Saturday, December 20, 2008

Holiday Gift Guide- Recommendations for Christmas and the New Year

I haven't been blogging much recently which is more due to my day job than anything else. Its been a rough couple of weeks, with our machinery at the job site essentially having catastrophic failures across the board and lazy and unresponsive service technicians both bringing my departments workflow to a halt. As it is, its been pretty stressful and the hours took a lot out of me, I've quite honestly been running on empty the last couple of weekends. Its always amazing though what can put the spring back into your step. Today, in spite of the snow, I decided to take Huckleberry, my great dane, to the park to let him romp in the snow and get a bit of exercise. As we approached the park, I could hear squealing and giggling, the sounds of children at play. When the park came into sight, it looked as if the whole neighborhood had sent their kids to the park to sled. Kids were going sledding down the hill on garbage can lids. skateboard decks, Rubbermaid tubs and commercial sleds and one little girl had even fashioned some sort of sleigh out of cardboard. Watching all these kids and their sheer, unadulterated joy at sledding down a hill made me realize that you have to take joy in the moment. It was just what I needed. They weren't worrying about an impending ice storm or dreading the upcoming Monday, they were all just living in the moment and enjoying sledding down the hill on whatever they could find. Most of the time, bartending does the same thing that sledding did for these kids today, but fatigue had taken a bit of that joy away. I've got the night off because of the snow and, to be honest, I'm already missing being behind the bar. In any case, I thought I'd offer up a few more good holiday gift recommendations before the New Year. Tonight, I'm tackling vodka and tequila, and I'll try to move on to a few more categories, time permitting, before Christmas.

I'm writing this with a wee dram of Bruichladdich 10 yr single malt in my hand, one of my preferred winter warmers. I've also gotten into drinking green chartreuse with cocoa (although not today), a perfect beverage for a snow day.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time on music since this is a food, wine and spirits blog, but I will say that music plays an important part in my creative process. I'm never in the kitchen without music, and while my standby is James Brown, right now I'm listening to a lot of good tunes from the Budos Band and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. These artists are in heavy rotation when I'm in the kitchen or creating cocktails and I recommend checking them out if you aren't familiar with them.

I'm sure its pretty well known by now that I'm not a big fan of vodka. Actually, I really don't care to mix with it but there are some good products on the shelves. Martin Ryan vodka, available here in Oregon and made in Oregon, makes two vodkas that really push the definition of vodka since they both have a ton of character. Medoyeff vodka, made here in Portland by House Spirits, is another good vodka. Made in the Russian style with 100% rye this is really a nice clean vodka.Zodiac vodka, out of Idaho is a recent discovery of mine and while I liked it, the vodka afficionados that I shared it with absolutely adored it. I just tried the Austrian product, Oval vodka, and have to say that its also a very nice product. Lastly, of course, should you not be able to find any of the above, a bottle of Grey Goose is probably always going to be appreciated.

Those that know me know that I'm generally a Tequila Cazadores man. When I'm in Baja, its Dos Equis lager and shots of Cazadores. Back here in Portland, I tend to drink my tequila in margarita form more than neat, and Cazadores is my favorite tequila for margaritas. There are some great tequilas on the market here and 7 Leguas, Corzo and Partida tequila all stand out as top choices. I'm particularly enamored with Partida anejo right now, I find few tequilas work well as "sipping tequilas" but I think that the Partida anejo in particular is one tequila worth sipping.

I will note that I get plenty of press releases and PR folks contacting me wanting me to recommend products. Just a note to all of you that read this. I have tasted and personally enjoy everything that I recommend on this blog. I do occasionally receive samples for review. If I don't care for a product, I just don't review it. The ones that I like I might mention (no guarantees). I also review and mention products regularly that haven't been sent to me to sample or review. I do not accept advertising on this blog in order to maintain some semblance of neutrality and everything on this blog is a product of me, Lance J. Mayhew and shouldn't reflect upon any bars, restaurants or brands with which I may have any association.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Holiday Gift Guide- Artisan muddlers from Mr.

I love bar tools. I cherish the ones that I use, and the ones that I use get put through hard use on a regular basis. As it is, I use Pulltaps wine keys exclusively behind the bar (I save my nice Laguiole openers for home us), and even though they are built like a tank, I have to replace them every 6-12 months.
My favorite bar tool is the muddler. Not the crappy red baseball bat thing that you find in every liquor store in America, or the even worse giant brown plastic muddler. I'm talking a good, well made artisan muddler. Luckily, we actually have an artisan crafting some of the most beautiful and most useful muddlers on the market right here in Oregon. Mr. Muddler is based out of Corvallis Oregon, where I first saw his muddlers while judging a cocktail contest. These are well designed muddlers, with a unique grip that I quickly grew to love. I own three of these muddlers personally, but the one that I use on a daily basis is handmade from rock hard ebony. Black as night and weighing more than a couple of pounds, my muddler will get any job done and keep the peace if need be. Its a beautiful piece of craftsmanship and something that I really cherish. My shakers will come and go, and I'll keep destroying wine keys left and right, but my Mr. Muddler is built for the ages, it is something that I'll be able to pass down to the next generation of great bartenders when the time is right. For only $30 (and a $5 shipping charge) you can't beat the price for such a beautiful tool. Highly recommended this Christmas season for both professional and amateur mixologists

Monday, December 8, 2008

Holiday Gift Guide- Sandeman's 10 year Tawny Port

I adore port in almost all of its forms. While I collect vintage ports ('63 Cockburns anyone?), I rarely open them, saving them for special occasions. Instead, when I want a quality port for my more everyday port drinking, I tend to reach for a good tawny port. I like tawny ports because they have a nice nuttiness to them that lends itself perfectly to fruits and cheeses, something I like to end a meal with rather than dessert. Tawny port differs from vintage port in that it spends at least 7 years in wood versus being bottled after 18 months (in stainless steel to preserve the ruby color) for vintage ports. Tawnies are blends, the age statement being the youngest age of the wines included in the blend. The official age designations are 10, 20, 30 and 40 years, of which Sandeman makes all 4 age designations. In fact, Sandeman is offering up a "Century" of their tawny ports in a custom wooden case featuring a bottle each of the 10, 20, 30 and 40 year for approximately $350. Unfortunately, I've only had a chance to taste and review the 10 year tawny, so I cannot speak to the quality of the other ports, but if past history is any indication of the quality of the other bottles, whoever receives a century of Sandeman's tawnies will be getting a very special Christmas gift this year. And just to reduce any confusion, its called a century because all of the vintages added together make 100.
I've been suffering from a pretty nasty cold recently, enough to have me in that warm, fuzzy NyQuil induced state that must be the closest thing to opium thats available over the counter. This weekend I decided that a tawny port toddy would be the perfect thing to help break my cold. Not too alcoholic, warm, and with a nice wintery flavor profile, Sandeman's 10 works incredibly well in a toddy (even if it is a bit over the top).
Last night, my taste buds and nose started to come back so I decided to try the Sandeman's 10 year tawny on its own. Its definitely got a great nose, I picked up a lot of walnut and just a bit of raisin. I like my tawny ports at room temperature, a little warmer than is usually recommended (just my personal preference) as I think that ports served slightly chilled take some time to open up. On the palate, there was the usual pronounced nutiness imparted by so much time in barrel, but also a soft apricot note and a creamy mouthfeel. Whats nice is that the sweetness of the port is balanced by a nice acidity, making this perhaps the best tawny port that I've tasted at this age. Further on the palate, soft caramel notes and very mild tobacco tones intermingle with a light raisin finish. This is a very generous wine to the palate and a well made one at that. Words like luscious, delicious, extravagant, and inviting run through my head when I think of this tawny port. I'd love to pair this with some foie gras to really watch it sing. As it is though, I'm a little too poor for foie gras at the moment, so instead I'll be matching this with some dried apricots and some nuts after dinner tonight.
I highly recommend that you drink any bottle of tawny port sooner rather than later after you open it. At most, consume within a month, but I really suggest within a week if you can.
Sandeman's Tawny Port is available now with an average price around $40.

Friday, December 5, 2008

So I'm a Libertarian kind of guy

The kind of guy who believes in the right to bear arms (I spent my lunch hour looking at shotguns in a pawnshop today, which is odd because I don't own a single firearm), limited government, the abolitition of the Internal Revenue Service and the freedom to make your own choices in life. I don't like the nanny state, whether its banning smoking in bars (I'm a nonsmoker but think that the market should be allowed to decide such things), mandating motorcyle helmets and seatbelt laws or any other restrictive laws. I think its laughable that politicians, the same people who brought you the Department of Motor Vehicles and never run government on a budget now want to step in and run our private enterprise system. Thats why today is an important day in our history. Today is the 75th anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition, or as some of us celebrate it today, Repeal Day.

