Saturday, November 28, 2009

Decisions, decisons... The future of My Life on the Rocks

Well, its finally happened. I'm now live at the contributing writer on whiskey for I've kind of put this blog on hold while I've waited for everything to move forward with About before I made any decisions as to what to do with this blog. As it is, I've decided to keep it up and running, although I'll probably migrate it off of blogspot in the next year or so. As it is, My Life on the Rocks will continue with press releases, spirit reviews, and cocktails with the exception of whiskies which I'll focus on exclusively at

So that means gin, tequila, rum, amari, liqueurs, cachaca, and even vodka will continue to be covered here, albeit probably not as often as I used to. I still play around with cocktails a bit, and those will make an occasional appearance here as well. I've really started to focus my interests though to spirits themselves, I still enjoy mixology but the story behind the spirits and the craft of making those spirits has a great appeal to me.

Thanks for all of the support. I'm taking a bit of a break from bartending to focus on the writing for a bit, but I'm sure I'll end up behind another bar sooner rather than later. I'm pretty excited about the opportunity and I want to make the most of it. Look for me there under cocktails and spirits.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Kahlua Coffee Cream

I recently received a bottle of Kahlua Coffee Cream from the liquor fairy (otherwise known as my UPS driver). While I'm a big fan of Kahlua, I can't say that I drink it very often. I like the occasional Hennessey Separator to relive my misspent youth (Hennessey cognac, Kahlua and half and half), but most often I tend to reach for whisky and I tend to drink my spirits neat these days. Anyway, I finally cracked open the Kahlua Coffee Cream last night hoping for something different to serve as a nightcap and perhaps assuage my sweet tooth. I was very pleasantly surprised, a few ounces of Kahlua Coffee Cream over ice was an exceptional way to end my day.

Kahlua Coffee Cream is a limited production product available through the holidays. Its definitely got a place on my sideboard for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year and I'm going to have to go check the liquor stores for another bottle or two before it sells out. If you see a bottle of Kahlua Coffee Cream while you are doing your holiday shopping, be sure to pick one up.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Don't Be Bitter

So Michael Dietsch over at A Dash of Bitters and Samantha Harrigan of Nova Marketing and the Cocktail Culture blog are running a contest for a very rare bottle of Beefeater 24 Bitters made by Stephan Berg of Bitter Truth bitters.

Now, the rules of this contest are pretty simple. I just have to blog about a time that I was bitter about a certain bloggers booze collection or a special bottle that he or she may have. I'm not one to generally get bitter about anything, but I did feel a slight tinge of jealousy recently when my good friend Jacob Grier came over with a bottle of masticha that had been gifted to him by a friend who'd just returned from a trip to the Greek Isles. Luckily enough for me, Jake was generous enough to share his small bottle of masticha with me. I got to taste a bit of it and its amazing stuff, it definitely has a lot of uses in cocktails. So I guess if I'm bitter about anything, I'm bitter that I don't have my own bottle of masticha laying around to futz around making cocktails with. On the upside, I'm the new whisk(e)y writer for, so I can't complain too much. I'll be going live in the middle of November so look for most of my new content there (and, occasionally).

One last thing. Samantha Harrigan is getting married. If, like me, you know and admire Samantha, will you join me in raising a glass of whatever might be handy (in my case its Macallan 18) and wishing her and her new husband a wonderful life together? Thats nothing to be anything but happy about. Best wishes to you and your new husband Samantha!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cool G'Vine Gin Competition

This week, EWG Spirits & Wine announces that G’Vine, Gin de France, is embarking on an
innovative worldwide search for the most exceptional Gin Bartender. A racy newcomer to the
growing Gin scene, G’Vine Gin debuted beginning of 2007 after a 3-year long elaboration process.
The brand quickly captivated the gin-loving mixology community and the media with a
revolutionary new portfolio of Gins created with a heady and complex grape-spirit base and infused
with the delicate green grape flower. After receiving rave reviews, accolades and awards, this
innovative gin brand is now searching for the most outstanding Gin Bartender. The winner will
garner worldwide recognition from the brand and its followers as the gin category’s leader in
mixology and bar-smarts.
In addition to being granted the first-ever title of “G’Vine Gin Connoisseur”, the winning bartender
will receive over-the-top prizes including a year‘s supply of G’Vine, 3000 USD and a luxury and
initiatory trip for two through Amsterdam, London and Paris to explore the past, present and future
of Gin. The competition’s twelve global finalists will be flown to Paris and Cognac for a week of
Connoisseur challenges, seminars and the opportunity to run their own bar at the G’Vine Spring
Ball. The twenty highest scoring competitors will be awarded with exclusive G’Vine taylor-made
tools such as ice moulds, shakers and aroma kits.
With rewards this sweet, the process to enter the competition is meticulously crafted so that only
the most passionate of gin connoisseurs can compete. Each entrant must first complete an online
examination process that includes five “interactive modules” which together make up an extensive
overview of the gin category.
Potential winners must study literature and complete exams on:
• The Complete History of Gin
• Gin Making
• G’Vine Education
• Tasting Gin & Cocktails
• Gin Marketing
The exams are supervised and graded by the world-renowned expert, Philip Duff. Duff is an award-
winning speaker, trainer, author and mixologist, and the owner of Liquid Solutions Bar & Beverage
Consulting and Door 74 in Amsterdam. The deadline to complete all exams is December 15th. In
addition to ace-ing the exams, contenders must also create an original G’Vine cocktail and include it
on their bar‘s cocktail list until January 31st, 2010.
“Unlike other cocktail competitions where the focus is only on the end-use cocktail created by the
bartender, the G’Vine Connoisseur Program is seeking a bartender with an unmatched knowledge,
and creativity – basically a bartender who is obsessed with Gin,” exclaims Audrey Fort, EWG’s
Marketing and Business Development Director. “These ‘Gin-tenders’ are a unique bunch, and
G’Vine is determined to unearth the best of breed and properly bestow him or her with top honors
and unprecedented awards.”

I don't blog much anymore

Although I do have a few new posts in the works. So why don't I maintain this a bit better? Well, I guess I can let the cat out of the bag. I'm to be the new whisk(e)y writer for, a position that is scheduled to go live next month. I've been working on content for that site and really trying to stay away from anything whisk(e)y related on this one. That said, my birthday is coming up next month, and if anyone is looking for a whiskey to get me; Diageo just released some "special releases" from their Classic Malts collection. I hope I get to taste these soon. The only other comment I'll offer is that I'm extremely disappointed that a number of these are not available in the United States. (sigh).

Here is the list-


Not available in the US.

58.8% ABV

Natural Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Speyside.

A classic European Oak profile and a wonderful digestif; big and sweet then mouth-drying. There is something deliciously festive about this whisky. It’s redolent of a log fire in the library, buttered crumpets and candles on the Christmas tree.

Appearance: Rich, deep mahogany with good beading.

Nose: Classic, muscular Benrinnes with an added and immensely seductive sweetness rippling through it. Crème brulée with a highly caramelised surface. Intense black fruits (prunes), Christmas cake and dates, laced with rich sherry. Behind, a beefy note with some allspice, like a touch of gravy left in the meat pan. Water (just a splash) initially brings the toffee apple sweetness even more into focus above such meatiness. As it becomes waxier, the fruity notes withdraw, yet some moist Christmas cake remains - much later, the meatiness reasserts itself. Superb balance and complexity.

Body: Heavy. Full. Immediate grip.

Palate: Big, powerful and immediately assertive. Sweet, then mouth-drying, yet not astringent because that concentrated sweetness remains. Waxy, viscous texture; slight traces of brimstone. Raisin and lots of date. Softens as it moves slowly across the tongue. Water lightens the grip and introduces a lightly smoked character. The voluptuous texture is countered by tannic dryness. Sweet to start and beefy, in all senses.

Finish: Exceptionally long, dry and warming, leaving a mellow, lingering aftertaste of treacle and sandalwood.


53.2% ABV

Natural Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Coastal Highlands.

Another fine Brora: deep, sweet and rich; yet with great delivery of smoke, as from camp fires in the late summer. Indisputably Brora, yet in an attractive, softer guise.

Appearance: Full gold. Good beading.

Nose: Big and resolutely oily. Evoking a surfer’s camp fire in the dunes – wet saltiness and dry, grassy wood-smoke. The herbal element here is soon joined by lychee, black pepper and meaty notes. Clean but rich, robust and deep as well. With water there’s a touch of American Oak butterscotch softness, which in true Brora fashion then gives way to waxier notes. Gentle and soft, yet with a brooding edge.

Body: Medium to heavy. Oily, smooth.

Palate: Tongue-coating and surprisingly citric. Firm oak. Shows its refined maturity in waves of flavour that surge across the tongue. It needs water, but just the merest drop, which allows the texture to show itself. Full fleshy fruits. Rich and smooth with hints of smoke.

Finish: Long, pleasingly nutty and smoky.


65.8% ABV

Natural Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Islay.

Vibrant, summery and a sure-fire summer hit. Reveals the basic structure of the malt, without the flavours being covered with smoke. Plenty of seaside character, interesting to compare both with the recent 8 year old unpeated bottlings and with the peated 12 year old.

Appearance: Pale gold. Little beading.

