with some fancy footwork. Though Seattle may have come out victorious in this epic sporting battle, we’re just going to blame it on the two missing Portland bartenders who were “sick” (bartender code for an epic hangover). Next year, Seattle, next year… 

    The weather was damp at the Pig & Punch event, but plenty of pork kept spirits high.

    Meanwhile, San Francisco-based cocktail and spirit consulters The Bon Vivants brought Pig & Punch to the public in a rainy parking lot outside of Yale Union, offering up beer, six different kinds of punch, dunk tanks, old-timey string music, and a huge spit that rotated massive pigs for general consumption. The event saw the public shivering as they consumed glass of punch after glass of punch, with bartenders shivering even more as they took short, repeated baths in the dunk tank all in the name of charity and a good time. Alcoholic hot chocolate and infused Voodoo doughnuts were consumed whilst fiddles were fiddled and shirts were handed out to commemorate the inaugural collaboration between Pig & Punch and Portland Cocktail Week.

    The main event of the week was undoubtedly the Red, White, and Booze event at the Jupiter Hotel Thursday night. All 34 chapters of the United States Bartender’s Guild were slinging drinks that represented their home states. There was a Polu & Storm from Hawaii, Burnt Ends from Texas, Big Apple Buzz from New York, and, the most glorious drink on the face of the planet, a 5th& Broker’s from Connecticut, made from Broker’s Gin, Skinos Mastiha (a flowery Greek liqueur made from tree sap), fresh lemon, honey, and apple foam—an alcoholic orgasm for your taste buds). Attendees wandered around reading chalkboards of ingredients at each stand and eagerly handed over drink tickets in hope of something life-changing. The only downside of the event was heading home and coming to the realization that the next time I’m feeling thirsty for a signature cocktail from Colorado, I might have to book a flight to Denver.


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  • 12/11/12--20:15: Cozy Winter Cocktails
  • What: Coming Attractions 

    Where: Beaker & Flask

    Why: Winter calls for something sparkling—preferably served in a flute, with a touch of spice. B&F injected this spirit-boosting formula with the deep, earthy sweetness of pinot noir grenadine, crafted in-house from Apolloni Vineyards grape juice. Anise and herbal notes from Bonal and Herbsaint play off the fruit, while a float of French sparkling cider makes the Coming Attractions worth watching.

     

     

     

     

     

    What: Jet Pilot

    Where: Hale Pele

    Why:As our collective yearning for warmer climes mounts, a cocktail at this new tiki refuge offers an antidote. A blue lagoon, flickering torches, tiki totems, and puffer fish light fixtures transport you to the South Seas, aided by the Jet Pilot’s balanced blend of aged rums, cinnamon, and Falernum (a mix of ginger, clove, lime, almond, and overproof rum). Still not having fun? The flaming crouton should do the trick. 

     





    What: Tom & Jerry

    Where: Teardrop Lounge

    Why: Who cares that the holiday season is officially over? The combination of rum, cognac, eggs, sugar, and spices is delicious any time of year—why limit it to the season when we’re too stressed out to actually enjoy it? Teardrop Lounge continues its meticulous, time-intensive preparation of the classic Tom & Jerry, a piping-hot mug of belly-warming cheer, through January.

     

     

     

     

     

    What: Barrel-Aged Negroni 

    Where: Clyde Common

    Why: The best (read: only) way to drink gin in January? A negroni. The best way to drink a negroni in Portland? At Clyde Common, where the enterprising Jeffrey Morgenthaler ages a classic combination of Beefeater gin, Cinzano sweet vermouth, and Campari for two months in Tuthilltown whiskey barrels before delivering it to your barstool, garnished with an orange peel.



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  • 01/23/13--12:14: Aria Gin
  • cocktail
    Image: Kate Madden

    All forms of alcohol capture something of their origins. Wines vary as the climate, soil, and topography do. Spirits, however, take the essence of some thing—barley, botanicals, corn, or rye—to produce a less skittish and more potent liquid. The distiller’s motto: find a formula you like, guard it with your life, and replicate it. 

    Over the course of four years and about 100 recipe revisions, Ryan Csanky has been honing the recipe for his Aria Portland dry gin. To blend traditional gins with what he calls Northwest Pride, he tweaks the proportions of 10 ingredients from North Africa, Madagascar, and other ports of call: juniper, coriander, angelica, cardamom, grains of paradise, cubeb berry, orris root, lemon zest, orange zest, and cassia bark. “But the water is all local, all Cascade,” says Csanky, cofounder of Martin Ryan Distilling Company and bar manager at Wildwood. “This purity and softness contribute to the uniqueness of a Portland gin.”

     

    Aria Gin
    Image: Kate Madden

    Aria stands midway between London dry and the more pronounced, Plymouth-style gins. With an intense botanical freshness followed by a warm surge of alcohol, it combines with Bull Run Distilling Co’s Medoyeff vodka and Imbue’s sweet vermouth to round out a Portland take on a classic Vesper martini.