So why is Repeal Day important? Well, for one, its the only time in American history that one constitutional amendment has been repealed by another constitutional amendment. But more importantly, the great experiment with Prohibition didn't work. Instead, it created a criminal class to meet Americans thirst. It took the choice to have a cold beer or a glass of wine or a martini away from us as citizens and we let the government make this decision (and more importantly enforce this decision) for us. It almost sounds like the current War on Drugs doesn't it? If you want more information from a source that I support on that, please click here.

Where are we 75 years later? Is our right to choose an intoxicating beverage still at risk or has the passage of time strenghened our right to drink alcohol? Its surprising, but there are still temperance movements active in the United States, although some are much more subtle about it now than they were prior to Prohibition.
In fact, the third oldest active political party in the United States is the Prohibition Party. They still oppose all forms of alcohol as they say that the Bible is against consuming alcohol.It kills me that they (the Prohibition Party) try to misinterpret the word "wine" in the Bible as "juice". Wine contains alcohol, which kills pathogens. Jesus drank wine and beer or he wouldn't have made it to his 30s, its as simple as that. Making wine and beer was essential to peoples survival before modern sanitation, and no amount of twisting facts is going to change that.

So of course, we have the nuts over at the Prohibition Party still trying to relive the glory days of Carrie Nation swinging her axe, but what other groups have neo-Prohibitionist tendencies in 2008's America? How about MADD? MADD seems like a decent enough group right? Or have they turned into the modern equivalent of the Womens Christian Temperance Movement? Who could be against Mothers Against Drunk Driving? Well, how about the founder of MADD herself, Candy Lightner? Candy has stated, ""It has become far more neo-prohibitionist than I ever wanted or envisioned... I didn't start MADD to deal with alcohol. I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving." David J. Hansen has a great article about MADD. We need to be aware that even today, December 6th 2008, there are people and elements in our society that want to take away our right to drink or restrict it to such a point that it becomes burdensome to exercise that right.

75 years is a long time. I hope that it continues and that it doesn't go the way of smoking which is all but illegal in a number of places. Tonight, I'm going to celebrate Repeal Day the best way that I know how- by preparing some classic Pre-prohibition cocktails for some of my fellow citizens who are choosing to excercise their right to consume alcohol. We live in a time of expanding government and decreasing individual liberties. Perhaps a little reflection on some of this will allow some of us to savor tonights libations just a bit more and hold onto our mugs a little more tightly. CHEERS!

Holiday Gift Suggestion- Zodiac Vodka

I'm going to be reviewing books, liquor and other gifts prior to the Christmas holiday to perhaps make your Xmas shopping that much easier for the cocktail enthusiast or bartender in your life.

First up, we have a real winner in Zodiac vodka. This is good stuff, a nice soft round vodka which mixes really well. We were playing with it at 50 Plates recently and it was definitely enjoyed by both the vodka enthusiasts in the crowd (not me) and the non-vodka drinking group (me). Even better, Zodiac vodka is made out of potatoes in the beautiful state of Idaho. The only thing better would be if it was made of Oregon potatoes. Zodiac has an attractive package and each bottle represents one of the 12 zodiac signs (they sent this scorpio a bottle of aquarius). Good stuff and at a $25 price point this is a far better vodka than most. I really enjoyed this and will probably put it on the back bar once it comes into Oregon. Recommended.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Check Me on Twitter!

Damn, I started this thing as a lark and now I'm addicted.

An Egocentric Posting

Well, for not being a politician or Storm Large, this week has been a pretty good one for me in terms of media exposure. First, I was in this weeks Willamette Week, talking about the sad state of the economy (Thanks a lot Harry Reid, Chris Dodd and Barney Frank) and how people drink during good times or bad.

Next, I'm honored to be on page 15 of this week's Portland Mercury (My name, not my picture. That picture is Neil Diamond). Patrick Alan Coleman was nice enough to ask me to teach a cocktail class for the Mercury's Online Charity Auction and I was happy to oblige. Bid often and bid high. I'm web item #154 in the auction, and not only do you get a class with Mr. Coleman and I, but you get a keg of New Old Lompoc beer to help you forget whatever ails you, some Elemental vodka and cool glasses from elsa+sam boutique PLUS a distillery tour. Heck, if my wife is reading this, YOUR HUSBAND MIGHT REALLY LIKE THIS FOR CHRISTMAS (hint). Btw, is it me or has Patrick Alan Coleman really helped raise the bar for good food and drink writing in this town? Between his joining the Mercury staff, and Tom Colligan's debut at Portland Monthly, the level of talent in the food and drink writing biz has gone up dramatically in Portland.

This Sunday, I'm in the Oregonian's Taste section in a nice piece by Sara Perry. Check it out at or Oregonlive. The recipe featured is one of my favorites, make sure to give it a try.

Later this afternoon, I have to go pose for some photos for an upcoming issue of Northwest Palate Magazine. I'll going to keep most of it under wraps for now, but I will tell you that the article features one of my favorite Portland chefs and I collaborating on something special. I'm really happy with it and excited to be working with this chef again.

Continuing on, tomorrow is Repeal Day, the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. Please join me at 50 Plates tomorrow if you have some time. We're going to be doing a special cocktail menu in recognition of Repeal Day and we should have some fun surprises in store.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Sveinn Cocktail

Right about now, I'm supposed to be over at Clarklewis for a dinner with Toby Maloney of the Violet Hour in Chicago, sponsored by Bulleit bourbon. I'm not usually one to turn down a free meal, and I was really looking forward to attending this event, but other things have interceded, so its Thanksgiving leftovers on the couch tonight instead.
That said, an unexpected night free allows me to dig this cocktail out and share it with you. Originally, I was going to submit this for the last Mixology Monday, a cocktail bloggers event that I participate in sporadically, but I missed the deadline.
I've been interested for some time now in using asian ingredients in western style cocktails. The Sveinn cocktail is an example of this. Several months ago, I prepared some Chinese apothecary bitters and then promptly (intentionally) forgot them in the basement to let the flavors marry. Early in November, I strained everything off and tasted the bitters. Very bitter, with a medicinal flavor that isn't unpleasant, but is distinctively asian. You aren't going to mistake these bitters for Angostura kids, I really like these but its a very asian flavor profile.
I've been playing around with the Seelbach cocktail quite a bit recently. The Seelbach is essentially sparkling wine with a touch of triple sec and bourbon but what stands out to me about this drink is the amazing amount of bitters used in its preparation (at 50 Plates, I use 6 dashes of Peychauds and 6 of Angostura to rinse the inside of our champagne flutes. Zane, one of the very talented bartenders at Vessel in Seattle also made me a cocktail with 3/4 oz Angostura, orgeat, lime and pisco that was a revelation to my palate. What both of these cocktails have in common is the use of much larger amounts than normal of bitters. I hope you can see where I'm going with this one. I tasted the apothecary bitters and really wanted to find a way to let their unique flavor shine. I settled on basing this cocktail around the frame of the French 75 (roughly).
I took 1/2 oz of the apothecary bitters, 1/2 oz of fresh lemon juice, added it to a champagne flute and topped it off with some Zipang sparkling sake. For the record, I really like Zipang, its an interesting product, very well made and perfect for mixing.
I garnished it with the seahorse left over from making the bitter (yes, there is seahorse in the bitters) to give it a slightly more avant-garde look and voila! The Sveinn cocktail. This is a nice, dry cocktail. Not really a ladies drink but perhaps a good alternative for the men at a party featuring sparkling wine cocktails. Cheers!