Nose: Great intensity and youthful brio. Very pure, clean and punchy, with plenty of alcohol. Green melon, grass clippings and as the alcohol lifts just a little, traces of fermenting pear juice. Over time there’s the sweetness of sherbet, lime and fresh mint, plus just the tiniest charred hint of smoke or toast in the background. Rather than bringing out an older Caol Ila’s “fire in the hospital” character, water transforms it into an artist’s studio: a fresh painted canvas set to dry, with beautiful vanilla notes. Summery sweetness too; sugary candy floss and soft fruits.

Body: Light to medium.

Palate: A grassy picnic by the sea. Vibrant, hot and clean with a spring-like abandon: all flowers, grass and green fruits (fresh apple). High acidity increases the mouth-watering impression and there are notes of lime and even petrol here too. Water makes it succulent; intense in character but also fresh and mouth-cleansing. Sweeter than expected, as some banana emerges. The balance is restored by good acidity and saltiness. There’s no smoke.

Finish: Warming and gentle with great length.


57.9% ABV

Natural Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Islay.

An elegant classic; massive smoke and purity of flavour supported by complex aromas and delicious sweetness. Less rich and plummy than the 16 year old, yet every bit as refined, with all the hallmarks and a fine, complex nose.

Appearance: Pale gold. Good beading.

Nose: Huge, fine and complex. Intense, abundant smoke surges out of the glass, yet it is fragrant smoke that doesn’t obliterate the softer mossy scents. After a while, carbolic soap, lightly smoked haddock and an intensely sweet and fruity tinned fruit salad. The onslaught continues with wasabi on fresh herring, or a fresh gale on the pier. Lightly sooty, developing smoked cream cheese. Water surprisingly softens the gale to a breeze, easing back on the medicine and allowing mineral and woody notes to emerge, with some bath salts.

Body: Light but hugely smoky.

Palate: Starts dry and vibrant, with masses of intense smoke. Again smoked cheese, softer now, under that fresh, young character. Sooty, yet so sweet! Uncompromising, yet ebullient and hugely fragrant. In time there’s a hint of violets, before pipe smoke appears. Water allows the sweet centre to show. The taste now is even more youthful - surprisingly sweet, with nice acidity, it leaps all over your tongue. All this softens with further sips and an elegant balance shows through. A classic!

Finish: Medium to long. Firm and dry, a final blast of smoke.


Not available in the US.

54.9% ABV

Natural Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Speyside.

Rounded, delicious and elegant - a fine aperitif malt, which strikes an appealing balance between silky, oily smoothness and flightier, more aromatic characteristics.

Appearance: Rich amber, polished bronze. Very slight beading.

Nose: Slow to rise. At first, a forest floor in autumn: damp air, earthy and wet. Above this, sweeter notes, soon developing into a compote of fresh autumn fruits; ripe berries, with some red apple. Later, very distant smoke and hints of antiseptic. Later still, a surprising and sparky orange zest. Overall, quite light and well structured. Water makes things softer and more elegant, bringing forth gentle orange fruit gums over hints of creamy caramel.

Body: Light, yet also lightly oily and tongue-coating.

Palate: Very hot, powerful and urgent at full strength. Immediate orange oil, then a developing complexity. Toasted cereal notes, tarte au chocolat scented with orange and a little ginger, the bite of a fruit compote. At once light and drying, yet deliciously oily with a particularly well-balanced acidity. Very late and subtle cocoa with hints of cigar box cedar. Water cools things down; it’s all lighter, cooling and minty now, with some boiled fruit sweets.

Finish: Long and persistent. Although hot and drying, remains smooth, silky, warming and delicate, with a sweetly fragrant rosewater aftertaste.


Not available in the US.

57.5% ABV

Natural Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Speyside.

The clean freshness makes this an unusual aperitif malt. Relatively straightforward, this is an interesting example of a make from a closed distillery that is rarely seen, especially at this age.

Appearance: Pale Gold. Light beading.

Nose: Green, olive-oily then immediately fruity (oranges, white peaches), but soon develops a milk chocolate note. As it begins to open, there’s a fleeting, mineral aroma, which adds a racy air, before it settles down as orange cream filling in milk chocolate or perhaps angelica cake decoration. Water improves things significantly, raising the mineral note again – grassy, and fresh cut grass at that - then introduces a fruity note, suggesting pineapple or green apple.

Body: Light to medium.

Palate: Appetising. There’s plenty of crisp, clean grassiness on show here. Sweet, but also slightly sharp (crisp green apples, surprising in such a long-matured malt). Again water helps, making it all clean, fresh and acidic, with a surprising trace of salt. At its heart, the mineral taste dominates. Very slightly oily.

Finish: Short to medium, then warming.


57.7% ABV

Natural Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Islay.

As good a Port Ellen as you may ever taste. All of Port Ellen’s single-minded character, with added texture, depth and verve.

Appearance: Full, burnished gold. Good beading for its age.

Nose: One of the best Port Ellen noses recorded. Little nose prickle yet still lively. Complex, rich and rounded, with soft pear fruit and a trace of tar, as in a driftwood bonfire. Sandy but also slightly sweet, with malty traces. Behind this, fresh shellfish: scallop and oyster with a touch of lemon. The fruity notes fade to samphire and smouldering, oiled wood. Water has a calming effect, raising a classic extra virgin olive oil note, while adding fresh maritime notes and a herbal hint (sage, perhaps). Further dilution reigns in the smoke and some boiled sweet notes emerge.

Body: Firm and dry.

Palate: More classic. Surprisingly sweet at first, with massive smokiness. Austere and flinty with a very light grip. Salty. The smoke dominates but the character remains pure and focused, offering everything you’d expect from a Port Ellen. A good drop of water softens things at last, producing a lovely texture and great viscosity. As the sweetness fades, the delivery of flavours shifts to the centre of the palate, with more of a light saltiness.

Finish: Very long and warming, with lingering peat smoke.


54.8% ABV

Natural Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Skye.

Talisker, trebled. Enigmatic and charming, yet still vigorous. An interesting combination of three of the four primary tastes - balanced sweetness and acidity, with salty depth.

Appearance: Pale amber. Good beading. Attractive viscosity.

Nose: Mellow, with little prickle. Juicy and sweet, with a trace of smoke and pencil boxes behind. Soon opens out to heathery, earthy peat. After that, fruit: fresh-baked apple cake, banana, quince. Finally, salt: seaweed and ocean. Ever-changing, becoming more delicate in time. Water raises orange peel and brings in more maritime notes to balance the sweet fruitiness – warm sand, dry seaweed.

Body: Medium. Silky smooth.

Palate: Fine Talisker character; not as powerfully peppery as younger expressions, drinking well at natural strength. Sweet, with some salt. Coats the lips, never mind the tongue. Begins with soft, sweet apple sponge in custard, then a drier, crisper character emerges on the middle of the tongue. Builds in power (and heat) as the inevitable pepperiness comes forward. Yet the sweetness also continues, returning to its unctuous beginnings. Adding water smoothes the texture and merges the flavours. Again it starts sweetly, with a balancing acidity overall and plenty of salt.

Finish: Medium to long. Lulls you into a sense of security, then pounces. Warming, with both pepper and, unexpectedly, peppermint.


Not available in the US.

53.1% ABV

Natural Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Skye.

A mild-mannered, more mature Talisker, still with plenty of personality and unmistakable character. Can Talisker be subtle? This one is. It’s an elegant, scented malt that is simple in structure, with all its basic elements easily accessible.

Appearance: Gold, with little beading.

Nose: The softly muted character of age. Mild and unusually fruity (citrus), fading quickly into lush seaweed with charred sticks - as with a spent fire, in which the charcoal and peat embers barely glow. It soon becomes soft and very slightly waxy or creamy, like fudge. Just a drop of water freshens things, bringing up drying wooden fish boxes and a return of the tangy fruit (tart plums). Then it all drifts away into charred old wood.

Body: Medium.

Palate: Drinks well at full strength and has a pleasant, teeth-coating texture. The smoke is immediate and dry with creamy oak. Almond milk and light, sweet stone fruits emerge, joined by a trace of salt, as with peat moss in the rain or seaweed. Adding a little water brings up a pleasant, smooth texture. It’s now quite sweet to start but less so overall, with some salt and a trace of cloves.

Finish: Long and gently warming, with salty seaweed in the lingering maritime aftertaste and just a white pepper tingle on the tongue in place of that chilli pepper ‘catch’.

Monday, September 28, 2009

New Domaine De Canton Cocktail Competion Open!

Enter an original recipe onto our bartender section of by September 30th.

Picks for mixologists will be decided in October.

8 mixologists will be picked to advance to Round 2. Round 2 will be held in 8 cities at venues and dates TBA.

-Washington D.C.
-New York City
-Las Vegas
-San Francisco

For Round 3, two mixologists will advance to final round in St. Martin for a chance at $10,000 grand prize

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Back home and beginning to recover

Wow, what a whirlwind week! First to Kentucky with the great people at Makers Mark and Jim Beam to see how their products are made and to spend a bit of time at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival.

