Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sake brewer makes cellulosic ethanol

Its things like this and Ultra Man that make me love the Japanese.

Things I never get to do...

Include watching anything on YouTube. I have to finish gift bags tonight, make hazelnut orgeat and get my uniform ready, so I rarely get to sit and just stare at YouTube. If I do, I usually just watch old Twisted Sister or Quiet Riot videos, but the PR folks at 10 Cane sent me this, which looks amusing. 10 Cane appears to have quite a few things on YouTube, so who knows? Maybe I'll have to make a 10 Cane mojito and watch a few sometime soon. If I ever get any free time that is.

Old New Orleans visits 50 Plates and More

Tomorrow, I am lucky enough to be doing a special event for the Distillers Trail at 50 Plates, a lead up to the GADF. I can't believe our luck as Ben Gersh from Old New Orleans Rum is coming to hang out and talk about his products while JP and I get to pour some great drinks featuring their rum. I've got a batch of Hazelnut Orgeat that I'm bringing in to make a "Port Orleans", essentially a classic Mai Tai with an Oregon twist (one of the very few tiki drinks that I care for), a Bienville Tea, Old New Orleans rum, Grand Marnier and iced tea, and, of course, JP's Rum Julep plus a few other surprises. Its going to be a blast, and it runs from 5-8 tomorrow, so make sure you get down to 50 Plates in plenty of time.

Last night, I was up to an ungodly hour stuffing the swag bags for the competitors and judges for this weekend's cocktail competition. Honestly, it kind of sucked. Apparently, I'm much better at other things, as stuffing bags is clearly not my forte. The gift bags are cool this year, Imbibe Magazine, our co-presenter of the competition helped immensely in this task. I'd like to let the bags be a surprise, so I won't reveal the contents yet, but they are pretty cool this year.

I've also had the worst case of writers block in my life over the last 2 weeks. Anyone have any advice?

Other news-

- I rately get envious, but I just read Jeff Morgenthaler's post on Old Forester Repeal Bourbon today and I'm lusting after some Old Forester right now. Perhaps a trip to Eugene is in order soon. Damn I like bourbon.

-Shoshanna Cohen, former writer for Imbibe Magazine, avid sock lover and all around cool Portlander has a newish blog going. Its Head on over and check it out. You might learn a thing or two about drinks, or perhaps tube socks. I just added her to my reader.

- In the mail, samples of Veev acai liquor and Sagatiba Pura Cachaca. With my recent interest in all things cachaca, well, color me very interested, and I have yet to taste Veev acai, but I'm open to the experience.

- Sobieski vodka is amazing. Easily worth double the money. I have to get this stuff into the State of Oregon. Imagine something that I can afford to pour as my well giving my top shelf vodkas a run for their money and you've got Sobieski.

- On the shelves, 10 Cane Rum has a mojito kit on the shelves right now retailing for $35. I really like 10 Cane, but I haven't tried the Stirrings Mojito mix. Still, at the price, the mix is basically free.

- Tonight, I'm escorting Ms. Emma Davis of Martin Miller’s gin, one of the great gins of the world, to show her the level of expertise and sophistication in our great cocktail scene here. I figure TearDrop, 50 Plates, Ten01 and Clyde Common make a great start, any thoughts on other destinations? Victory?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

National Rum Day

Today is National Rum Day. The fine people at Mt. Gay sent me some of their great Barbados rums, and since Casa De Mayhew lacks A/C, I'm sitting here sipping on some Mt. Gay Eclipse Silver with some homemade key lime soda and well, even though its 95 outside (and probably close here on the couch), I'm in heaven. This heat has made any serious attempt at blogging impractical. I think I'll just sit and sip my cocktail until its time to head to work.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Exciting News for 50 Plates!

First off, in the run up to next weekends Great American Distillers Festival, I'm happy to announce that next Thursday, Ben from Old New Orleans Rum will be joining us at 50 Plates to talk about his fine products. I'm designing a custom cocktail menu for that evening showcasing Old New Orleans versatility and quality. I can't tell you how excited I am to be working with Old New Orleans, and having a chance to create some fun drinks with their product is going to be a blast. Plus, if you stop by and ask nicely, you might be able to taste our entrant in the GADF cocktail competition. I don't know if JP will be willing to share his drink, but I'm guessing if you ask nicely he'd make one up for you. Even better, JP and 50 Plates are actually paired up with Old New Orleans in the competition, so not only do we get to do a really fun and cool event with them beforehand, but we get to use their product during the competition. This is going to be a lot of fun.

Also, the cocktail competition is next weekend. I think there may be a slot or two left open still, first prize is $1000 and its going to be a great time. Plus, all entrants get invites to the afterparties which are limited to OBG members, judges, contestants and select media. Both afterparties are looking to be a blast , and its a great chance to mix and mingle with some of the top names in the industry during the event. I don't want to say too much about the afterparties, but I might mention that one of them might be at 50. Just so everyone knows.