Monday, December 1, 2008

In dog years, I've been behind the stick for 105 years

And some days it feels like it. 15 years ago today I was nervously getting ready to work my first shift as a real live bartender. It was a day shift at Stuart Anderson’s Black Angus on Florin Road in Sacramento. I remember that the drink special of the day was a Madras, something which threw me and made me even more nervous. I didn't have a trainer that day because we were short staffed, so like many other restaurant positions (especially the kitchen), I got thrown right in. Black Angus had a soda gun to the left of the well, and a liquor gun (the only time that I have ever used one) to the right. The liquor gun was unmarked, just a big black gun with about 30 white buttons. If you wanted to make a margarita, you pushed one button and it dispensed tequila, sweet and sour and triple sec all into the glass for you. Long Island Iced Tea? Thats another button. Gin? Another and so on. Well, I didn't know the buttons and neither did my manager, so my first day kind of sucked as frantic servers kept returning drinks because they were "funny tasting". I remember a strawberry daiquiri coming back because I had filled it with whiskey, and my offering more options to the servers as I slowly figured out the buttons on the liquor gun ("They want what? I don't know where the scotch button is. Offer them a gin and tonic instead. Or anything with gin, I know where that button is"). Suffice to say, my first day was stressful, chaotic and just plain nuts. I still have days like that, the only difference is that now I know what goes into a Madras and I have the confidence in my abilities that only time behind the bar provides.

I like to joke about my time at the Black Angus. I'll make cracks about learning every variation of the Long Island there (I think I honestly did), but it was the first bar that I was ever behind and for that I will always be thankful. There was the kindly veteran bartender Rich who took me under his wing and patiently explained to me how to set up the bar. There was Reptile Boy, a compulsive gambler who oftentimes needed to make a certain amount of cash on a shift to cover his recent bets. More than once I had to cover a shift for him when he "suddenly" fell ill and left before his bookie showed up to collect. Once, we had a carnival set up shop in a mall parking lot not too terribly far away and for about a week the bar would fill up with carnies after the fair closed. Some of the carnies started flirting with a cocktail waitress and lo and behold, when the carnival left, she went with them. I never saw her again. It was a completely disfunctional place, I couldn't figure out why the manager always paid for beers with quarters when we all went out until I realized that he had a key for the pool tables and was draining them for beer money. There was the time I learned never to allow shot glasses to pile up in front of customers in case they start throwing them at you (by the way, it hurts like hell to get hit with a shot glass) and the first time I ever got robbed was there too (corporate wouldn't replace our tips that were stolen back then). Black Angus has been bought and sold numerous times since I last mopped out the leaky beer cooler in Sacramento, the last time I set foot in one the famous "Fun Bar" atmosphere was gone, no more Monday Night Football or DJs. Instead, they had basically reduced the bar to a service well. It wasn't the same but then things are never quite how you remember them. I look back with fond memories of my time there and the 15 years since. Its been quite a ride.

As it is, I don't have a lot of time left behind the bar. I've been lucky enough to catch the beginning of the craft bartending movement, which I see as a chance to restore my chosen profession to its Pre-Prohibition glory. That said I'm too old to see this through, it will be the next generation of bartenders, people like James Pierce over at Touche, Jacob Grier and others who will make this a reality.

So far, its been a great run and for those of you who I have served, I can truly say its been an honor and a pleasure to serve you. Best wishes to you all.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The World's Best Hot Buttered Rum Recipe

So Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Here in the Mayhew household, Thanksgiving is the high holy day of my year. Its my chance to take care of loved ones, celebrate the year and reflect on those who aren't joining us at the table this year. I have lost a lot of people in my life, more than I'll ever care to share on a blog, and sometimes I think that I live with the constant expectation that I won't see the next Thanksgiving. So for me, its always important to have a huge Thanksgiving feast. If its going to be my last, it better be the best too. So every year gets larger and more elaborate, but certain things always happen at my Thanksgiving. First, I always do the cooking. Sure, people might bring a side dish or a dessert, but rest assured, no one needs to bring anything because there will be leftovers for weeks when I am done.

This year, there is a definite chill in the November air here in Oregon, much more pronouncedly so than last year, I'm still going to barbecue my turkey but I'll need a little something to warm me up when I step back inside from my hourly checks on the bird. This year, I'm offering guests a Stone Fence (Buffalo Trace Bourbon, 2 dashes Angostura bitters and Apple Cider) as my cold drink and I'll offer up Hot Buttered Rum for those that need to take the chill off of their bones. Now, Hot Buttered Rum isn't the hardest drink to make in the world, and neither is the batter. That said, most of the Hot Buttered Rums I have tasted are downright nasty, and most batters just don't quite get it right. I'm going to offer a few easy do's and don'ts for making an enjoyable Hot Buttered Rum.


- Use a quality rum. I like one with some age on it. I'll be using Bacardi 8 this Thanksgiving, I don't think there is a better rum for a Hot Buttered Rum.


- Use cheap rum. Cheap rum is going to taste even cheaper when you warm it up. You can't hide poor quality ingredients in this drink.


- Make your own rum batter. It isn't hard, takes less than 10 minutes and you'll be amazed at the difference in quality.


- Buy commercial buttered rum batter. Yuck. I have yet to try one that doesn't taste like chemicals and stabilizers.

So lets get down to the recipe shall we? I like to leave a stick of butter out for about an hour to soften it up to make this a really easy preparation.

Hot Buttered Rum Batter
1 stick butter, room temp
¾ c brown sugar
¼ cup agave nectar
½ tsp cinnamon
pinch salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp clove

To make a hot buttered rum, simply slice a good dollop off of the batter, add to a mug with 2 oz Bacardi 8 rum, fill with hot water, stir to incorporate, and enjoy.

Here is wishing all of you the best this Thanksgiving.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Weekend Update

Tonight you won't find me at 50 Plates or behind the bar anywhere else. Nor will you see me pouring beers and shaking cocktails on Saturday. Instead, I'm taking a long overdue vacation to Palm Springs. I won't be blogging while I'm gone, and, to be honest, I probably won't even be checking emails or answering my phone. I'm going to sit on the edge of the Salton Sea, do a little fishing and just relax for a while. Perhaps a good hike or two at Joshua Tree will do me some good as well.

I posted a picture of Isaac from the Love Boat because he is my favorite fictional bartender of all time. I actually read a pretty funny top 10 list of fictional bartenders that you can read here. I think Isaac deserved more than honorable mention, but thats just my opinion. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Sunday, I'm driving over to Temecula to do some wine tasting with my friends Jason and Grace. I'm particularly fond of Hart and Thornton, and I'm always pleasantly surprised by the quality of the wine in Temecula.

I just had some punch recipes published in this weeks edition of the Portland Mercury. You can check them out here.

Its also looking like I might get a chance to collaborate again with one of my favorite Portland chefs. I don't want to let the cat out of the bag, but this should be very very cool.

Lastly, I've agreed to facilitate a couple of cocktail classes as items for upcoming Holiday Charity auctions for a couple of worthy charities. If you are interested in either me donating some more of my time for a good cause that you might be aware of or if you are interested in bidding or which charities I'm supporting, shoot me an email and I'll be happy to share all of the pertinent details.

I'm rolling out of the office right now and going home to pack. I'm turning off the old cell phone, taking my watch off and heading for vacation. No deadlines, no conference calls, no crazy calls in the middle of the night. See you all when I get back.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Book Review- Mr. Boston: Official Bartenders Guide

I'd heard that Jim Meehan was working on a new and revised edition of the venerable Mr. Boston guide and to be honest, I was curious just how much the publisher would let him revise it. I own more copies of Mr. Boston than any other book (currently 31 copies ranging from really old to copies from the last few years. Hint- when purchasing a Christmas gift for a bartender, he might already own a copy or two of Mr. Boston), and while I never, ever crack them open, I still can't bear to part with any cocktail books so they sit high on an out of reach bookshelf, taking up space and needing a good dusting. I don't keep Mr. Boston behind the bar, and the last time I can remember using one to look up a drink was 1994 when I was wearing a bolo tie as I worked a Stuart Anderson's Black Angus Fun Bar. Whatever I made was clearly not what my customer was expecting and I felt pretty burned by the guide. Since then, I've always held a rather low opinion of the Mr. Boston guide and I tend not to reach for it when I have questions about a cocktail.

That all changed last night. I got home and found a copy on my front doorstep. Let me just say now that Jim Meehan should be congratulated on a job well done. Instead of adding a 32nd useless copy to my bookshelf, this new edition (I believe it hit bookstores yesterday) mixes classics with 200 modern classics from some of the top bartenders in the country (including Oregon's Kevin Ludwig, Kelley Swenson and Ryan Magarian). The book is beautifully photographed by Ben Fink, not something I was expecting, and there are some nice tips and hints scattered throughout the book from people like Dale DeGroff, Robert Hess and David Wondrich. This book is easy to use, dividing most of the drinks by base liquor, but also has sections on hot drinks, frozen drinks, eggnogs, punches and even wine in mixed drinks. This is a great reference now, and I was inspired to work on a couple of new cocktails after reading a few of the drinks contained inside of this volume.