I'll get more posts up about this later, but two highlights for me were tasting the new 130.1 proof Booker's Bourbon from Jim Beam. At 5 proof higher than the previous Booker's offering, this barrel strength bourbon would seem to be unbearably hot and yet I found the 130 proof offering smoother and sweeter than the 125 proof version. Of course, let me recommend a bit of water or ice for either offering, I think it opens high proof whiskies up a bit more and releases some of the underlying flavors.

The other highlight that I experienced was a tasting with Kevin Smith, Master Distiller for Maker's Mark in one of their rickhouses. Kevin explained that Maker's rotates each barrel two times in an effort to ensure consistently smooth whisky. Makers usually bottles whisky at around 6 years old, and Kevin offered up a sample of 12 year old Makers as a comparison. Unlike many other older whiskies that I'd tasted, the 12 year old Makers was tannic, dry and almost dusty in flavor, practically undrinkable. That isn't a criticism of Makers at all, their goal is to produce one, consistent whisky and they do that very well.

Next, Jacob Grier and I were presenters at the Oregon Restaurant Association's annual conference at the SunRiver Resort. I hate to brag, but I think Jake and I knocked this one out of the park. The presentation was very well received and I had a great time while I was down there. It was my first time presenting at a restaurant conference and I'm very happy with how it all went. Now we're applying for the Washington Restaurant Association's 2010 conference.

Lastly, I'm excited to announce that next month I'm going to be competing in the cocktail competition at Crave AZ, one of the preeminent food events in the Southwest. Its been a long time since I was last in Scottsdale and I'm looking forward to this event.

More later when I dig out of email jail and rest up.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My KY Bourbon Festival Schedule

In case anyone was wondering where I'll be or what I'm doing.

9/16 Wednesday-
Fly into Louisville. Arrive in at the Hampton Inn Bardstown around 5:30. I'll probably just find dinner and acquaint myself with Bardstown that evening. I could use a good restaurant recommendation.

9/17 Thursday-

1pm- Lunch at the Burk's House on the Hill at Maker's Mark
2pm- Maker's Mark distillery tour
4pm- Maker's Mark Tasting and Bottle Dipping
7pm- Cocktails and Dinner at Bill and Nancy Samuels house

9/18 Friday-

10am- Jim Beam Distillery Tour
12pm- Lunch at the Knob Creek House with Fred Noe
3pm- KY Bourbon Festival Hall of Fame Ceremony
6:30pm- Bourbon-que and Tasting at the Jim Beam Family Home

9/19 Saturday-
9:20am- Bourbon Pancake Breakfast (Bourbon and Pancakes? Am I in heaven?)
10:30am- Tour Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History
12:15pm- Hang out in downtown Louisville until 3pm. My goal is a Seelbach cocktail at the Seelbach Hotel, a hot brown at the Brown Hotel and to find the best Julep in Louisville
6:30- Tasting and Black Tie Gala at the KY Bourbon Festival (I'll be the guy in the Blackwatch plaid dinner jacket). Event ends at 1am.

9/20 Sunday- Fly back to Portland at some ungodly hour to get to SunRiver so that Jacob Grier and I can present the mixology session at the Oregon Restaurant Association's conference. If you happen to see some half awake guy in a rumpled tux on Sunday at PDX, you'll know the bourbon won.

If you are going to be at the Bourbon Festival and would like to get together, let me know. I am on a press trip, so my schedule is pretty tight and no, I can't get you into any of these events unless its open to the public. That said, this is my first trip to the bourbon festival and I'm pretty excited and want to soak up as much as I can. Hopefully, I'll see some old friends and make some new ones while I'm out there as well.

Follow me on twitter for KY Bourbon Festival updates

Tomorrow I leave for Kentucky to attend the 18th Annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival as a guest of Jim Beam and Makers Mark. While I'm going to be saving most of the things I learn for upcoming articles for my new position as a whiskey writer (I'm trying not to say publicly for who yet, ask me in private though and I'm happy to tell you), I'll be tweeting all the action live here.

One more thing. Here is my must eat/drink list while I'm in Kentucky. Am I missing anything?

Hot Brown
Fried Chicken
Mint Julep
Seelbach Cocktail

Monday, September 7, 2009


Ooh, a new offering from Bowmore! I hope that this gets released in the US. The "Tempest" sounds absolutely delicious. I can't wait to try it.

Bowmore Single Malt whisky from the beautiful Scottish island of Islay will be revealing a new limited edition expression – unlike any other Bowmore Single Malt – Bowmore Tempest on the 14th September.

The long anticipated Bowmore Tempest is a small batch release of only 2,000 cases from Islay’s oldest distillery (established in 1779). As the name suggests, the taste of Bowmore Tempest really captures the rugged and stormy sea qualities that have been associated with its weather beaten Bowmore distillery.

For ten years these first fill Bourbon casks have lain in vaults just inches from the battering waves of Loch Indaal – the result is a whisky bright summer gold in colour. The nose is engulfed by earthy smoke and a sea salt brine. A little water brings out notes of crème brulée with orange blossom and butter cream.

At first on the palate there is a surprising little burst of citrus, some lemons and orange, then comes the distinct peaty character of Islay, with a taste of the neighbouring sea. The citrus returns at the end adding balance and complexity to the mouthfeel and the finish is long, lingering yet clean.

Just as Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort developed his original Beaufort scale to describe wind effects on sailing vessels, the Bowmore Beaufort scale graph plots the complexity of Bowmore Tempest, which has been balanced by nature.

Kirsteen Beeston, Bowmore Marketing Manager said: “We are so proud to reveal Bowmore Tempest. It’s a balanced yet complex dram that really captures the spirit of the distillery on Islay and the craftsmanship that has been applied to make this beautiful tasting single malt.”

Bottles of this special single malt will be priced at £39.99* from all leading whisky specialists and selected retailers.

For further information on Bowmore Single Malt Whisky please visit

Barenjager in the rain

I don't like particularly sweet liqueurs, to be honest, I prefer things that are dry dry dry. Barenjager though is just so incredibly well made with a pronounced honey-sweetness without being cloying, that I have to say that I'm really becoming a big fan. With this cold, gray, rainy Portland weather we've been experiencing this weekend, I've been nursing my cold with a nice tot of Barenjager mixed with some hot Earl Gray tea. Its perfect for the current weather and a spot on remedy for the end of a bad cold.

I'm thinking that Barenjager might just make a nice glaze in the kitchen too. I'll experiment and report back.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Benedictine Cocktail Competition!

In commemoration of the 500th anniversary of its creation, BÉNÉDICTINE and Esquire are searching for the Alchemists of Our Age, mixologists who embody the spirit and innovation behind the creation of BÉNÉDICTINE.

Beginning in August 2009, bartenders are invited to stake their claim in history and lead the journey into the liqueur’s first millennium.

Renowned author and master mixologist, David Wondrich, will select the finalists and winner. Both will earn recognition in Esquire Magazine.

Recipes should be submitted to by September 8, 2009.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Some new contests and other news

So I'm sitting here on a beautiful day, sipping a fantastic Rhum Clement Ti Punch in my hammock and enjoying a rather lazy day. I'm not sure that there is a rum drink more suited to a lazy day than the Ti Punch. Simple, easy and elegant and Rhum Clement is the perfect rhum agricole for this drink. Try one at home soon, you'll be quite happy that you did.

In other news, its come to my attention that Tabasco is now marketing a tequila. I know almost nothing about Tabasco tequila, but I have to admit, I'm slightly intrigued and perhaps a bit worried about how this might taste. I'll let you know if I ever get the opportunity to taste it.

Next up, I received some Black Box wine recently. I have to admit I was pretty skeptical about drinking New Zealand sauvignon blanc from a box and was actually planning on using it for cooking, but I poured myself a glass and I'm glad I did. I'm not going to tell you that this is world class wine. Its not. But its good table wine and perfectly acceptable for a weeknight dinner. I still prefer my wine in bottles, and I don't see it being a prejudice that I overcome soon, so I probably won't be buying this wine the next time I'm at the grocery store but I'm glad to have tried it.

The first contest up is a pretty easy one open to everybody. Martini & Rossi is celebrating the launch of their new Martini & Rossi Rose (I can't tell you how it is, I haven't had the chance to taste it). Long story short, you fill out a simple online form for the chance to win a NYC Spa vacation for you and 3 of your friends. The estimated retail value is over 8k and there are lots of 2nd and 3rd prize options as well. Hurry up though as the deadline for entry is the 31st of August. Enter at

Next up, one of my favorite liqueurs, Benedictine is celebrating its 500th anniversary. To celebrate, they David Wondrich choosing some new Benedictine creations for inclusion in stand alone cocktail guide and the grand prize is a personal stand alone profile in the March issue of Esquire magazine. I don't have a deadline on this one, but I always recommend hurrying up on these things. Your original Benedictine creations can be sent to Based on the info that I do have, this one looks to be industry only.

Finally, the Ultimate Cocktail for a Cure contest (open to both amateurs and pros) ends on the 31st. Make sure to get your submissions in and support this great cause.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Please excuse the link problems in the MixMo post

I've double and triple checked and the links are correct. It appears to be a Blogger issue. I'll remove this post once I know that the links are working properly again.


