Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Portland Hipster Cocktail



I love Portland. So much so, that I've lived here 3 times. The rain drove me away twice, but I always seem to return. One of the really great things that I enjoy about Portland is the variety of people here. In a few short blocks, you can spot hippies, punks, businessmen, bikers and hipsters, and, except for May Day, everyone gets along pretty well here.

Portland's hipster culture is characterized by civil war era facial hair, thrift store clothing, the full Modest Mouse discography and a fascination with Pabst Blue Ribbon in the best beer city in America. I wanted to capture what its like to be in one of Portland's hipster bars in a cocktail, to translate their smoky, beery ambiance into a sophisticated drink. I think I succeeded.

It merits mentioning that last weekend (when I created this cocktail) I was due to visit my friend Kevin's house to experiment with cocktails, and I was extremely excited by the prospect. Unfortunately, I had a long neglected honey-do list that needed to be completed and so I reluctantly had to send Kevin my regrets.

I did however, find some time in between chores to work on this. First up, a trip to my local Whole Foods to pick up a tallboy of Pabst Blue Ribbon. I took it home, poured the contents of the can into a saucepan, brought it to a boil, added a cup of sugar and reduced it down by half to make a "PBR reduction".

About a year ago, I had to quit smoking cigars. I smoked them for years with no ill effects, but for the last few months of my cigar days I started getting ill whenever I smoked one. I wanted to capture the smokiness inherent in Portland's hipster bars, so I went into the basement and searched through my abandoned humidor for a cigar. I found one in excellent shape, brought it upstairs, cut a small portion of the end off, and put it into a glass which I then filled with rye whiskey. I set it aside to marinate for 4 hours before I strained the whiskey through coffee filters to remove the bits of tobacco leaf.

To prepare the cocktail, I took 3 oz of the PBR reduction, 2oz of the tobacco infused rye whiskey, 1 oz of Meyer lemon juice, put it all in a cocktail shaker over ice, shook the hell out of it and strained it off into a martini glass (see the pic above). It tasted wonderful, really outstanding, and it even gave me that scratchiness I get at the back of my throat when I've spent too long in a smoky bar.

I was really impressed with myself, so much so that I was going to recommend to a friend that he put this cocktail on his drink menu. Then it hit me. My stomach started heaving, my hands grew clammy and my head started spinning. I didn't know that nicotine was alcohol soluble, and I was having a nasty reaction. As I was in the middle of cooking a romantic dinner for my wife, I quickly turned off the oven and burners and left the food where it was. I barely made it to the couch, where I laid down, closed my eyes and moaned quite frequently. I cursed planet earth for daring to rotate while I was feeling ill, it took everything I had not to lose my lunch on our persian carpet. I spent several hours on the couch like this, my wife came home and seeing my condition, didn't feel a lot of sympathy for my plight. She told me that I was stupid for infusing tobacco into whiskey and I agreed. I was stupid, stupid, stupid, and here I was laying on the couch with my brain and stomach feeling like they'd just stepped off the Tilt-A-Whirl. I was just happy that I'd cancelled on Kevin, as this was the cocktail I wanted to create with him, Imagine if I would have been laid out sick on the poor mans couch for 4 1/2 hours, moaning and whining about my sorry state.

I was laid out by my own creation. A tasty one, but an experiment that I won't be reproducing. Perhaps some braver, and less sensitive to nicotine soul will try this cocktail out and enjoy it without the reaction that I experienced. Or not. But in my case, this was a classic example of stupid should hurt.

20 comments:

erik_flannestad said...

Oh man, that is such a bad idea.

The many toxic substances in tobacco are very soluble in alcohol. Doing an alcohol infusion is like, I dunno, a tobacco enema. Damn. I'm glad you lived to tell. Bad, bad, Lance.

Blair, aka Trader Tiki said...

Well, if you feel like braving it again, I've got my Tobacco Dram still waiting.

It's Tenessee Burl soaked in 101 Wild Turkey Rye for a month, then put in a 1:1 dram with cane sugar syrup.

I use 1/4 oz. max, and haven't had a problem so far.

Sad to hear about not being able to smoke cigars, I don't do it much, but enjoy it when I do.

Lance J. Mayhew said...

In my defense, I have heard of others doing tobacco infusions. However, it was extremely stupid of me and I paid the price. I think its important for me to share my grand failures as well as my successes, and this was clearly one of my biggest failures yet.

Jacob G said...

Yikes, sounds rough. If you don't mind paying through the nose for shipping fees, you could import some Perique liqueur. It's got a true tobacco taste and reportedly has very little (if any) nicotine. I got my shipment in a few weeks ago and have just started playing around with it. Lots of potential, but given the high costs I'm a bit wary of wasting it in failed cocktail experiments. Expect a blog post soon :)

I like the beer reduction idea. That turned out pretty well, I take it?

J Thornton said...

I bet I could drink three and not feel a thing.

Lance J. Mayhew said...

The beer reduction was a surprising success. I think I'll be doing more reductions in the future.

And yes Jason, you could probably have 10 of these and not be affected.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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