At $14.95, this is a great reference and every bartender should own a copy of this book. It provides a concise reference for what the modern bartender needs while also offering up cocktails from the most creative minds in the business right now. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Friday, November 7, 2008

House Spirits releases Marteau Absinthe tomorrow!

House Spirits Distillery Open House/Absinthe Marteau Release!

Saturday, November 8th, 1pm-4pm
Free to the public, 21 and over
2025 SE 7th, Portland, Ore.

If you haven't tasted Marteau, don't miss out on this opportunity! I'll see you there

2 for 1 Book Review: Dale Degroff & Robert Hess

I try to stay on top of what is current in cocktail books. A lot of what comes on the market, is, quite frankly, crap. However, over the last couple of years, the quality of cocktail related writing has improved somewhat markedly. The last month has seen the release of two fantastic cocktail books by two of the people I respect most in the world of mixology, Robert Hess and Dale Degroff.

Dale Degroff's latest, The Essential Cocktail, The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks , is a beautifully photographed and well put together book. Featuring approximately 500 different cocktails and their variations (a nice touch), this book isn't as comprehensive as Degroff's earlier book, The Craft of the Cocktail, but this book is a wonderful introduction to the world of classic cocktails. This is an easy to use and wonderfully laid out book, full of nice photography and of a decent enough size that you can lay the book out and read from it if need be. If you know a bartender or have any cocktail enthusiasts to do Christmas shopping for, they will be very happy to find the "Essential Cocktail" under the tree.
Robert Hess, sometimes known as Drinkboy and host of the Small Screen Network's wonderful shows, has just published "The Essential Bartenders Guide". While DeGroff's book seems to appeal to a broader audience of cocktail enthusiasts and bartenders alike, Hess delivers a precisely focused, well written and designed manual for working bartenders. While he does offer some tips on stocking a home bar, I think the real value in the Essential Bartenders Guide is to the professional, who can put it behind the bar (great job on the binding with this one) and read and reread selections from it when it they have time. Hess provides the background on things like Fernet Branca, proper glassware selection and more. Even better, while the recipes are heavy on the classics (A Bamboo cocktail anyone?), Hess doesn't waste time with half assed contemporary drinks, instead focusing on a small but signifigant selection of modern classics including Ryan Magarian's Pepper Delicious and Paul Harrington's Jasmine in addition to some of his own creations. This is going behind the bar at 50 Plates tonight, joining the Hess autographed and rather dog eared copy of the Museum Of American Cocktails recipe book, and it is an invaluable addition to any bartenders library.
Both of these books come highly recommended. If you can't make up your mind between the two, buy both, you'll be glad you did. Both are excellent new offerings from some of the top people in the world of mixology. I'm glad that they both have a home on my bookshelf.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The 2009 Grand Marnier/Navan Mixology Summit is coming!

So my favorite event of 2008, the Grand Marnier/Navan Mixology Summit is happening again in Vail Colorado. Led by Steve Olsen, Andy Seymour and the rest of their gang again, it promises to be one of the highlights of 2009, and I sincerely hope that I get the opportunity to attend next year.

You can read about my experience at this years Mixology Summit on some of my earlier posts. Looking back, there were two very valuable things that I took away from 2008's Summit.

First, Grand Marnier/Navan really did an outstanding job with the program, and there was plenty of time to interact with outstanding presenters like Leo Degroff and Aisha Sharpe which allowed me to pick their brains and exchange some thoughts and ideas with them. I came home to Oregon filled with new ideas and techniques. I'd never be doing a bacon bourbon if I hadn't talked to Don Lee and Jim Meehan at the Summit. In fact, I wouldn't be working on a duck fat washed Grand Marnier for a Duck a l'Orange cocktail that I'm going to be submitting as one of my entries this year (note to readers; its a subtle duck flavor achieved by fat washing duck fat into straight Grand Marnier, and a couple of other ingredients marry pretty damn well with it to make for an interesting cocktail) without talking to those guys, and even better, seeing them actually demonstrate some of their techniques.

Second, I made some of the best contacts in the industry ever at this years Summit. Even better, a number of them, including Ky Belk of Elway's Steakhouse in Denver, Doug Miller of Culinary Institute of America, and the great Jimmy Patrick ( have become great friends and have even come out to visit me in Oregon. Others have been "internet friends" and acquaintances, but meeting Jonathan Pogash on the ride from Denver to Vail turned out to be a great resource when we were trying to publicize the cocktail competition portion of the Great American Distillers Festival. This was the top 100 bartenders in America, in one resort with one of the finest liquor brands in the world showing us a first class time and allowing us to learn about their products.

Oh yeah, this wasn't all about learning about Grand Marnier, Navan and bartending. There was world class skiing, snowmobiling, and other activities available as well. Even better, this wasn't one of those events filled with PR types (nothing personal)and salesmen, this was bartenders being brought together to learn and share knowledge. I relax around bartenders. I instinctively trust them and I can let my guard down around them and share stories of life behind the stick that I'd never in a thousand years share with the salespeople or enthusiasts. For me, this was a chance to learn, make new friends, and have a great time at one of the most beautiful places on planet earth.

So how can you attend? Well, first you've got to be a professional bartender. Next, go to for the application and rules. Good luck to all of you and I hope to see you in Vail again next year.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cool Tequila Art

I like Tequila. A lot. When I'm in Baja with friends I'm usually drinking Cazadores and Dos Equis lager, although occasionally I'll switch up to Tequila 1800, especially if I'm drinking margaritas. Its smooth, really mixable and the price point is right for me. Anyway, long story short is that I like 1800 and there is always a bottle or two of it floating around Casa De Mayhew in case I feel like margaritas or palomas or a sudden dinner party breaks out.

Well now the 1800 tequila folks have gone and done something really cool. I'm a huge art fan and Tequila 1800 has commissioned some of the top artists in the US and Mexico to design 1800 bottles. Even better, their site ( lets you design your own bottle (there are some great ones in there already) for a chance to win $10,000 and be featured in a national ad campaign. They've also got a feature coming soon that will allow you to design your own custom 1800 art sneakers. I can't wait to see what those are going to look like. BTW, I'm a size 10 if anyone cares :)

I've been checking out the bottle art this morning and really enjoying what I've seen. Check it out at, its also where you can find out where these limited edition artists bottles will be available.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Book Review- 101 Champagne Cocktails

So I'll admit it. When I was asked if I'd like to receive a copy of 101 Champagne Cocktails for review, I accepted because I love to see whats on the market, but I didn't exactly have high expectations. Perhaps it is because I am always suspicious of cookbooks and whatever else that offer a large number of recipes. I mean, can you really make 101 decent champagne based cocktails? Why not 98 if thats all you have? Or why didn't you make it to 105? Those are the kind of things that run through my head when I see books like this. Luckily enough for me, Kim Haasarud not only created 101 interesting champagne cocktails for this book, most of these are easy and approachable too.

I started flipping through the pages and while a number of the classics are represented (the Bellini, the the Kir Royale, the Mimosa), I was startled by how many unique and interesting new concepts were in the book as well. The Limoncello Sparkle, Sparkling Apple Cocktail and Stormy Ginger Fizz were all revelations, and the photography of these drinks is just superb. This is a really well written and photographed book. Interesting enough to intrigue me as a professional, but clear and concise so that even a novice with no bartending experience can make these drinks. Overall, this is a pretty interesting addition to my cocktail library, so much so that I think I might be giving several copies to my friends and family as Christmas gifts this year. Pick up a copy of 101 Champagne Cocktails. You'll be happy that you did.

The usual wednesday update

- I'm currently reading Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite reads as it contains two of my great loves, history and booze.

- Shared a bottle of Cyderworks 2005 Oregon Dry Sparkling Hard Cider from Sauvie's Island here in Portland last night. It left me less than impressed. While I'm not a huge hard cider fan, I do tend to drink a bit of cider during the fall season. This cider was just thin and austere. I made it drinkable with a heavy dose of good rum, but I won't be buying any more of this hard cider. I was terribly disappointed.

- I'm in pickling mode again and my copy of The Joy of Pickling is getting a bit dog eared. I saw that there is a revised edition with about 25 new recipes of Joy coming in May. I can't wait. Right now, I've pickled blueberries in molasses, and I made some pickled cranberries, tonight is going to be pickled beets, some pickled cauliflower and the green tomatoes that I harvested in the garden last night.