Monday, August 10, 2009

MxMo XLI: Vodka is Your Friend — The Kingyo No Funi Cocktail

Well, another MixMo is upon us and lets be honest, I’ve taken a lot of months off since I last participated. Why? I can blame some of it on getting ready to join the magic at Beaker & Flask, but that will only get me so far. To be honest, I’ve just had a pretty busy life recently. I’m back though, and, surprisingly, I’m participating in a MixMo focused on vodka. As our host Amelia, over at Felicia’s Speakeasy points out;

The theme of August 10th’s Mixology Monday is “Vodka is Your Friend.” The recent high profile bashings of vodka interspersed with a few weak “yeah, buts…” left me wondering, is vodka the axis of evil, our most dangerous enemy? While it may not be the life of the party, experts agree: Vodka’s obituary does not have to be written just yet....
Vodka also offers a Zen-like simplicity. Because it is relatively flavorless, using vodka as a base of a cocktail means you get to start with a blank chalkboard. Beginner’s mind. What flavor would you like to be today?

I don’t hate vodka. I really don’t. Vodka has a very long and respectable history. There are some great artisan vodkas on the market, Martin Ryan, Apia, and the cool milk and maple sugar vodkas from Vermont Spirits are all very unique and interesting spirits. Unfortunately, they tend to be the exception rather than the rule. My issue is probably more one of fatigue than it is of anything else. Vodka drinkers by and large are a pretty boring lot. I either get the businessman who wants a bone dry vodka martini shaken with blue cheese stuffed olives extra cold but with no ice chips floating in it (A- that’s not a martini buddy, that’s merely a double vodka up B- I don’t put dairy products in my martinis and you shouldn’t either and C- Shaken? Really?) or the guest who really wants to know if I take a lot of pride in my Cosmos and when I tell her that I take pride in all of the cocktails that I make, keeps turning the conversation back to Cosmos and wanting to know if it’s the best drink I make. For the record, I make a great Cosmo. Its kind of hard not to if you’ve made over 10,000 in your bartending career and even bothered to taste one or two, but its hardly a challenge and doesn’t spur the excitement that say, a sazerac order does from me. In fact, when I get bored, I’ll oftentimes ask people if they’d like to try a new juniper flavored vodka that’s just outstanding. I’ve got some great cocktails that they’ll love if they are up for it. I live for converting vodka drinkers to gin.

As for my personal tastes, I rarely if ever consume vodka. I keep the Holy Trinity of Ketel One, Grey Goose and Belvedere on hand for guests as I’ve found that as long as you have those three, your vodka drinkers will be happy. I drink about everything else, but vodka tends to collect dust around the house. That’s what makes this MixMo so interesting for me. Here is a product that I rarely ever use, and I wanted to look at vodka in a different way. Lets move on to the cocktail and I’ll expostulate on the ingredient list more afterward.

The Kingyo No Funi Cocktail

1 oz cocoa infused Ketel One vodka (more on this later)
½ oz Good Health Brand orange drinking vinegar
¼ oz Veev acai spirit
¼ oz Rum Jumbie
3 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
2 dashes Regan’s orange bitters
2 dashes Scrappy’s chocolate bitters
2 dashes Night Train bitters (more on this later too)

Build dry in a mixing glass, add ice, shake vigorously and strained into a stemmed cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

How to make cocoa infused Ketel One vodka

I’d love to take credit for this idea but I saw an article in the Sunday NY Times a few weeks back about a bartender in NYC who makes a cocoa infused tequila. What is nice about cocoa infusions are that they come out exceptionally dry which is nice as a base for cocktails. Try this recipe with bourbon too. To make cocoa infused vodka, simply take 1 cup of unsweetened cocoa (I think I used Scharffenberger) and add two 750 ml bottles of Ketel One vodka. Let steep for 72 hours, then filter through a double layer of coffee filters. This takes forever to filter through but I think you’ll like the results.

How to make Night Train bitters

1 bottle Night Train fortified wine (made by the fine people at E&J Gallo. You may have to hit skid row to find this stuff)
1 stick cinnamon
½ tsp wormwood
½ tsp orris root
½ tsp calamus root
½ tsp cassia bark
1 pinch of bayberries, crushed
1 star anise pod, crushed
1 pinch quassia

Add all ingredients to a jar, cover and keep in a cool dry place for at least 1 week. Strain out solids and bottle. Look for my Thunderbird bitters to come soon.

This cocktail actually came out very well. The fruitiness of the Rum Jumbie and the Veev are a nice counterpoint to the dry cocoa vodka. The addition of the three bitters each adds an important element, but I have to say, it’s the Night Train bitters that bring this whole thing together and provide balance and depth. While I probably won’t jump at the chance to make more vodka cocktails, I’m pretty happy with this month’s submission to MixMo and its good to be back.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Restraining orders and modified Palomas and other notes

So I've been amiss in writing recently. Its more because of some weird personal things that have been going on than anything else. For the first time in my life, I appeared in court to ask a judge for a restraining order. In fact, its not even a regular restraining order but instead a Stalking Protective Order that I received against a perfect stranger. I don't want to go into much detail, this individual has already pushed himself into too much of my life as it is, but let me say that things were pretty scary for a while there. Anyway, things are finally starting to get back to normal after the last few weeks, so I'll be writing a lot more.

As for this heat, its been pretty brutal in Portland recently. I've taken to drinking a modified Paloma with Seco Herrerano instead of tequila as the base liquor. If you aren't familiar with Seco Herrerano, its the national drink of Panama, essentially a neutral cane spirit. It tastes almost exactly like vodka but with a bit of a distinctive cane sugar blast right at the end. Anyway, it works really well in a modified Paloma in this heat. Unless you live in New York or Miami, you probably won't find Seco Herrerano in your local liquor store which is really too bad. There is definitely a market for this product here in the US.

The Modified Paloma
2 oz Seco Herrerano
1 1/2 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
1 1/2 oz club soda
lime wedge garnish

In a salt rimmed double rocks glass, add all ingredients. Add ice. Stir to mix, garnish with lime wedge.

I'm also thinking about gin a lot these days. I just found out yesterday that I have a recipe featured in Gary Regan's newest book, "The Bartenders Gin Compendium". I have to say, I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy.

In other gin news, my old friend Jason Neu from Milwaukee is now consulting for Great Lakes Distillery. Their Rehorst gin sounds very interesting, what with sweet basil and Wisconsin ginseng in the botanical mix. They also have some interesting brandies and even a Pumpkin bierschnapps. An absinthe is in the works too. Perhaps I'm overdue for a trip out to the Midwest for some spirits tasting.

I've also just received some Port of Barcelona gin from the same people who make Obsello absinthe. It may take me a little while to open it though, I'm waiting for this heat to break before I do too much serious tasting and evaluating.

Finally, two other cool things are going on in my life. Next month, I'm headed to Kentucky for the Kentucky Bourbon Festiva. I cannot tell you how excited I am by the opportunity to go to Kentucky and tour some of the great distilleries there. Also, while I probably shouldn't say whom I'll be working for, I think its safe to say that I'm going to be the resident whiskey writer for a pretty major website. Once that really starts to roll, I'm going to have to drop whiskey related posts off of this site and focus on everything else instead. Lastly, I also just picked up about 10 American whiskies that were released right after the repeal of Prohibition. Once I get everything set up and going on the new website, look for my upcoming reviews of these whiskies. I've got a lot of long lost brands and some American classics, including some George Dickel from 1937. It should be pretty interesting.


Monday, July 13, 2009


Looking back, last week was a pretty interesting week. My time at Beaker and Flask seemed to just rush by, and the more time that I spend there the more I realize just how lucky I am to be working with such great people. If you haven't stopped in yet, I'm there Mondays and Tuesdays at 727 SE Washington (the corner of 7th and Sandy).

In other news, I'm no longer with 50 Plates. I truly enjoyed my time there and I'm really going to miss that barstaff, but when Andrew Finkelman moved on, I think it signaled a different direction in the bar program. It was actually rather nice to have a rare weekend off to myself, and now I'm well rested and ready for a busy night at Beaker. I wish the whole team at 50 Plates continued success and I'll probably still be in that bar quite a bit, but as a patron rather than a bartender.

Finally, I'm rather excited to announce that I'm actually going to have the opportunity to work with my good friend Andrew Finkelman again, at his new venture, Branch. Branch is going in where the Alberta Street Oyster Bar used to be and is going to be a "whiskey tavern" for lack of a better description. Given Andrew's knowledge and love for whiskey, this is going to be a fun adventure for me and I'm really looking forward to being an all-East side bartender. I'm not sure about what nights I'll be there, and to be honest, I'm only going to be playing a minor supporting role to Andrew behind the bar, but its an exciting opportunity nonetheless. Look for it to open in the very near future.

Today, I was walking my dog Huck, and I wandered past the old Bodega space at 1325 NE Fremont. There is an OLCC posting in the window for "Free House Bar Llc". My curiosity is piqued, and I could really use a decent bar within walking distance of my house. As it is, all of my current options are either sans hard liquor (County Cork) or really bad. I always liked the Bodega space and hope that this new place does well.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Quick Update

Sorry for the delay in posting. Beaker and Flask is now up and running, and thats definitely impacted my writing schedule somewhat. I do have to say that I am incredibly lucky to be working with Kevin Ludwig, Tim Davey, Elizabeth Markham and Doug Paquin behind the bar and Ben Bettinger in the kitchen. Its humbling to work with so much talent, and not only are they all great restaurant people, they are great people as well. If you haven't been in yet stop in soon and say hi.

