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