- It looks like I'm going to be quoted in the Hartford Business Journal this week(god I miss the Hartford Whalers, the NHL lost its luster for me when they moved). I won't say about what until the article runs, but unfortunately, I didn't get interviewed about the return of the Whalers.

- A Phillies/ Rays World Series? Wow, I can't even begin to tell you how little I care about this Series. I'll just wait til the World Baseball Classic for some decent games.

- Palm Springs vacation time keeps looming closer and closer. I need to start making arrangements for wine tasting in Temecula. Temecula really has some first rate wineries, and I haven't been tasting down there in some time so it will be interesting to see how things have changed.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The OBG has 4 of the Willamette Week's "5 Killer Cocktails" in the Restaurant Guide 2008

Kelley Swenson and Ten01 , Kevin Ludwig and Clyde Common , Park Kitchen , and a cocktail that I did for Belly Timber were 4 of the "5 Killer Cocktails" highlighted by the Willamette Week in their 2008 Restaurant Guide.

Wednesday Ruminations

- I generally avoid political issues on here, but I'm feeling more and more like I'm going to have to go John Galt if things keep going as they are. Maybe I'm just depressed at the thought of having to sit through one more debate tonight.

- I'm playing with the idea of a postmodern martini inspired by my friend Kevin Ludwig. Right now, I've got some nice Sepay Groves olive oil infusing into Bombay Sapphire gin and an interesting twist on vermouth coming up. I'm hoping to have this up pretty soon.

- Jacob Grier has arrived in Portland and he brought some Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters up from California. I've got to say, this is one of the more interesting bitters I've had to date. He's also brought up some Grand Traverse Distillery vodka, a premium vodka made in Michigan. While I am clearly not much of a vodka fan, I still appreciate well made spirits and I'm looking forward to trying it.

- Jeff “vodka lover” Morgenthaler sent some Bitter Truth Celery bitters my way. I haven't really been in cocktail mode recently, but I can't wait to try them. I first tasted them when the legendary Murray Stenson of Zig Zag Cafe made me a few cocktails with them. Its an absolutely brilliant product.

- I'm spending a week next month in the Palm Springs area. I'll do some wine tasting in Temecula, visit the Salton Sea and Joshua Tree, but if anyone has any other recommendations for things to do down there, I'm all ears. Of course, part of me wants to make a run down to Baja for some street tacos and seafood carts.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mixology Monday- Guilty Pleasures

So this month's MixMo subject is Guilty Pleasures. Hosted by Stevi Deter over at Two at the Most, this subject has already gotten Jeff Morgenthaler to admit to his secret love of vodka, and a number of other great bartenders and bloggers are probably about to make similarly embarassing admissions.

Before I start teasing anyone else though, I have a bit of an embarassing admission to make myself. I used to live the thug life before I reformed and started making more respectable cocktails. Sure, I wasn't slinging rock on the mean streets of Oakland, nor have I ever once sported colors, and any gang sets that I have ever thrown are more likely the result of a hand cramp than any actual serious attempt at those contortions. That said, I have worked in some of the finest hip hop clubs in California, slinging drinks to the rich, the poor and everything in between. I've used a bottle of Galliano as a baseball bat during a riot in a club, seen police panic and release their dogs on an unsuspecting (although rowdy) crowd after we've locked the doors after hours, and been downwind of more pepper spray than I'd like to admit. Back in the day, it was just part and parcel of the game.

Y'all gon make me lose my mind
Up in here, up in here
Y'all gon make me go all out
Up in here, up in here
Y'all gon make me act a fool
Up in here, up in here
Y'all gon make me lose my cool
Up in here, up in here
- DMX, "Party Up"

While I did work in some of the finer hip hop establishments on the west coast in the mid 1990s, unlike most videos you see, we didn't exactly sell lots of Cristal and Louis XIII. Instead, the middle class hip hop afficionados preferred strawberry daiquiris, the ubiquitous gin and juice, and of course, the subject of tonight's post, the Hennessey Separator.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Separator, its essentially a white russian (vodka, half and half and kahlua) with brandy or cognac standing in for the vodka (Sorry Morgenthaler, I don't think you'd like this one). Now, in my experience there are only two ways to make a Separator. The poor mans way is just to ask for one and you'll get something nasty like E&J Brandy, or there is the playa's way, which is to walk up to the bar and order a Hennessey Separator. I swear, in all the years of slinging drinks in hip hop clubs, I never once made a Courvosier Separator. True gangstas understand that while Courvosier is a nice cognac, only Hennessey is the proper choice for a well made Separator. It seems to be some sort of unwritten rule in the clubs, one that I personally agree with.

Separators were a mans drink back in the day. Delicious, strong, creamy and sweet, Separators have enough punch to be effective, and yet enough sweetness to cut the fire of VS level cognac. I developed a taste for them early on in my career, and drank them through my entire club career.

I rarely drink Separators anymore. I've never made one at home, nor have I ever ordered one in Oregon. It seems like this is a drink that isn't just a guilty pleasure for me, I need a certain set and setting to truly enjoy one of these. I need to be in some divey California club, where the glasses are sticky, the crowd rowdy and the doormen just ready to snap from roid rage. I don't end up in places like this very often, but when I do, nothing like a Hennessey Separator hits the spot.

Damn it feels good to be a gangsta
Feedin the poor and hepin out wit they bills
Although I was born in jamaica
Now I'm in the us makin deals
Damn it feels good to be a gangsta
I mean one that you dont really know
Ridin around town in a drop-top benz
Hittin switches in my black six-fo
Now gangsta-ass n**** come in all shapes and colors
Some got killed in the past
But this gangtsa here is a smart one
Started living for the lord and I'll last
- Geto Boyz "Damn It Feels Good to be a Gangsta"

The Martin Miller's Gin Masters Competition 2008- U.S. vs. U.K.

I got home Friday night and as I was perusing my mail, I found a rather fat envelope with a strange London postmark. There was no return address, and to be honest, I get more mail postmarked from Turlock, California in a month than I do London in a year. Opening the envelope, I found a very well printed invitation to Martin Miller’s Gin Masters Competition 2008 at Death and Co. in NYC on November 9th. Unfortunately for me, I have prior plans and will be in Palm Springs on that day, but this is shaping up to be one hell of a battle between some of the best bartenders in the U.S. and U.K.
Heading up the American team, Canadian Jamie Boudreau of Seattle and Daniel Shoemaker of the TearDrop Lounge here in Portland represent the Pacific Northwest. The American team (perhaps we should just call it Team North America for Jamie's sake?) is rounded out by Vincenzo Marianella, the "Cocktailian Deity of Los Angeles", Giuseppe Gonzalez of the Clover Club in Brooklyn, and the Bay Area's Thad Vogler and Erik Adkins.
The UK team features some of the best talent from Martin Miller's homeland (alas, Simon Difford isn't among this crowd). Jake Burger, Ben Reed, Jason Scott, Sean Muldoon and Giles Looker are some of the top talent in London, Belfast, Leeds and Edinburgh.
The competition features 3 rounds. First, the original cocktail featuring either Miller's or Miller's Westbourne Strength, and contestants must create 3 cocktails in 6 minutes. Next, the classic cocktail, making one of 5 classic cocktails correctly, and being able to discuss the history and merits of each cocktail. And finally, the Gin and Tonic speed round where contestants have 1 minute to create as many drinkable gin and tonics as possible.
Martin Miller's has lined up a veritable Who's Who of Mixology to serve as judges. David Wondrich, Gary Regan, LeNell Smothers, Paul Clarke (from Seattle), Sasha Petraske and Ann Rogers form possibly the scariest panel of judges to face in the history of our craft. I'm sure glad its Boudreau and Shoemaker having to look at that murderers row and not myself.
Anyway, if you happen to be in NYC on November 9th, this will be an event not to miss. leave it to Martin Miller's to throw yet another world class event.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sneak Peek- Urban Farmer