In other news;

I'm working on some beer based cocktails for Beaker. One thought is to cocktailize (is that a word?) one of my favorite drinks in Mexico, the Michelada. Right now, I'm infusing some chipotle peppers into 1800 Silver Select Tequila to use as a base. It should be ready in a day or two.

I'm falling madly in love with Laphroaig. Now that I've tasted my way through the 10 year, 15 year, Quarter Cask and 25 year offerings, I think top to bottom that this might be the strongest offering of single malts by any one distillery. All are delicious, but what is really interesting to me is that each offering is definitely Laphroaig but has a unique character all its own. I hate to pick my favorite, but the Quarter Cask is the one I'm really into for the moment. I'll be putting up the results of the side by side tasting that my research assistant (and favorite father in law) Wayne and I did soon. Oh, and the 25 year Laphroaig is simply amazing. If you get a chance to taste the 25, don't pass it up.

In the past, if you'd asked me my favorite Highland malt, I might have told you Highland Park. Its always a tough decision, and there are so many great Highland malts that choosing one might be a bit ridiculous anyway, but now I've sampled Ardmore and its a big, smoky, well balanced single malt that will always have a spot in my liquor cabinet. Speaking of my liquor cabinet, things are running almost exclusively to brown liquors these days. I still have a bit of gin, but I'm acquiring bourbons, scotch, rye, rums and tequilas at a much faster pace.

I also have recently acquired some Balblair. I'm quite excited about trying this single malt, but probably won't get the opportunity until Sunday. As it is, I'm a big fan of everything that I've had from Gordon and Macphail so I'm looking forward to this offering.

I've got quite a bit on rum coming soon too. I recently tasted the Tommy Bahama lineup. I liked the White Sun as a mixed drink (I was fond of it and ginger ale) and the Golden Sun is also on the market.

I recently received two minis of Mt. Gay Extra Old rum. To be honest, when I review a product, I find it a bit hard to review a small sample as I like to drink a product neat, on the rocks, mix it in cocktails, etc. That said, I really got into the Mt. Gay Extra Old rum, to the point where I went out and purchased a full bottle the same day. I really enjoy it neat, but it mixes well and its a great value for the quality of the rum you get. This is clearly one of the best rums on the market and the entire Mount Gay lineup is an excellent choice for your summertime rum drinks.

Also quite enjoyable is Cruzan Rum. From St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Cruzan range offers up everything from an aged white rum to single barrel offerings to their unique Blackstrap rum which we feature in one of Beaker's current cocktails, the Boston Massacre. I think its the 5 column distillation that makes these rums so unique and flavorful. The Cruzan range of rums may be the best value on the market for in terms of cost to quality and the entire range of Cruzan rums are excellent.

Most recently, I've discovered Ron Abuelo Anejo rum. While Mount Gay is a Barbados rum, Ron Abuelo is made in Panama and its a mellow, smooth rum that both mixes well and works quite well sipped on its own. I'm quite eager to try some of the other offerings from Ron Abuelo including their 7 Anos, Seco Herranao and Rum Jumbie.

Lastly, Tim Davey at Beaker has turned me on to Flor De Cana's 4 year Extra Dry rum, an amazing Nicaraguan product that has a very pronounced vanilla and caramel profile. We feature it in some of our signature rum drinks at Beaker and I'm consistently amazed at how well it mixes.

Well, I've written a bit more than I intended but I guess that's better than nothing. Hang in there with me because I have a lot coming over the next few weeks.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Crispin Cider Cocktail Contest

This one ends at midnight on Fathers Day so be quick about it!

The Crispin Cider Company of Minneapolis is inviting aspirant and expert mixologists and hard cider fans to create the next great Crispin cocktail. The clean-finishing, natural apple flavor of Crispin plays well with almost anything — the possibilities are both numerous and refreshingly delicious.

Summer’s around the corner, so we’re particularly looking for refreshing cocktails that complement either a backyard BBQ or a sophisticated restaurant meal.
Enter in one or both of the following categories:
Lazy Bartender — The most creative two-pour cocktail. That means Crispin + one other beverage + serving suggestion + an optional garnish.
Creative Mixology — Anything goes.
The winner of each category receives a $75 gift certificate to MGM Liquor stores. Two runners up will receive Crispin Gift Bags.
Submit up to two recipes for the next great Crispin cocktail by midnight Sunday, June 21 to:
Rules And Other Details:
Heavy Table will publish the two winning entries and the two runners-up.
Cocktails should have a name, a list of ingredients and garnishes, instructions for how to prepare the drink, and clearly defined measurements — either a ratio, or shots / teaspoons / tablespoons / jiggers / etc.
Attach a photo of your cocktail if you wish; it’s not a requirement. Photos may be published if the submitted cocktail wins a prize.
Specify whether you’re using Crispin Original, Brut, Light, or some kind of mixture.
The contest runs from today (May 26) until midnight Sunday, June 21.
A winner will be announced in early July.
Crispin Cider Company & Heavy Table staffers are not eligible

Naked Grouse Blended Scotch Debuts

In Minneapolis of all places. Has anyone tasted Naked Grouse? I'm dying to, as I like the Famous Grouse quite a bit. And to be honest, with a name like Naked Grouse, I think you are in the same territory as Sheep Dip, Pig's Nose and Monkey Shoulder (another one I'd love to try someday) with a distinctive name thats rather unusual. I understand that Naked Grouse is aimed at the Johnnie Walker Black segment of the market, the upscale blended scotch drinkers. I'm intrigued if nothing else... Best of luck to them.

Win the Ultimate ManCave with 1800 Tequila

Ok, I don't usually shill for contests, but two have come to my attention that are pretty cool. First off, 1800 Silver Select Tequila has a very easy and cool contest to win $10,000 to outfit your ultimate ManCave. Imagine, 10k to buy a great stereo system, big screen tv, game system, big couches and a nice supply of 1800 Tequila. I already entered, it just takes a minute and you can find the entry screen here.

Dear Dalmore

To my friends at the Dalmore,

Please forgive me for listing the price of the Dalmore 1263 King Alexander III (not the easiest name btw) as $250 rather than the correct price of $200. The fact that I did this twice leads me to believe that perhaps the fault is not my own and in fact that you are selling a great whisky too cheaply. Perhaps I am wrong. Feel free to send some more and I will very happily go about retasting this beautiful dram in an attempt to make a final determination as to what I think the proper price point should be. As it is, I will be tearing the house apart, rooting for spare change in between the seats of the couch, raiding my rainy day fund, and offering to mow the neighbors yards in an attempt to acquire enough funds to buy as much of this fine spirit as I can before you come to your senses and raise the price point of your whisky.

Your friend,


Monday, June 15, 2009

Fathers Day Gift Guide- Luxury Spirits

Its been a tough year for most people. Your fathers 401k probably tanked like everyone elses, but he has less time to make it up before retirement. Or maybe he is upside down in his mortgage because of the mess that it. Whatever it is, there are times in life when a truly great spirit or wine will let him know just how much you care about him. After all, he probably coached your little league team, taught you how to drive a car and might have just put you through college as well. Isn't he worth it? With this Fathers Day approaching quickly, here are my favorite luxury spirits and wines. I've personally tasted each of these, and any of these would make a wonderful gift. As I'm focusing on luxury spirits and wines right now, I'm only looking at products that have a retail cost of $100 or more. I'll be covering more affordable options later this week.

Cognac & Cognac Based Spirits

Hennessy Richard Hennessy (approximately $2000) is perhaps the finest cognac made. A blend of over 100 eaux de vie, Richard Hennessy shows the complexity, rancio and staggeringly long finish to be expected from a cognac of this provenance. Can't afford $2000 for Dad? Try the Hennessy Paradis (around $500) or XO (around $125) for excellent luxury cognacs at a more affordable price point. Both are excellent cognacs, the Paradis in particular is one of my favorites.

Remy Martin Louis XIII (about $1700) is another top tier cognac. I get a lot of leather and tobacco notes with this spirit, and, perhaps a shade more spice than the offerings from Hennessy. Remy XO also offers bang for the buck with a $150 price tag for one of the finest XO cognacs in existence.

Martell L'Or (approximately $1200) may be the best value among top tier cognacs, offering a wonderfully intense and long finishing spirit for the price. Martell XO (approx $140) also makes a wonderful gift for the Father who enjoys good cognac.

Grand Marnier Cuvee Du Centenaire (approx $135) is a wonderful after dinner accompaniment with candied orange and tea spices on the finish, but even more impressive is the Cuvee Du Cent Cinquantenaire (approx $225). The Cuvee Du Cent Cinquantenaire is one of my favorite spirits of any sort. Outstanding cognac mixed with the finest oranges from Haiti, the finish on this lasts 15 minutes plus. Perhaps the best value in the spirits world today.


Partida Elegante (approx $340) is an outstanding extra anejo tequila. This is perfect just being sipped neat and one of the greatest tequilas ever produced.

Don Julio Tequila Real (approx $320) is another outstanding extra anejo tequila. This spirit comes in a beautiful bottle that is a work of art both inside and out. Father who enjoy good tequila shouldn't be denied the opportunity to try this one.

