Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Oregon Bartenders Guild

I'm not going to say much yet, but look for more info soon on the newly formed Oregon Bartender's Guild. I'm lucky to be working on this project with some of the top mixologists in the state (and the country), and this should be a great thing for Oregon. Keep your eyes open for more info soon!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Coconut Rum, Half Forgotten Bitters, Navan and Ice Cubes

I started a new project this evening, a toasted coconut rum. I hate Malibu and its sickly sweetness, so today when I was at 23rd Ave Liquors, I spotted a bottle of Appleton White Rum that just seemed to call to me. I toasted 8oz of shredded coconut in the oven tonight until I got a nice light toast on the coconut, put it in a pyrex bowl and covered it with the rum. Its now wrapped up and in the basement to do its magic. I'm not the biggest fan of the flavor of coconut, but I really felt like a drier rum with a coconut flavor might be nice for doing some tiki-inspired drinks next month. Now, I'm wondering if I should start a batch of coconut bitters. They sound like a perfect complement to tiki drinks. Perhaps I'll start a batch after Xmas.

Next up, I actually carmelized some sugar (3 tblsp sugar, 1 tblsp water) and added it to the grapefruit/ tomato bitters. I'll stir it 2x a day for a week to let the flavors get to know each other a bit and it'll be time to bottle it up next week. I'm happy to have that project in its final stages. I think I'm going to call these bitters my Half Forgotten Bitters.

Also, I picked up a bottle of Navan. I'll have a full product review up tomorrow, but let me just share my initial impression. Its delicious stuff. My mind is racing thinking about the possibilities. Currently I'm drinking 2oz of Navan, 3 dashes of Peychauds bitters, and equal parts 1/2 and 1/2 and soda water on the rocks. Its nice, but I think this is a bit of a work in progress, I need to punch it up just a little more.

Lastly, I got some new ice cube trays from Amazon today. More on ice cubes to come soon, but Daniel Shoemaker from the TearDrop Lounge has made an ice cube believer out of me.

Monday, December 17, 2007

I love my Pulltaps

So I open a lot of bottles of wine in a given week, and in my 13 years behind the bar, I've probably opened in the tens of thousands of bottles. I've used just about every wine key to hit the market, and while at home I'm more likely to reach for one of my Laguiole wine keys, at work, I need the strength, reliability and ease of a Pulltaps. The things are damn near indestructable, forgiving to use (I can safely loan one to a green server and not expect to have to approach a table to save a cork in a bottle, and just plain fun. When it gets busy at the restaurant, sometimes I challenge myself to see just how quickly I can open a bottle with my Pulltaps. I'm in the 15 second range right now.

If they only came in bright orange, I would be a very happy man.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Half Forgotten Projects in the Basement and Lithuanian Cocktail Guides

While doing a load of laundry this morning, I noticed that I still have some half completed projects going in the basement. A quick list;

- Krambambuli- I made this for the Distillers Festival Competition but it was so godawful I didn't use it. Now, 6 months later, it seems to have really mellowed out into something Benedictine-ish. It'll need to go through a coffee filter to strain all the sediment out, but it just might be salvageable.

- Rose Liqueur- Started this one at the tail end of summer. I'm going to need a lot more roses, so I'll start this back up when the flowers at our house begin to bloom again.

- Grapefruit/ Tomato Bitters- Yep, they are still down there. The aroma is amazing, I really should just get around to finishing these off so that I can play with them. I think its going to be liquid summer in a bitters bottle.

- Ukrainian Plum Brandy- Not much to do with this really, except wait. Its dark, dense and syrupy sweet, but should make for a nice aperitif at Christmas. It should be ready at the end of the week.

I also received a little something from Ebay yesterday. I bid on, and won, a Lithuanian bartenders guide,published in 1973, "Kokteiliai". Definitely very Soviet era, the few pictures of cocktails inside seem rather grim and unappetizing, but I'm always curious what other cultures are pouring. I don't speak/read/understand Lithuanian, so translating this could be a challenge, but I'm sure I can rise to the occasion. Anyway, I'll leave you with a Lithuanian cocktail recipe from the book. I believe the numbers next to the ingredients are proportions and "iseiga" seems to mean total.