So this past weekend, I got a chance to get inside and see (and sample) the cuisine at Urban Farmer, a self described "modern steakhouse" housed in Portland's newest luxury hotel, The Nines. As I walked into the lobby of the Nines, I was blown away by just how stylish and well appointed the a hotel this is. I spotted Ian Gilula and Aaron Frankel, two of the premier glass artists in the Pacific Northwest installing a hanging chandelier as I walked into the large, open atrium. This is a new level of hotel in Portland, while I wouldn't blink twice to see this in New York City, it is a whole new level of luxury for little Portland Oregon.
Situated on the main lobby floor of the Nines, Urban Farmer is a sleek polished restaurant with a variety of looks seamlessly blended into the whole. Cow print booths, LCD screens filled with art, an alcove filled with house pickled veggies and a library room finished with a long sleek modern bar. My description may be lacking, but the overall result is a beautiful restaurant.
My dining companion and I drew an appetizer, entrees, a side and dessert from buckets, a common practice in restaurant dry runs as it gives the kitchen some experience and allows the staff to develop a level of comfort serving the menu. We were promptly seated at the long, sleek bar and as I looked around, I noticed that the restaurant is manned by some of the best servers and bartenders in the city. Urban Farmer has assembled a veritable all star team of front of house staff, and I was surprised how many people that I know, respect and admire are going to be on staff here.
We put our orders in at the bar, and a few moments later, a very pleasant surprise arrived at our table. Pumpkin bread, baked in a tin can and decanted tableside, served with regular butter and apple butter. It was moist, fragrant and delicious. Even better, the butter arrived spreadable (I hate hard pats of butter in restaurants) and the apple butter was complex and spicy.
I had drawn an appetizer of Lamb Sweetbreads, with lamb bacon and a sauce that escapes me. I love sweetbreads, and this dish made me look at sweetbreads in a completely different way. These were tender and delicious and the lamb bacon added another unusual touch to the dish. The sweetbreads were served on a bed of greens adding a nice bitterness to the sweetness of the sweetbreads and the salty crunch of the lamb bacon. This was a very complex and well prepared dish and I'll definitely be ordering it again.
Next up, my dining companion had drawn a 16 oz NY Steak and vegetable fricasee, while I had gotten a Porchetta dish and a side of Hen of the Woods mushrooms. While my companion was clearly enjoying his steak, I didn't have a chance to sample it. The vegetable fricassee was really well done, simple, but well composed and very tasty. My porchetta arrived with a small cruet next to it which my server promptly poured around the dish and announced that it was a bacon broth. Bacon broth with porchetta? Have I died and gone to heaven? This was a truly fantastic dish, spicy with peppers but deep and almost haunting in its complexity. I loved this dish, this is one of the best things that I have ever eaten in several years, I could die happy if this was the last flavor in my mouth. And the Hen of the Woods mushrooms were a revelation. I don't recall ever having Hen of the Woods mushrooms before but these were quite simply delicious. They were perfect with my porchetta, although I did imagine them complementing my dining partners NY steak perfectly. Of course, they were so good that I preferred to keep them to myself.
I managed to taste Urban Farmer's 12 day old rye whiskey, made by the fine people at House Spirits. This is definitely a young spirit, feisty and hot. I generally prefer my rye to have quite a bit of age on it, but this is a well made rye and I'd really be curious to see how it does with some age. Did I mention that there are 3 barrels of this rye behind the bar, aging for a few years before they plan on opening the casks. Until then, this young spirit is the only style available, and with the talented team of bartenders behind the bar, I'm very curious to see what cocktails they develop with this rye.
Finally, dessert arrived in the form of Mud Pie. I'm not a big dessert eater, and at this point I was happily full, but I couldn't resist a bite or two. Perfect. It was simply perfect, I'll leave it at that.
Now, please don't take this as a review. It isn't. This is merely a description of my experience at Urban Farmer during a practice service prior to opening. I've opened plenty of restaurants and there are always challenges that come with each opening. However, I did have one of the better meals of my life at Urban Farmer, and I'll be returning eagerly to try more of the menu when they open on the 16th. I think Urban Farmer is going to be a signifigant addition to Portland's culinary scene and I'm happy to have them on the scene. I'd like to thank the entire staff and management team at Urban Farmer for their hospitality and generosity during my visit. Best of luck to all of you and I'm looking forward to returning soon.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Come join me Monday at the Drambuie Den

So this Monday at the Doug Fir, I'm lucky enough to have been invited to participate in a cocktail competition sponsored by Drambuie. In addition to Monday nights cocktail competition (this also runs Tuesday as well), I believe there will be Drambuie cocktails, food and entertainment as well. I'm looking forward to it and I'm pretty happy with my cocktail for the competition. In fact, I'll share it with you here. Its pretty boozy, but in a good way.

The Claymore Cocktail

1.5 oz Bacardi 8 rum
.75 oz Green Chartreuse
.75 oz Drambuie
Fee Brothers lemon bitters
Lemon twist

Chill, serve up in a stemmed glass, garnish with a twist. Simple, elegant and effective.

Damn, I almost forgot. To come either night, go to to make your reservations (its a free event but you have to be 21). And its at the Doug Fir on East Burnside. It runs from 7-10 each night, I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My Hiram Walker Gingerbread Liqueur drink

No name yet, but I'm really enjoying this so I thought I'd throw a quick post up. I was SO right about rye whiskey and the Hiram Walker Gingerbread Liqueur. Oh wait, the name just came to me!

November Rain

3oz Rittenhouse 100 proof rye whiskey
1 oz Hiram Walker Gingerbread Liqueur
3 dashes Regans Orange Bitters

Chill, serve up with an orange twist.

Highly recommended.

2 for 1 Product Review- Hiram Walker Gingerbread and Pumpkin Spice Liqueurs

Hiram Walker is not a brand that I usually use. In fact, I haven't carried Hiram Walker in any of my bars in years. I've always considered it a middle of the road brand, more of a fit for your neighborhood tavern or college bar than a good craft bar. In fact, the last time I had to use anything from Hiram Walker, I was at a photoshoot and I threw a temper tantrum because the hosts were trying to substitute Hiram Walker Pear Schnapps for my requested Clear Creek Pear Brandy and the schnapps had turned my cocktail kryptonite green.

Today, I got a couple of samples of product from Hiram Walker. I opened a box and inside was a bottle of Gingerbread Liqueur and a bottle of Pumpkin Spice liqueur.

First up, Pumpkin Spice liqueur. The moment I cracked the bottle the aroma of pumpkin spices floated through the air. My wife, smelling this blind identified pumpkin spice immediately. So far so good. I can't day that I am a fan of the color though, its definitely colored to resemble pumpkin, but being a purist, I'd really rather have a clear liqueur versus something that will get muddy looking pretty quickly once you start throwing other ingredients into a mixing tin with it. Upon tasting, it starts with a pronounced banana bread flavor before moving to pumpkin spices, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon and clove. The flavors do not linger, this disappeared off my palate within seconds. The nice thing about the spice profile is that it really hides any alcohol burn making this a very smooth and light liqueur. I wish there was a little more mouthfeel, I do prefer my liqueurs to have a bit more viscosity but overall this is an interesting product. I envision this working really well in a hot drink with steamed milk or as a fall milkshake style cocktail. Add some vanilla ice cream, half and half, some ice and blend this up for an easy, sweet fall cocktail.

Next up, I moved onto the Gingerbread Spice liqueur.I really enjoyed the nose on this, its definitely got a gingerbread, cinnamony nose to it. This actually reminded me of last Christmas eve, watching my sisters in law put together gingerbread houses as the whole house was filled with a wonderful gingerbread aroma. As for flavor, the gingerbread liqueur is more complex than the pumpkin spice, perhaps the nature of gingerbread alone has something to do with this, but this was my clear favorite of the two. I still had some issues with mouthfeel, again, this tasted a little light, I prefer some viscosity in my liqueurs and again these flavors drop off the palate within seconds after drinking. And also, both of these liqueurs are very sweet, Still, I can mix with this gingerbread liqueur, in fact, the moment I tasted it I started to think about rye whiskey. I think the spiciness of rye with the gingerbread liqueur will be a great match and for some reason I really want to mix this with grapefruit juice too. I don't think that I'll put rye, gingerbread liqueur and grapefruit juice together though. Hmm. I'm starting to get thirsty...

Overall, I'm pleasantly surprised by these two products from Hiram Walker. They aren't a fit for every bar, but they offer a better and fresher flavor profile than I would have imagined. I'm not going to be putting these behind the bar at 50 Plates next week, but I will continue to play with the samples and I have a lot of friends who bartend in taverns that will welcome having some very autumn flavors to offer their guests that will be easy for them to mix. Perhaps Hiram Walker should develop a premium line (Hiram, by Hiram Walker. Wait, that sounds like perfume). If so, these two liqueurs would be a good jumping off point for them, with some small tweaks to each, both of these could be invaluable additions to a craft bartenders repetoire. As it is, I will be discussing these Hiram Walker products with both customers looking for unique cocktail ideas for the holidays and tavern bartenders looking for an easy yet tasty new drink to introduce to their customers.