North American Whiskies

Hirsch 22 yo Rye Whiskey- (approx $120) My second favorite rye whiskey, this is a memorable and delicious rye whiskey. Hard to find, but worth the effort.

Pappy Van Winkle 's Family Reserve 20 and 23 year ($200+ if you can find them)- All I can say is that if your Father likes American whiskeys and you come across a bottle of this, jump on it. Extremely rare but I've tasted both offerings and they are simply incredible.

Canadian Club 30 year (approx $250) is simply one of the best spirits I've ever tasted. The finest example of Canadian whisky in existence.

Single Malt Whiskies

Suntory Yamazaki 18 year old (approx $120) is an oustanding introduction to the world of Japanese single malts and a delicious dram that will be appreciated this Fathers Day.

The Dalmore King Alexander III (approx $200)- Master Distiller Richard Paterson's masterpiece, finished in a variety of woods, this is a heady and rich single malt.

Ardmore 30 year ($450)- This and the CC 30 rank as the two finest whiskies I've ever tasted. Brilliant.

Macallan 1841 (approx $200) is an excellent dram and an interesting piece of history. Light and silky, with orange and pear notes, this might be the perfect gift for Fathers interested in the evolution of single malts.

Balvenie 25 year old (approx $400) is a wonderfully honeyed dram and a fine example of one of the better Highlands malts.

Highland Park 25 (approx $250) is another Highland malt that I just adore. Complex, with apricot, currants and some smoke to it, this has a wonderfully long finish and is a great nightcap.

While I am sure there are many other luxury brands out there that deserve consideration, this represents a few of the better brands that I've tasted and enjoy. I should perhaps add Ardbeg Airh Nam Beist,Glenmorangie Signet, Johnnie Walker Blue and Dewars Signature as well, but time and space constraints are preventing me (lets just note that I enjoy all four). Any of these brands would make a very special gift this Fathers Day, and I hope that this luxury guide makes some of your purchasing decisions easier.

The Whiskies I'm Drinking Right Now

Of course, not all at once, but here is what I'm enjoying right now. To be completely honest, I've been on more of a single malt scotch and Canadian whisky run recently although I love my bourbon. Here is what is getting consumed in my liquor cabinet right now. This is not a complete listing of my whiskies, just the ones that I'm into for the moment.

Irish Whiskey
Michael Collin's Single Malt- All I can say is WOW. I really enjoy this with just a single cube of ice while I'm waiting for the bbq to heat up. I get a lot of honeysuckle out of this whiskey which just seems to match perfectly with a warm spring evening.

Kilbeggan- I want to thank Siobhan over at Imbibe Magazine for this recommendation. A beautiful example of a blended Irish whiskey for an exceptional price.

Redbreast Pot Still 12 year- Delicious stuff, I'm rationing this out pretty slowly as I'm afraid I'll run through it too quickly.

Canadian Whisky

Canadian Club- Much better than I remember it being. Perfect for mixing.

Canadian Club 12- More complex than the standard CC offering, I've started using this for some Manhattans.

Canadian Club 30 year- What can I say? One of the world's greatest spirits.

Crown Royal Special Reserve- As far as I'm concerned, this is the best offering from Crown Royal. Delicious.

Blended Scotch

Black Bottle- All the single malts of Islay in a blend? Consider me sold.

Dewars 12 year- An excellent blended scotch, especially considering the price. I'd really like to get my hands on a bottle of Aberfeldy, the single malt at the heart of Dewars to see what its like on its own.

Johnnie Walker Blue Label- I don't drink it often, but its terrific. And no, I won't share. This is my private stash.

Single Malts

Suntory Yamazaki 18- I'm truly amazed by the quality of this single malt. It has me ready to explore Japanese single malts much more in depth. One of my favorite drams.

Arran Single Barrel Bourbon Cask Finish- A very appealing dram from Scotland's newest distillery. I'm excited about Arran's future.

The entire Ardbeg line (except Supernova)- I have tried and tried but have yet to get my hands on the Supernova. As it is, Ardbeg is my favorite distillery in Scotland and top to bottom, I love all of their offerings.

Caol Ila 12 year- Another of my favorites, rather light for an Islay malt, but I just love the pepperiness on the palate. I love a bit of Caol Ila with food.

Laphroaig- Not for the faint of heart, a dram of Laphroaig is a perfect way to warm up after one of Portland's gray drizzly days. I'm dying to try their 25 year old release.

Ardmore 30 year- Amazing. Thats all I can say. I was worried that the wood might be too overpowering after 30 years, but this is simply one of the best spirits around. Worth every penny of its $450 price tag. Well balanced, complex and with a wonderfully creamy mouthfeel, I feel lucky to have this in the house.

The Dalmore 1263 King Alexander- A very sherried single malt. this is a rich unctuous dram thats perfect for an after dinner celebration. Don't be put off by its $200 price tag, you get what you pay for with this dram.

Highland Park 12 and 18- Highland Park is one of my favorite distilleries in Scotland. Have they ever produced even an average dram? Beautiful well balanced single malts.

Springbank 15- Another of my absolute favorites, this is an incredible single malt.

American Bourbons and Whiskies

George Dickel- Tennessee's best, this is a great session whiskey. Full of vanilla and caramel.

Hirsch 20 year- A special whiskey best savored with just a touch of water to open it up.

Buffalo Trace- Basically my house bourbon. I'm never out of Trace. Ever.

Four Roses- Another of my favorite bourbons, I'm particularly fond of their single barrel offering.

Bulleit bourbon- I love the rye content of this bourbon, it provides a wonderful spiciness that is very food friendly.

Rittenhouse rye- The 100 proof bottled in bond is my absolute favorite whiskey for making Manhattans. I've always got Rittenhouse in stock.

Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey- What happens when you cross a single malt with bourbon? Stranahan's I guess. Possibly the most unique American whiskey on the market. I absolutely love Stranahan's.

I know this may look like quite a lot of whiskies for me to be enjoying right now, but remember, I am a working bartender, so I regularly sample new whiskies not only for my own edification but also to help my guests find the right spirit for them. I'm also a whiskey afficionado. If I could only choose one spirit to drink for the rest of my life, it would be whiskey. All spirits have their charms, but for me, whiskey reigns supreme.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Quick and easy vegetable soup recipe

This is a really easy vegetable soup recipe that works well on a weeknight by itself or with a little salad. I like this one too because this soup tastes even better the next day. Budget an hour to make this from prep to table, but it requires very little actual effort.

Quick & Easy Vegetable Soup
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 chopped leeks, white part only
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 carrots chopped into rounds
2 diced russet potatoes
1 head broccoli, chopped
2 quarts chicken broth
2 14.5 oz cans, Hunts Fire Roasted Tomatoes (diced)
1 can corn, drained
freshly ground black pepper
chopped fresh parsley leaves (about ¼ c)
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Heat the olive oil in large stockpot over medium-low heat. Add the leeks, garlic, and salt and sweat for 7 to 8 minutes. Add the carrots, potatoes, and broccoli and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add the tomatoes, corn, and pepper. Return to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the vegetables are tender, approximately 25 minutes. Remove from heat and add the parsley and lemon juice. Add salt if needed.Serve immediately.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fathers Day Gift Guide- Absinthe

Father's Day is approaching quickly this month (the 21st for those of you not paying attention), and this year, more than ever, its important to show Dad just how much he means to you.

While I am going to be covering a lot of products in the next few weeks (gin, vodka, rum,tequila, bourbon, scotch etc), I decided to start with a rather unusual spirit, absinthe. While some people do like to enjoy absinthe on its own, I much prefer to use absinthe as an ingredient in cocktails. It plays much the same role as bitters do in a cocktail, it can provide structure and balance if used correctly. Now, absinthes aren't cheap. You aren't going to be able to buy a $20 absinthe, most run in the $60-$90 range, but a little goes a long way.

May I suggest that this year, perhaps more than any other, its time to dig a little deeper for Fathers Day. Its been a rough year and a luxury spirit that Dad can sip and savor will say more to him this year than at any other time. Isn't he worth it? There are some great values out there in the luxury spirits category (Canadian Club 30 and Ardmore 30 both come to mind) and a luxury spirit can provide some comfort and reassurance during these challenging times.

Marteau absinthe ($85) contains both petite and grand wormwood (a true rarity) and is a collaboration between Gwydion Stone and House Spirits. In my opinion, this is the most authentic and well made absinthe made in the United States. It is a great product and one of the few that I recommend for drinking traditionally.

Kubler absinthe ($62)is another of my favorites. Swiss made, this absinthe was scored the best tasting absinthe in a blind tasting of absinthes by the New York Times. A wonderful product, this mixes exceptionally well and is also good on its own.

Trillium absinthe ($60) is a great choice for mixing or sipping. At 50 Plates, Trillium is our house absinthe and gets used in everything from Corpse Reviver #2s to Sazeracs.

Leopold Brothers absinthe ($75) is a delicious absinthe that I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to taste while I was in Vail Colorado for the Grand Marnier/Navan Mixology Summit.

Mata Hari absinthe ($50) from Austria bills itself as the "mixable absinthe" and I completely agree. Slightly rough when taken on its own, Mata Hari charms when used in cocktails. That very roughness adds complexity and depth to cocktails, something that I was quite surprised to taste.