Monday, August 11, 2008

MxMo- Local Flavor

Well, I've been in and out of Mixology Monday for a while now. I like that it encourages my creativity as a bartender, but, to be honest, I'm doing that 3 nights a week already. I think the #1 thing that I get out of MxMo is simply additional perspectives. Other times, I look at it and, well, I just can't get into it. I particularly liked Kevin at Save the Drinkers idea, local flavor. Why? Well, I do live in Portland Oregon. I've got more "local" choices than about the rest of the country combined when it comes to distilled spirits. This should be a cakewalk for someone with spirits like Aviation gin, Trillium absinthe, and Sub Rosa vodka in his backyard. And yet, to be honest, I'm no Jamie Boudreau (or even a Jeff Morgenthaler or Jimmy Patrick either). I don't hail from beautiful Montreal. Instead I'm from one of the ugliest towns on the west coast, little Turlock, California, where black jeans still pass for formal wear and home to exactly one teeny tiny bar in the entire village. Unless I was going to make a Jack Daniels and Coors Light cocktail, Turlock is out, so I'm running with my adopted hometown of Portland on this one.
I decided to use one of my favorite spirits distilled here in Portland, Clear Creek Distilleries' Pear brandy. I use this to mix all the time, usually with great results. Today, I decided that just one Oregon spirit just wasn't enough so I hit the liquor store at lunch and grabbed a bottle of Dolmen Worker Bee Honey Spirit, thinking that honeyed notes would play well with the pear brandy. By the time I actually had gotten home, I'd also decided to work some Sake One G Joy into the drink to round it out a bit and add a little more complexity. Choosing an acid was easy, lemon juice just lends itself nicely to all of these flavors. Once home from my soul crushing corporate job today, I got to mixing.

East of Beaverton Cocktail

2 oz Clear Creek Pear Brandy
1 oz Dolmen Worker Bee Honey Spirit
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz Sake One Joy G Sake

Chill, stir and serve up.

It was almost everything that I'd been hoping for. A taste of Oregon Summer in a glass. Two dashes of the Fee Brothers orange bitters and a splash of Clear Creek's Pear liqueur it it was perfection in a glass. I took my glass outside and enjoyed the warm summer evening, sipping my cocktail as I inspected my garden tonight. Perfection doesn't taste much better.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Thursday Update

Ughh, stuck at the day job this morning, really not wanting to be here. I really need to find a way to get out of corporate America. Tonight, its First Thursday, a big art event in the Pearl, so 50 Plates should be really busy tonight. I hope so, as we need a good rush to see how the cocktail list performs and how the bar operates under a good solid rush.

Some other updates for you;

I'm still working on a review of Leblon cachaca , but it probably won't happen until Sunday. I'm turning into a huge Leblon fan, last night I was tired, so I just made some Leblon and 7s which worked perfectly in the 95 degree heat with no a/c. Look also for some more traditional Brazilian cachaca drinks as I get time.

I'm also working on a review of Bacardi 8, yet another sipping rum that I'm really getting into. I'm starting to be convinced that the rum/cachaca category offers far more value for dollar spent than any other spirits category.

I've been debating doing a review of New Amsterdam gin, a new gin on the market from Gallo, but I don't think I have time. Its not a flavor profile that I particularly care for (its sweet, with a very pronounced orange flavor), but just because its not for me doesn't mean that it can't play an important role in the marketplace. This should be an easy gin for bartenders to convert their mandarin and soda drinkers over to. In other words, this might be the gateway gin I've been waiting for. I'll be keeping my eye on New Amsterdam to see how they do, I think there is a real opportunity for them to market this to young vodka drinkers.

I received a bottle of Sobieski vodka yesterday. You all probably know that I'm not a huge vodka fan, but say "Polish" and "rye" when we are talking vodka and you are likely to grab my attention. I've go the bottle stashed at my desk so that I can bring it in tonight so that I can play with it along with Suzanne Allard, a self described "vodka girl". The price point on this stuff is amazing, if its quality product we're going to need to get it into Oregon asap.

I'm also busy with finalizing things for the Oregon Bartenders Guild's upcoming cocktail competition as part of the Great American Distillers Festival. Its really going to be a great competition and there is still room available to compete. For more info, go to

Lastly, I've got a new drink to foist upon an unsuspecting public. Its really tasty and I've got to get it up soon. But I doubt that it will happen tonight.

Monday, August 4, 2008

50 Plates- First week reflections

Well, week one is in the books at 50 Plates. Our kitchen staff is already working like a veteran staff. Both Randall and Patrick, our chefs have everything dialed in and our dinner rushes are going smoothly. Tom and Andrew, our gm and agm are both hard working, dedicated and passionate people and its been nothing but a pleasure to work with them. Ginger, Joe, and Greg, our owners have been both incredibly generous and kind to everyone, while clearly delineating a vision of what they want to achieve with 50 Plates.