Thank You Plymouth Gin!

Ok, I'll admit it. I love swag. I really do. Well, at least good swag. Plymouth ginis reputed to have the best swag in the industry. My friends who went to Tales this year came back talking about all of the clever giveaways Plymouth had during the event. Of all the swag I've seen in the last year, nothing has had me salivating as much as Plymouth gin's bartender toolkit. Packed in a nice padded bag, it includes everything a bartender on the go will need. Muddler, bar spoon, Boston shaker, double jigger, etc. While I'll probably replace the muddler with my Mr. Muddler muddler, I'm already planning on packing this thing for my next upcoming vacation (Palm Springs next month). Anyway, I'd just like to thank the fine people at Plymouth gin for such a great gift and their great gin. Thanks

Monday, September 29, 2008

Product Review- Mata Hari Absinthe

Absinthe. Its the hot thing in the liquor market right now. It seems like every company is rushing to get an absinthe to market as soon as they can. Personally, while I really enjoy St. George and Trillium absinthes, I've found that a number of the early absinthes getting into the market lack balance and that certain sense of elegance that separates the great absinthes from the also rans.

I recently received a bottle of Mata Hari Bohemian absinthe for review. Its an Austrian absinthe, apparently distilled from the original recipe from the 1800s. Its definitely got a pronounced herbal flavor profile, something I much prefer over absinthes with a more anise forward profile. Mata Hari uses Grand Wormwood and Salvia as the main flavoring components to provide the herbal notes in this absinthe, bringing a depth of flavor with an edge of bitterness. What is missing is Petite Wormwood, which has a more subtle flavor, but reduces the bitterness of Grand Wormwood and provides a haunting quality found in the very best absinthes. From what I've been hearing recently, almost the entire crop of petite wormwood in Europe is sold to vermouth producers under long term contracts. I'd be very curious to see if Mata Hari adds petite wormwood into their formulation in the future if the European market opens up in the next few years.

As it is, Mata Hari comes in at 120 proof, but I notice the alcoholic burn more than I do with a similar absinthe with the same proof, Trillium. When I tried Mata Hari as a traditional absinthe preparation, using 1 oz of absinthe, 1 sugar cube and about 4 oz of water, I found it a bit austere for my tastes. It louched slightly in the glass, but once the cube had dissolved on the spoon it was perhaps the prettiest glass of absinthe that I've ever laid eyes on, truly the Green Fairy. I actually added some simple syrup to the drink to sweeten it a little bit to my taste and I really enjoyed the drink quite a bit more. This is an absinthe that calls for a bit more sugar than a typical preparation, but finding the right balance with this absinthe was worth the effort. Mata Hari has a long finish, 10 minutes or more, and the extra sugar was necessary to push past the bitterness to bring the complex underlying flavors out.

Mata Hari shines brightly in one of my favorite cocktails. I found that the dryness and herbal tones of Mata Hari absinthe complement a sazerac cocktail perfectly. In fact, I think Mata Hari absinthe is probably best used as a component in cocktails. When I added it to my usual sazerac recipe (Sazerac rye, 4 dashes of Peychauds, 1 dash of Angostura, a splash of simple and a lemon twist), the Mata Hari added a depth to the cocktail that anise forward absinthes just can't achieve.

Overall, I'm glad to see more absinthes come to the market. Mata Hari is an interesting product, one that I like, especially for my sazeracs. In fact, I think I might have one right now.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Product Review- Veev Acai liqueur

I'll admit, I was a bit skeptical about reviewing a product that bills itself as a replacement for vodka. I'm pretty well known for my aversion to most vodkas, and, other than reviewing vodkas once in a while, its not something I consume. However, I personally find Veev acai (pronounced ah-SIGH-ee from what I understand) more along the lines of a liqueur than a base spirit as it comes in at 60 proof and does have a pleasant sweetness to it.

Part of my aversion to vodka is that it has no character, by definition. Veev acai though, has a very distinct flavor, overall very fruity but cherry leads on my palate and I honestly don't get much acai until the end. Trust me when I tell you that I took one for the team,as I ran down some acai juice to sample for this review (I thought it would be fun to use Veev with acai juice to make a super healthy, anti-oxidant cocktail), sampled it straight and, well, lets just say that its not the most pleasant juice I've come across. It definitely tastes like its good for you, bitter, bitter stuff. I think I'll use the remainder of the juice to spray on my houseplants to keep my cats from eating them. Thank god the Veev people have managed to incorporate only the tastiest part of the acai berry, and by blending it with acerola cherry and prickly pear cactus, have achieved a really unique and tasty flavor profile.

One of the things that impressed me most about receiving this bottle of Veev was the promotional information contained within the package. Printed on recycled paper with soy inks, it explained Veev's commitment to enviromental causes, and I can always admire a company that puts its money where its mouth is. I wish more companies were as socially concious as Veev.

So far, my favorite way to enjoy Veev acai is simply mixed with tonic and lime. Its a refreshing and very different departure from my usual Sapphire and tonics, an original reinterpretation of a cocktail classic.

I'd carry Veev in my bar once its listed in Oregon. Its going to occupy a unique niche in the market, and I think that the level of success Veev achieves is really going to be dependent on bartenders offering this unique product to their patrons. This is a product with a bright future, and I'm excited to see what the future holds for Veev acai.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Great American Bartenders- Murray the Blur

If you know Murray, you'll understand why they call him Murray the Blur. Even better, I tried and failed to take 6 shots of him. Each one is blurry. I think his name is appropriate.

And don't call him Manny.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Product Review- Sobieski vodka

Damn Sobieski vodka. First off, I'm not even supposed to admit to liking vodka even a little bit. I'm a gin guy when it comes to clear spirits, even going so far as to occasionally offering people "juniper vodka" in their drinks. I find most vodkas insipid, lacking flavor and appealing to the lowest common denominator. Even well made vodkas don't hold a ton of appeal for me, the idea of paying $40 for a bottle of something with little character makes me cringe. At 50 Plates, I carry Goose and Ketel One, but no Stoli, instead focusing our limited vodka selection on American artisan brands like Medoyeff, Hangar One and Lovejoy.

Then I got a bottle of Sobieski to taste. Its a luxury Polish rye vodka (the best of the best imho), with an $11 price point! Naturally, I was pretty suspicious. When I tasted it Sobieski, I found a vodka that can compete with its competitors at 4 times the price, its got a nice spiciness from the rye, but with subtly sweet rounded finish. I couldn't believe my taste buds. So I did what any self respecting bartender should do, I brought it into the bar and made martinis with it.

While I'm not a vodka afficionado, vodka drinkers who drink martinis seem to be the most discriminating and brand concious group of vodka drinkers out there, so introducing new product to someone who may have been drinking Stoli martinis for the last 10 years isn't the easiest thing. I was pleasantly surprised by people's reactions to Sobieski. Usually, after tasting their martini, they would ask me the name of it, where they could get it, and how much does it cost? Those are pretty great questions to be asked when you are introducing a new product behind the bar, and I am happy to say that Sobieski is now a limited listing product in Oregon, with a retail price of $11. I'm hoping to blow out our well vodka, Monopolowa, and replace it with Sobieski in the well. For $11 a bottle, no other brand can compete on price or flavor.

One more thing. If you look closely, you'll see that the bottle in the picture is empty. Thats right, it was so popular when I brought it in for tasting that we blew through that bottle in a couple of hours. I was planning on taking a better picture, but I think the empty bottle says it all. Sobieski is going to be the house vodka at Casa De Mayhew from now on, I've never seen a better vodka at a better price. This is great great stuff, don't miss out.

OBG Bartenders Chef Collaboration Cocktail

Plum Chutney Cocktail
1 bar spoon plum chutney
2 oz Bombay Sapphire Gin
1/4 oz Averna amaro
1/4 oz rosemary simple syrup
1/2 oz blueberry vinegar
2 dashes Fee Brothers lemon bitters
splash of club soda
lemon disk twist

Jenn Lewis of Lincoln Restaurant and I collaborated on this drink, and I couldn't be happier. Jenn created the plum chutney and I put the cocktail together using that as a base. As soon as I tasted the chutney, I knew that Bombay Sapphire was going to be a great match, and the Averna amaro added just the right amount of bitterness to this drink. This is one I could easily throw onto a cocktail menu and be proud of.

By the way, if you live in Portland and haven't dined at Lincoln, get over there. Jenn's food is amazing, the service is outstanding, and its easily one of the nicest spaces in Portland. I'm lucky to live within walking distance of Lincoln, and I couldn't have asked for a better chef to collaborate with on this cocktail.