Next up is vodka, and I'll have a whole range of spirit recommendations for Fathers Day this year. Just remember, this is the year to really show Dad just how much he means to you and a luxury spirit is the perfect gift this year.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Update- Fathers Day Gift Guides, Good Books and Other Stuff

I haven't been keeping this up like I should. That said, I've got a number of things to cover, so please bear with me. Those of you that know me well know that I do more of my blogging over at these days. Its a great site and I'm proud to be associated with it. Hopefully, I'll have a pretty big announcement soon, one that will really be exciting. As it is, lets get to the things I need to cover.


I've been lucky enough to receive some new books that are really outstanding. All of these deserve a place on your bookshelf.

Matt Skinner's book, "Heard it Through the Grapevine: The things you should know to enjoy wine" is easily one of the best books on wine that I've had the pleasure to read. While Skinner focuses on the novice wine drinker, making terms and pairings simple, even a real cork dork will find value in this book. Its an easy read, broken down into short chapters on everything from buying wine at auctions to what to do if you break a cork. Personally, I think it should be required reading for every server in America, its chock full of good useful information and leaves out all of the pretense that can make wine books intimidating for some. Highly Recommended

Kathy Casey's new book, "Sips and Apps" is the best cocktail book released this year. While I only knew Kathy Casey through her partnership with Ryan Magarian, in this book, Casey demonstrates that her talent for creating original, unique and cutting edge cocktails is second to none. From the Pear Thyme Fizz to the Grapefruit Negroni, Kathy Casey's cocktails are winners. Even better for those who enjoy entertaining at home, Casey also offers great recipes and recommendations for appetizers. I tried my hand at the Chipotle Deviled Eggs and not only are they easy, but they are incredibly delicious. Highly Recommended

When I received an advance copy of Teresa Marie Howes "Skinnytinis: All the Fun for Half the Calories" I almost threw it away. I'm glad I didn't. While this isn't a book for everyone, there are plenty of people in America who enjoy a nice cocktail but are also concious of their weight. Skinnytinis offers solutions for both home entertaining ( a Spanish martini at 126 calories anyone?) as well as options to order at your local watering hole ( a vodka tonic is only 131 calories). Beautifully photographed, and containing great advice on how to slice calorie counts off of cocktails, Skinnytinis is a very well done book. Highly Recommended.

Things I've been drinking & enjoying recently

When was the last time you tried Canadian Club? While I frequently rave about the Canadian Club 30 year (the finest Canadian whisky ever made), I've recently been revisiting the entire lineup of offerings from Canadian Club and I'm impressed. The 12 year is amazingly delicious and the 10 year is a steal. These are great whiskies that deserve more attention.

Michael Collins Single Malt Irish Whiskey has a unique peatiness and deep chocolate flavor that has made it one of my favorite Irish whiskeys. Usually I drink Irish whiskey as a session whiskey, but this single malt holds its own and makes a perfect end to a good day. Now, instead of automatically choosing a good Scotch Single Malt, I find myself reaching more and more for the Collins Single Malt.

Zipang Sparkling Sake just rocks. I really enjoy this product and its extremely versatile in cocktails. I also love the packaging, nothing goes to waste with their small bottles. I really wish Tanuki carried this and some good soju, I'd be in heaven if they did.

I'm not much of a vodka guy. In fact, I honestly find it rather boring. That said, Oval is a nice smooth vodka that impressed me. It would make a wonderful martini.

I've also recently tasted a couple of new vodkas from Three Olives. I've always thought that the flavors offered by Three Olives were more interesting than most of the other offerings available from other vodka producers. Even so, I probably dislike flavored vodkas more than plain vodka. While the Grape flavor didn't do a whole lot for me (I do understand that its the hot new mixer with Red Bull though), I was impressed with the Cherry vodka. Mix it with some organic cherry juice, a bit of lemon, some simple syrup and just a drop of Zwack and it makes a deliciously mouthwatering cocktail.

On the tequila front, Tequila Ocho is a delicious blanco, something I thought I might never say. I'm more of a reposado man myself, but Tequila Ocho is really first rate. I created this cocktail in honor of both Tequila Ocho and a former Oregon State star wide receiver.

The Ocho Cinco Cocktail
1 1/2 oz Tequila Ocho blanco tequila
1 oz Aperol
2 oz grapefruit juice
tonic water to top

In a collins glass, add all ingredients except tonic. Add ice, top with tonic and stir briefly to incorporate ingredients.

Fathers Day Gift Guides
This year, I'll be doing a variety of Fathers Day Gift Guides as we approach June 21st. I'll focus on Rum one post, Bourbon on another, Scotch on yet another and work my way through the spirits world offering a variety of options for all budgets. Also, I'll be focusing on some good cocktail and food gifts for Dad this year. Keep your reader pointed here, these are going to be good.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Taste of the Nation Portland- Read this to win tickets!

Taste of the Nation is almost upon us people! The premier event to fight hunger happens on the 27th of this month at Luxe Autohaus, 410 NE 17th Ave here in Portland. There are three tiers of tickets available, the Luxe entrance ($200) which gets you in the door at 5pm, the VIP ($125) which allows entrance at 5:30pm and general admission ($75) which will let you in with everyone else at 6:30pm. Having been several times before, may I strongly recommend either the Luxe or VIP tickets, the hour extra makes all the difference in being able to sample the food, wine and cocktails that you really want before the lines start to get heavy.

As you know, this blog focuses primarily on spirits and cocktails, with the occasional food subject thrown in as well. This year, I've got 2 general admission tickets for some lucky readers of this blog. Please, be in the Portland Oregon vicinity if you'd like to be considered for these tickets. I've arranged for the winners tickets to be left at the door for them, so you can just show up on the 27th and enjoy the festivities. Now, on to the contest (and make sure not to miss the contest for a great package of pastas from Garofalo pasta on the Pasta Memories post too). Since Taste of the Nation exhibits the best of Portland's food, wine and cocktails, I thought it would be fun to see who has had the worst food, wine or cocktail experience in Portland. Now, in the interest of being polite, please don't name the names of the guilty, just simply post a comment to this thread with your worst food, wine or cocktail experience here in Portland. On Thursday the 23rd, I'll review all of your horror stories and choose one of you as the lucky winner of 2 general admission tickets to Taste of the Nation. Easy enough right? Well, good luck!

A few things that should be highlights of this years Taste of the Nation. First off, Mix Magazine and Lucy Brennan are hosting an hourly Mixology Station hosted by several bartenders who will be available to teach you drinks with several premium spirits. Right now, this is what the lineup is looking like;

Jason Boyok from Mint/820 - Herradura tequila
Leslie Bucher from North 45 - Jack Daniels
Kristin Strother from Saucebox - Aviation gin
Sean Skvarka from Departure - Finlandia vodka

In addition, the following wineries will be pouring at the event;

Adelsheim Vineyard
Amity Vineyards
Apolloni Vineyards
Argyle Winery
Belle Pente Vineyard
Boedecker Cellars
Cara Bella Winery
Carlo & Julian Winery
Cooper Mountain Vineyards
Elemental Cellars
Elk Cove Vineyards
Evesham Wood
Foris Vineyards Winery
La Bete Wines
Lange Estate Winery and Vineyards
Left Coast Cellars
Oak Knoll Winery
Redhawk Winery
Torii Mor Winery
Willamette Valley Vineyards
Witness Tree Vineyard
Youngberg Hill Vineyards
Young's Columbia Distributing will also be pouring wines.

Beers being poured will be provided by;

Captured By Porches Brewery
Double Mountain
Full Sail Brewing
Sierra Nevada

And Caffe Umbria will be handling nonacoholic libations this year.

As for restaurants, the following establishments will be serving up some of their signature creations this year;

Al Forno Ferruzza
Sicilian-style Pizza including New Haven White Clam and Margarita; Stromboli; Scarpetta  - local seasonal heirloom vegetables seasoned and prepared in the traditional Sicilian style

Alberta Street Oyster Bar & Grill

Causitas Moradas y Solteritos - Traditional Peruvian preparation of fresh lime flavored potatoes with savory fillings: purple potatoes with shredded chicken and ajà amarillo; yellow potatoes with garden fresh vegetables

Mole Guerrerense - Autentica’s homemade Mole sauce with 8 kinds of peppers and nuts, served with white rice

Baker & Spice
Vanilla and Chocolate Shortbread; Rhubarb Danish

Bay 13
Dungeness Crab on Endive


Bread & Ink Café
Belgian Sugar Waffles with Bacon, Brie and Basil

Caprial’s Bistro
Pecan Blondies Layered with Chocolate Mousse and Topped with Sugar Honeycomb

Celilo Restaurant and Bar
House Charcuterie, Smoked Fish and Vegetable Terrine on Lavash Crackers

Charlie’s Produce

Grilled Monterey Bay Calamari Salad with Poached Kingfisher Potatoes, Castelvetrano Olives, Wild Greens and Piment d’Espelette Oil

The Country Cat
Pulled Smoked Duck Legs on Mushroom Crackers with Mascarpone Cream Fava Beans