As for the bar, well, I don't think it could go better. I already have a rhythm with Suzanne Allard that usually takes years to develop, she is such a talented bartender that sometimes I'm in awe. JP and I have worked together before, and its great to be working with him again, and Jamie, our day bartender is showing real potential and I think that I'm really going to enjoy working with her.

Our cocktail list seems to be doing ok. Its not the easiest list to make and we made a lot of juleps this past weekend, which take time to craft properly. That said, we also have a Dark and Stormy with my ginger beer recipe and our .38 Special, which features mesquite smoked Jack Daniels and Mexican coke which are pretty quick to knock out. I'm not a huge Jack Daniels fan by itself, but it lends itself perfectly for smoking, which adds another flavor dimension and an interesting complexity when used in the cocktail. We are also doing a wonderful drink from the Slanted Door in SF, their Indian Summer, which is a perfect summer drink. Our North Beach Bramble, Bombay Sapphire, Aperol, Lemon juice and simple syrup, may be my current favorite on the menu. Its a gorgeous drink and the flavors combine perfectly to create something far more than the sum of its parts.

The focus of the bar is very bourbon centric, and I'm trying to carry through with the foods theme of American regional, I'm trying to carry mostly American products if I can. For instance, I'm carrying both Prichards Rums (wonderful rum made in Tennessee) as our high end rums in addition to Bacardi Select (well), Lemon Hart 151 (Spanish Coffees) and Gosling's Black Seal (Dark and Stormy's). We aren't going to be a huge rum bar, and we aren't going to do tiki drinks as they are usually too sweet or too sour to match well with food.

There have also been some very pleasant surprises. I'm carrying Leblon cachaca behind the bar (look for an upcoming review of Leblon and a return to my series on traditional Brazilian cachaca drinks soon), because its a great product and with the popularity of caipirinhas these days, it doesn't make sense to not have a top quality cachaca on the back bar. I received a very nice little care package from them along with a note wishing me success with 50 Plates. I have to say, I was really touched by the gesture.

Overall, I don't think we could have had a better opening week.

I'll leave you with the 50 Plates recipe for my current fave on the cocktail menu, the North Beach Bramble

1 oz Bombay Sapphire gin (no substitutions please, this cocktail was designed specifically for Bombay Sapphire)
1 oz Aperol
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz simple syrup

Build dry in a pint glass, add ice, stir vigorously for 60 seconds, strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bartender Porn

The sexiest ice cube you'll see today. I freakin' love having a Kold Draft, the cubes are incredible. One more reason I love working at 50 Plates. Now if I just had Kold Draft cubes at home I'd be in heaven.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Better safe than sorry

Cocktails are a rather frivolous business. No one lives or dies based on the way I make a sazerac. I'm not curing cancer behind the bar, and from current statistics, 1 in 3 Americans doesn't even drink so they could care less what I do.
There is a dark side to our business as well. Alcoholism, cirrhosis and other diseases can and do affect people in our business, so care needs to be taken around alcohol. I'm not a gloom and doomer, but I realize that not everyone can drink responsibly and that alcohol is a very powerful force in some peoples lives.
I like to drink. I really do. Sometimes, the thought of a good Manhattan is enough to get me through a tough work day. Most times, its just a cocktail or two, but sometimes I'll put a few back. I've been lucky enough to be blessed with good health, and for that I am extremely thankful. If ever something happened to threaten my health because of alcohol, well lets be honest here. I like living more than I like drinking.
Athletes regularly have career ending injuries. Bartenders should too. I would never wish ill health on anyone, not even those that I don't like. Health matters are something to be taken seriously, and if its a choice between my health and the bar, well, that should be a no brainer right?
I'm not going to tell people how to live their lives, but I do hope and pray that anyone who is experiencing health problems as a result of alcohol consumption quit. I know I would without a moments hesitation. My health is far more valuable than a couple of cocktails.
Here is wishing all of you good health and a great weekend!

Technical Difficulties

Beyond my control right now. Please have patience while I work to resolve these.

How to Smoke Liquor

Some of you know that I have been interested in smoking liquor for some time. Originally, I was cold smoking cachaca, with very good results, but too much evaporation occured for it to be economically feasible to do in a bar. Finally, my friend Bradley Dawson rigged this up, which is essentially a smoke injector. The copper colored tube basically acts as a pump (you fill it 1/2 way with water to keep a seal), and the metal portion has some slits Dremeled into the top to allow one to apply flame from a butane torch to wood chips contained within the base of the metal tube. Essentially, this works like a smoke injector, you put one of the tubes into a bottle filled to about .7 of full. Cap the bottle, shake vigorously and let settle overnight for maximum flavor. This is exactly how we make our .38 Special of smoked whiskey and coke at 50 Plates. I'm not one to keep techniques a secret, so I thought I'd share this one with the world. I think there are quite a few applications for smoked liquors available to add some depth and complexity to cocktails for professional bartenders. Hope this helps our community.