Great American Bartenders- Keith Waldbauer

I'm going to start trying to post pics of great American bartenders, practicing their craft on their home turf. Sorry for the shitty pic, but it was dark and all I had was my iPhone. Above is Keith Waldbauer, bartender extraordinaire at Seattle's. Union restaurant and one of the few professional bartenders who blogs ( I love Keith's writing, his cocktail list is one of my favorites and I was very impressed with the cocktails that he made for my wife and I this past weekend.

Mixology Monday- The Stone Fence circa 1806

This round of MixMo is hosted by the fine people (who I very briefly met at the TearDrop Lounge here in Portland) over at Why I don't have them linked on here is probably more of a reflection of my general laziness and fear of screwing up my blog settings than anything else, but I digress. The theme this time is 19th Century Cocktails, definitely a subject I approve of.

I actually make Stone Fence's, in fact, in my recent consultation for Belly Timber, a local restaurant in Portland, I put the 1852 Stone Fence ( Buffalo Trace bourbon , nonalcoholic apple cider, bitters) on their cocktail menu with great success. However, with this post, I'd like to explore an earlier version of the Stone Fence, one that is less commercially viable today, but interesting nonetheless. I'm calling this the 1806 version, because earlier incarnations of the Stone Fence used hard cider, and because on May 30, 1806 Andrew Jackson killed a man in a duel because the man had accused his wife of bigamy. That seems as good a reason as any to challenge a man to a duel, and it seems to me that heavy consumption of Stone Fence's could make it much easier to challenge another person to a duel, so lets limit these to 3 or 4 on a Friday night ok kids? Unless, of course, you'd like to be facing your next door neighbor with .22s at 20 paces. Don't believe me? Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain boys were toasted on Stone Fence's before they found the bravery to take over Fort Ticonderoga. This is a cocktail to treat with respect.

Anyway, lets get back on track shall we? The earliest versions of the Stone Fence were whatever hard brown liquor Colonial settlers had on hand (usually rum) simply cut with hard cider. Lacking any really nasty New England rum, I decided to use a 3 year old rum from the oldest continually operating rum distillery in the United States. Old New Orleans Amber is a tasty tasty rum, well made and well suited for this cocktail. Next, and inauthentically, I added two dashes of Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel bitters for some complexity, a few rocks, and topped it off with some Hornsby's hard cider. While admittedly not as complex or compelling as later versions of the Stone Fence, at least to my 21st century palate, its still a potent and refreshing cocktail. I'm halfway into this one, and already craving another.

Duck a l'Orange

I'm one of those Gen Xers, stuck at the end of one era and the beginning of another. I didn't grow up with computers everywhere (I remember seeing my first one, a Radio Shack TRS 80 btw), and I remember seeing my first VCR at Ross Taylor's house when I was a kid. As for food and cocktails, we Gen Xers have lived in some interesting times as well. My parents were (and are) gourmands before the advent of FoodTv and celebrity chefs. As a child, I grew up eating in the finest restaurants in the country from a young age. Chez Panisse? My parents were some of the first customers there. Cocktails? They basically didn't exist back then. My father was a rye Old Fashioned man, a choice that I adore, however, the Old Fashioneds that I drink today are a far cry from the muddled, gritty messes he must have consumed regularly. In my childhood I also caught the tail end of "Continental" restaurants, heavy Americanized French meals served by waiters with fake european accents which were considered the height of culinary sophistication in the mid 1970s. Sole Amandine, Coquille St. Jacques, and of course, my childhood favorite, Duck a l'Orange.

I think my favorite version of this dish from my childhood was from Maxwell’s Plum in San Francisco (in Ghiradelli Square where McCormick and Kuletos now sits, this was an outpost of the NY original), right across from Modesto Lanzone's, where I first learned to enjoy true Italian food. To me, as a child, duck a l'orange represented something adult and sophisticated, and yet, even better for a kid, it was delicious.

So why am I rehashing childhood memories on a cocktail blog? Well, I adore Grand Marnier, and I really hope to be able to attend their Mixology Summit in 2009, so I need to keep the creative juices flowing right? Plus, I was in Seattle over the weekend and I came across a jar of duck fat right about the time I was trying to create something new with Grand Marnier, so it seemed like it was meant to be. I enjoy fat washing flavors into alcohol, so duck fat into Grand Marnier shouldn't be too much of a stretch for someone who makes bacon bourbon. I'll give this a couple of weeks (although I'm sure that a few days would be fine) before I strain it and try to add it into a cocktail. My thought is just to serve it up (maybe a little oj to cut the sweetness) and a duck cracklin as a garnish.

Your thoughts? What childhood dish would you like to see recreated in liquid form?

Btw, this is simply one fifth of GrandMa with 11.78oz of duck fat mixed in. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Milo Rodriguez and Bombay Sapphire

So I've been a bit overwhelmed with the OBG, GADF and sundry other tasks, AND I'm just getting over a bad cold, so I'm even more behind than I was when I started admitting just how behind that I am on my blogging. Plus, I've had the worst writers block ever. I think it might have just been stress, but this blog, which I started as an exercise to hopefully write as well as Shoshanna Cohen one day, turned into a task so I needed a bit of a break.

Luckily I got one when I got to compete on Labor Day in the Bombay Sapphire/ GQ Magazine most inspired bartender contest. I was first loser, but I got to pour a cocktail for Milo Rodriguez, and friends and family came out in rowdy droves to cheer me on, so the night counts as a success.

Even better, the next day, JP (of 50 Plates) and I attended a private luncheon with Milo and a few of the other bartenders from around town. I have to say, and I've met quite a few, but Milo Rodriguez is the embodiment of what it means to be a brand ambassador. He is knowledgable without being arrogant, friendly, humble and an absolute kick in the pants. He presented a short class on the John Collins, let us play around a bit with the Collins, and then treated us to a nice lunch at Oba (well, I'm sure I owe Jason Moore of Bacardi Brands a thank you for that too).

The next evening, I had the opportunity to take Milo, Jason, and Kyle (also of Bacardi if memory serves me right) out a bit in Portland to show off our local cocktail scene. We met at TearDrop where David Shenaut and Evan the new guy (I'm sorry Evan, I'm blanking here) were holding court with thier usual fabulous assortment of inventive cocktails. Next, we headed over to 50 Plates, where Suzanne and JP were holding down the bar. JP made us all a round of drinks, including a top flight Sazerac and one of his killer mint juleps, Chef Randall came out and said hi and sent some of 50s great desserts out for Milo to try.

Next, it was on to Ten01, where Kelley had (unfortunately) already closed for the night, so off to Clyde we went. Nate Tilden, the owner, was there, and he and Milo seemed to hit it off immediately. Tommy Habetz, one of my favorite people in Portland was at the bar, and Ben Bettinger, soon to be chef at Beaker and Flask (I can't wait) was on his way out, so I got to introduce Milo to some of the better talent in back of the house as well.

I've heard a rumor that Milo is coming back to Portland in October, and I'm definitely excited about the opportunity to make some more cocktails with him, and more importantly to learn from him. Having someone like that in Portland was a personal thrill for me, and while he may have arrived in Portland as a brand ambassador, he left as my friend.

In other news, Ky Belk, of Elway's Steakhouse fame and imho the best bartender in Colorado popped in very briefly to 50 Plates before heading back home. I wish I could have spent some more time with the man, but, as happens, Ky and his better half fell in love with the Oregon coast. At least I got the honor of serving him a cocktail.

I'm taking this weekend off to do a little tourism myself. I'm headed up to Seattle for theatre and perhaps a few cocktails along the way. I'm definitely interested in hitting Union to see Keith Waldbauer, and I'd love to try to squeeze in to Zig Zag to see Murray in action, but this trip is really about pleasure, not cocktails (not that they are mutually exclusive, but this is more of a couples trip than a boozing it up, late nights in Seattle trip, you know?).

Oh, a few other really cool things happening in my life right now. First, this Sunday, I'm lucky enough to be part of the next OBG event which happens to pair chefs with bartenders to create cocktails. I'm lucky enough to be paired with Jenn Lewis of Lincoln, and I'm really really excited to do this with her. Also, on Tuesday, apparently Chef and I are being interviewed for some local tv show. Every time I'm interviewed with a camera in my face I get crazy thoughts that just run through my head constantly. I'm always afraid that I'm going to burst out in song or say something a little off when there is a camera in the room, just so all of you know.