Kokteilis "Geltonsnapis"

Degitine 20
Apelsiny likeris 40
Apelsiny sultys 40
Puse apelsino griezinelio 5
Ledo gabaliukas 25

Iseiga 130

Visus gerimus sumaisyti su ledo gabaliuku ir ipilti i taure, kurious krastai papuosti cukrumi. Po to i taure ideti puse apelsino griezinelo.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

House Spirits Booze Bazaar

I've just returned from House Spirits Booze Bazaar, and in spite my near state of inebriation, I'll attempt to post my experiences. Raena and I arrived just as Kevin Ludwig (currently of Clyde Common and soon to be opening Beaker & Flask) was departing. Kevin went back inside with us and we went straight for the booze. Kevin and I selected a Trident cocktail, made with Krogstad Aquavit, Cynar and Fino Sherry. The cocktail was interesting, the sherry seemed to really bring out the caraway notes in the aquavit, creating a very food friendly cocktail that I may have to experiment with soon.

Next, we spotted Siobhan Crosby, Soshanna Cohen and Karen Foley of my favorite magazine, Imbibe displaying their wares. If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of Imbibe yet, just put this down, get in the car and race over to your nearest Barnes and Noble or Borders and buy and issue already. They've got a great blog going over at and then of course is their website, If this sounds like an ad for Imbibe, then good. It's my favorite magazine (supplanting Saveur), well written, cutting edge and they deserve your support. In the interest of being honest and open, I may have a byline appearing in the Jan/Feb issue as well, so don't just buy one copy, buy 3.

I then made it over to taste some really interesting products. Vitaly Paley of Paley's Place is making a wonderful energy bar. Get this, it actually tastes good rather than the usual energy bar/ roofing shingles that you usually find on the market. Their Strawberry and Peanut is a revelation. You can find them online at

I came kind of late, so I missed out on his chocolates, but the caramels that I tried from Xocolo de David were outstanding. On par with the caramels that I've had in Paris, his fleur de sel is a classic caramel, while the bacon caramel confirmed for me that everything goes better with bacon.

My friend Mike, over at Sub Rosa Spirits was tasting his Tarragon and Saffron vodkas. Always a revelation if you haven't tried them.

My favorite part of the night was when Matt Mount, one of the distillers at House Spirits shared with me their ouzo. Made from rye spirit and flavored only with anise, it was drier than most ouzo's, more similar to a good Lebanese arak, but delicious nonetheless. Definitely my favorite part of the night.

I'm off to see Spoon play at the Crystal Ballroom this evening, and I just might pop in and see Charlie Hodge pour some drinks at the Clyde Common before that.

One last thing. If I met you tonight, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear from all of you.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Experimentation and the Myrmidon Cocktail

So the tastebuds are still a bit off, but I'm starting to feel a little better thanks to my self prescribed regimine of Mexican antibiotics. Last night, I was running through Wild Oats after walking my dog, when I came across Dry Soda. I've had Dry Soda before, the lavender flavor was interesting but it didn't change my life or even inspire me to look for more Dry Soda. This time though, I spotted Kumquat soda (kumquats being one of my better half's preferred fruits) and so I picked up a 4 pack for a little experimentation.
I've still got a bottle of Absolut Mandarin in the house after buying it for the VitaminWater contest, and to be honest, I don't really care for flavored vodkas. I made a cocktail for my wife of 2 oz Absolut Mandarin, 4 oz Kumquat Soda, 4 dashes of Regans Orange Bitters and an orange twist. Somehow, I seemed to have created the liquid version of an orange tic tac. Yuck, it was cloyingly sweet, unbalanced and just plain one dimensional. My wife hated it, so I added a shot of Aperol and it made a terrible mistake somewhat palatable. I did notice she didn't ask for me for seconds.
When it was my turn to pour myself a drink, I turned to the liquor cabinet and grabbed my new bottle of Bluecoat Gin. I essentially made the same drink, substituting the Bluecoat for the Absolut Mandarin and what a difference it made. What had been cloying and sweet now had depth and some nice structure. Pushing the envelope a little more, I floated a little anis escharchado on top and I had my drink for the night. I'll call this one the Myrmidon.

Myrmidon Cocktail
2 oz (or more) Bluecoat Gin
4 oz Kumquat Dry Soda
4 dashes Regans Orange Bitters
1 orange twist
float anis escarchado

Build over the rocks in a bucket, add twist and get twisted.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Random Thursday Thoughts

I'm still suffering from this terrible cold, and my tastebuds are really out of whack right now. I never crave sweets, but right now the only thing that tastes ok is sweets. Everything else takes on this really funky flavor that leaves me slightly nauseous. Ughh. It may be a little while before I can actually put together something decent to post on here.