    Find Aria Portland dry gin at local liquor stores for $24. Visit ariagin.com for more information.



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    With recent years' blossoming of interest in artisinal bitters and infusions and the growth of local micro distilleries, Portland has become home to a vibrant and lively cocktail culture. All we're missing is knowledge of the gardening side of cocktail culture. Which begs the question: what plants can we grow in our gardens that will provide inspired infusions, garnishes, swizzle sticks and muddling herbs for our mixed drinks? I asked Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist, what she recommends growing for the Portland cocktail aficionado's garden.
     
    Here are six of her favorite cocktail plants, hand-picked for Portland's climate:
     
    'Mojito' mint - According to Amy, it's the actual strain of spearmint grown in Cuba, which is only available because Canadian tourists were taking it out of their mojitos and bringing it home with them.
     
    'Red Venture' celery - Amy says, "I would have never in a million years thought it worthwhile to grow my own celery, but this stuff is fabulous. The stalks are much smaller than those big green bunches you by the grocery store, so they actually fit in a drink, and they are beautiful dramatic red. The flavor's much stronger than regular celery, so it's great for muddling into a savory drink. And they will pretty much keep going all year round. You will find the once you have a steady supply of celery, you'll use it in everything."
     
    Black currant - "The Pacific Northwest is great for any kind of berries, and I'm very excited about growing my own black currants to make cassis.  Really, any kind of berry belongs in a Portland cocktail garden."
     
    Mexican sour gherkin cucumbers - "Not technically a cucumber, but a very close relative. Each one is about the size of a grape or an olive. The flavor is a bit more tart than a regular cucumber, but they pair very well with gin and they make a beautiful garnish — and the vines are freakishly prolific, so this is one really worth growing."
     
    Grafted tomatoes - "Portland's climate is kind of like mine [northern California], where summer comes late in can be kind of iffy. I am very excited about these tomatoes that are grafted onto sturdier commercial rootstock. This is what commercial tomato farmers do, but it only recently occurred to anyone to start selling them to home gardeners. It's the same concept as a grafted fruit tree — you'll get more disease resistance and therefore a more vigorous, productive plant.  You can also get a combo plant with two varieties grafted onto one rootstock. I know it sounds like a freak of nature, but it's just very old-school technology — you're pretty much just mashing the cut stem of one plant up against another."

    Stewart has put together six collections of cocktail-friendly plants to go with her book - the Drunken Botanist Plant Collection, grown by Log House Plants and available through Territorial Seed Company and at garden centers up and down the West Coast this spring. The collection is comprised of six different tray packs themed around particular spirits: the Old Havana Rum Garden, the Heart of Agave Tequila Garden, the Farmers Market Vodka Garden, the Old Tom Gin Garden, the Southern Belle Whiskey Garden and Mixologist's Simple Syrups Garden. According to Stewart, "the challenge was coming up with an assortment of plants that pair well with that spirit, but also grows in jumbo sixpacks. So I would normally want to put peaches with whiskey, but we can't exactly put a peach tree in a sixpack!" The pairings may not all be 100% conventional, but they are inspired and sure to delight. The same link, above, brings you to a list of other great plants that are essential for summertime cocktails. Recipes making use of all the plants are included (on the plant tags). Here is what Amy wrote about the collections on her website.
     
    The plants should be available this spring at New Seasons Markets as well as a number of garden centers including Cornell Farms, Portland Nursery, the Urban Farm Store, Drake's 7 Dees, Portland Homestead, The Garden Corner in Tualatin, Good News Gardening in Hood River, Schedeens in Gresham, 13th Street Nursery in Salem, Garland Nursery in Corvallis, and Bird's English Garden in Ridgefield, WA

    If you're intrigued about designing a cocktail garden of your own, check out Amy and her fellow bloggers' writings about it on Garden Rant here (the design of Amy's cocktail garden) and here (the design before-and-after). And here are tips on growing a cocktail garden, with lots more plant suggestions.

    Of course, no writing about cocktail gardens would be complete without a seasonal recipe making use of the delectable late winter citrus:

    Here's a drink I made for a gathering of librarians and booksellers in Seattle.  I called it the Dewey Decimal 580, 580 being the section in the Dewey Decimal system devoted to the botanical sciences.  I thought the librarians were going to be much more impressed with that than they were, but I guess they've seen it all.—Amy Stewart

    Dewey Decimal 580
    1 oz gin
    1 oz Lillet Blanc
    1.5 oz fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice  (about 1/3 to 1/4 of a grapefruit, depending on size)

    Shake over ice, serve over ice in short rocks glass. Garnish with a long strip of grapefruit peel.

    For more home and garden ideas and inspiration, sign up for our weekly At Home newsletter, subscribe to our RSS Feed, and visit our Home & Design page.


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