My favorite magazine, Imbibe, should have their January/February issue hitting newsstands at the end of the month. If you haven't read Imbibe, you really owe it to yourself to pick up a copy. Btw, if you check the byline in the Elements section of the Jan/Feb issue, you just might find a bit of a surprise.

I'm going to the Booze Bazaar at House Spirits this Sat if anyone wants to join me. Should be a ton of fun.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Old Tom First Impressions and the Cold Medicine #8 Cocktail

I'll preface by saying that the old taste buds are a bit on the fritz with this cold, so I enlisted my partner in crime, Raena to help with the tasting. I first poured about a 1/2 oz into a wineglass to see it, smell the aroma, etc. The Old Tom seems to contain glycerine, as it coated the sides of the glass but didn't leave any legs. The aroma was pretty front and center alcohol with an undertone of juniper. As soon as we tasted it, it did have a perceptible sweetness and the juniper was a definite background note, almost an afterthought. My inital impression was more of a sweet vodka than an actual gin, with some definite burn and some rough edges. Next, it was time for a cocktail.

Since I'm only drinking for "medicinal" purposes right now, here is the Cold Medicine #8 Cocktail. If I remade it, I think Aviation would be a better match with its peppery undertones.

2 oz Old Tom Gin (Boords)
1 oz Aperol
1 oz Luxardo Abano Amaro

Build over a couple of ice cubes, stir to incorporate and enjoy.

Old Tom Gin and other finds

So I flew back in to a 34 degree night in Portland on Sunday, exhausted by my trip but with a bit of a spring in my step as I did find some interesting liquor to bring back with me. I managed to find and acquire 3 bottles of Boord's Old Tom Gin, the first time I've ever seen Old Tom in the States (although I do understand that they distill Old Tom in Jamaica, but only for local consumption). I've been a little under the weather, so I haven't cracked a bottle yet (and I promised 2 of the bottles to friends). I'll probably get into it tonight, if nothing else, just to compare it side by side with say, Aviation Gin and Tanqueray (two gins I know are residing in the old liquor cabinet). More to come on this subject soon.

I also picked up-

- Torani Amer
- Luxardo Amaro
- Amaro Cio Ciaro
- a Portugese anis, Pastis Escarchado which has crystallized sugar and anise in the bottle.
- Bluecoat Gin (a favorite thats unfortunately not available in OR)

Friday, December 7, 2007

Ginger Beer and the DellaPenna Cocktail

I've guarded my Ginger Beer recipe rather jealously, but today I thought I'd put it up for any and all to make. To my mind, its the best ginger beer out there, spicy, complex and with just the right amount of kick. Combined with some Gosling's Black Seal Rum and a little lime it makes a wonderful Dark and Stormy, one of my all time favorite cocktails. Here is the recipe-

1 Ginger root
1 Lemon, zest only
2 oz Cream of tartar
1 1/2 lb Sugar
1 gallon boiling water
1 packet bakers yeast

1) Grate the ginger root (I use a box grater) and then place in a large stockpot.
2)Add all ingredients except the yeast
3) Stir until sugar and cream of
tartar is dissolved and then allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
4)Add yeast which has been
dissolved in a little lukewarm water.
5) Cover tightly for at least 6 hours (I usually go overnight).
6) Filter (I use a chinois, but a coffee filter or cheesecloth would work too).
Bottle and cap tightly. Make sure to use screwcaps. Plugs will blow off. Place in dark, cool (basement?) place for one to two weeks. Chill fully before drinking.

Tonight, I'm flying down to Sacramento to spend one last visit with one of my dearest friends and a great bartender, Richard DellaPenna. Richard taught me a lot about the craft, and about life in general. If you get a chance, make yourself one of these and pay tribute to old friends. I'll never forget Richard, he is truly one of the finest people I've ever known. This one is in his honor;

The DellaPenna Cocktail
2 oz Pisco
1/4 oz fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz simple syrup
2 dashes orange bitters
3 oz Ginger Beer

Build over ice, mix to combine, and toast to a good friend, then savor.

I'm off for the weekend.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Happy Repeal Day!

Today is Repeal Day. My good friend and original Repeal Day organizer Jeff Morgenthaler has some pics up on his blog of his NYC Repeal Day activities ( Closer to home, my friends and brilliant mixologists Daniel and Ted at the TearDrop Lounge are doing some great Pre-Prohibition cocktails in honor of Repeal Day. Stop by around 5pm there and you might catch yours truly there.