Cupcake Jones
Downtown Cupcake Brown - Miniature devil’s food cupcakes topped with fudge frosting

Davis Street Tavern
Seared Muscovy Duck Breast with Apricot Chutney on Brioche

East India Company
Crispy Baby Vegetable Samosas with Mango Ginger Chutney

Eleni’s Estiatorio / Philoxenia
Lahano Salata - Thinly sliced cabbage, shaved fennel and toasted almonds; tossed with olive oil, fresh lemon juice and smoked paprika

Salmon Tartare with Absinthe and Crème Fraiche Hazelnut Macaroons

Grilled Rosemary Lamb Sausage with Baby Field Greens

Garden State
Frittelle Siciliano - an assortment of Sicilian street fritters

Higgins Pig and Pickles

La Calaca Comelona

Lauro Kitchen
Grilled Asparagus Salad with Hazelnut Tangerine Vinaigrette

New Seasons Market
Linda Brand Crab and Bay Shrimp Salad on Endive; Local Artisan Cheeses

Noble Rot
House-made Charcuterie and Dessert Wine

Cannellini Beans with Olive Oil Poached Albacore Tuna

Nuestra Cocina
Chicharron con Salsa Verde - fried pork rinds with a jalapeno salsa; and Tostadas de Salpicon  chilled beef salad on a tostada with radishes, cucumber, cilantro, lime and chile

Paley’s Place Bistro & Bar
Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and Double Chocolate Cupcakes

Pazzo Ristorante
Fig Bellinis; Cold-Smoked Marlin-Wrapped Asparagus

Por Que No

Ristorante Fratelli
Chocolate Blini with House-made Wild Boar Bacon, served with Citrus Marmalade or Huckleberry Mousse

Boudin Blanc Corn Dogs with Spicy Creole Mustard Sauce

Ruby Jewel
An Assortment of Miniature Ice Cream Sandwiches

Russell Street BBQ
Barbecue Babyback Pork Ribs from Carlton Farms; Frito™ Pie Shooters

Ruth’s Chris Steak House
Filet Mignon - The most tender cut of Prime beef, cut generously and broiled expertly to a melt in your mouth tenderness

Saint Cupcake
Hundreds of Really Cute Cupcakes

Mussels Rellenos with Chorizo - Baked stuffed mussels with fennel, parsley, chorizo and toasted bread crumbs

Escabeche with Bay Scallops or Prawns; Miniature Lemon Tarts

Tastebud Farm

Spring Vegetable Pakoras, Grilled Naan Bread and Seasonal Chutneys

Chilled Asparagus Soup with Lemon and Crème Fraiche

There are also going to be some food carts featured as well. A cool, very Portland thing. Off the top of my head, the Asparagus Soup at Wildwood, the Chicharron from Nuestra Cocina and the Calamari salad from Clarklewis are high on my list of spots to hit first.

Remember, 100% of the price of your ticket goes to fight hunger. This is a great event and an even better benefit. And I haven't even mentioned the charity auction which usually features out of this world items. I'll be there on the 27th, I hope to see those of you local to Portland there too.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pasta Memories

For those of you who don't know, I've recently been through a fairly major, and unexpected life change. While I think that in the end everything will work out for the best, to be frank, sometimes my external optimism is a bit forced. There are times that I get down, and some days it can be tough to act like nothing is bothering me. However, having a suddently large amount of free time on my hands also has some advantages. For me, food can carry some very strong memories associated with it, it can provide me a kind of psychic comfort that nothing else provides. Pasta is especially powerful for me. Some of my earliest memories are from my parents taking me to Modesto Lanzoni's in San Francisco's Ghiradelli Square (where the Sharper Image stands today). While I couldn't describe a single dish that I ate there during my childhood, all of my memories of that restaurant are warm and comforting. I remember the waitstaff being very friendly and accomodating to me, and the food being wonderful.

Pasta also reminds me of my late sister. I don't talk about my sister much unless you are someone that I really trust, even though she passed in 2000, it seems like yesterday. Thats not really germane to this post though. What is germane, is that my sister loved pasta like no one I've ever met. I enjoy pasta, and occasionally I love a good pasta dish, but my sister loved and craved pasta at a level that I just don't personally experience. It was always easy to figure out what my sister would eat when the family went out to dinner, whatever pasta was on the menu was what she would order. The only time that became complicated would be if we went to an Italian restaurant, then, all bets were off. While I really like good pasta, it seems that it is getting harder and harder to get good pasta when I go out, so I usually make pasta at home. However, once in a blue moon, I'll have a great plate of pasta and it always triggers fond memories of my sister. Usually I start to think about how I should turn her on to whatever I'm eating before reality sets in again, and I cherish those moments when I think of my sister that way.

Lastly, pasta reminds me of my wife and family. I find particular comfort in a plate of spaghetti cacio y pepe, the first thing I shared with my wife when we arrived in Rome. Cold, tired and hungry, it was the perfect introduction to the delights of Roman cooking and we must have eaten cacio y pepe every day when we were in Rome. Its also simple and delicious, all you need is good quality pasta, a pepper grinder and some cheese. When combined though, this pretty simple trio becomes something greater than the sum of its parts, in my opinion, perfection on a plate.

What kind of memories does pasta trigger for you? Do you have any family traditions involving pasta dishes or any special stories with pasta? If so, leave me your best stories in the comments section, and, in a bit, I'll select one of you to receive some great pasta from my favorite pastamaker, Garofalo. Trust me, this will be worth your time. Oh, and I know what I'm having for dinner tonight

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Zwack is Back

Zwack disappeared from the American market for some time, but now its making a comeback. Unfortunately, not a lot of people are familiar with the product right now, and the most common comparison I hear being made to Zwack is Jagermeister. To me, I think that is a bit shortsighted, both liqueurs stem from a long European tradition of herbal liqueurs, and while there are some similarities in flavor, I find Zwack to have a very pleasant sweet cinnamon flavor that finishes with just a bit of citrus peel on the tongue before it disappears. All in all, a pleasant liqueur to sip neat (although I have been hearing rumors that Zwack and Red Bull is replacing Jager and Red Bull as the drink of choice amongst a certain set of people), and it mixes well. Don't believe me? Try this cocktail at home to see the versatility of Zwack in cocktails.

Magyar Posta

1 oz Rittenhouse 100 proof whiskey
1 oz Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
1 oz Zwack
2 oz orange juice

Add all ingredients, chill, and serve up in a cocktail glass.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ketel One gin coming to the United States?

Thats the rumor that I've now heard from several places. No one seems to be able to tell me if its the Ketel One jenever or a new distillate. More to come when I find out.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Quick Update- Back from Vail

So I've just returned from the Grand Marnier Mixology Summit in Vail. All I can say is THANK YOU to both the great people at Grand Marnier and Navan as well as all of the people at AKA Wine Geek. Having attended it last year, I can say that this years event was even bigger and better than ever. I'll be writing more about my experiences at the Summit this week over at, feel free to pop over and check it out. A few things though that really struck me coming away from this years event. Two Vegas bartenders really really impressed me this year. Alex Velez made an organic cocktail with hemp milk that just blew me away, and it made me more aware of the need for bartenders to take into account our guests who are lactose intolerant or gluten free or have other dietary restrictions. Secondly, Anthony Alba of the AKA Wine Geek team not only went above and beyond in helping me during my lab, but his molecular mixology demonstration with Willy Shine really opened my eyes to the possibilities of molecular mixology. To be honest, I've always dismissed Vegas as not having serious craft bartenders, but these these two gentlemen proved me wrong. Alex and Anthony, thanks for everything this weekend. I learned a lot from both of you and perhaps I need to make a trip to Vegas sooner rather than later to check out the scene there.

I've got several more things coming up soon-

I'll be reviewing Zwackk shortly.

Look for an update on some of the new Three Olives vodka flavors (grape and cherry) as well as info about their "O face" campaign at

Beaker and Flask is getting closer by the day. I would say that the opening date was the #1 question I was asked during Vail. Soon people, soon.

I came home to a bottle of Michael Collins Single Malt Irish Whiskey on my porch. I'll be reviewing that soon as well.

Canadian Club 30 year is an amazing whiskey. Possibly the finest whiskey I've ever had, I've been struggling with the review of this very special bottle. In short, I'll eventually get something up for this but I'm just in love with that bottle.

Oh, btw, I tried a new pisco that isn't on the market yet from Casa Lapostolle in Chile. If you are a fan of pisco or any of the Lapostolle family's other great products, ask your local liquor rep to push for this to go into production. This may be the best pisco out there and it would be a shame not to see that come into the American market.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

St. Patrick's Day

Some people are big St. Pat's people, others aren't. I fall into the latter category as I've spent way too many St. Patrick's Day shifts breaking up fights, cutting off drunks and cleaning up vomit. That said, I do love corned beef and cabbage, and at the end of any St. Patrick's day there are always two things that I crave, a cold pint of Harp and a nice glass of Irish Whiskey. To be honest, I'm partial to Redbreast, a wonderful Irish whiskey, but my stock was depleted so I had to make do with a bit of the Jameson’s, a fine Irish whiskey itself, but more of an everyday drinker for me versus the Redbreast. Surprisingly, I couldn't find Harp at my grocery store (but Guiness was everywhere), so I picked up a 6 pak of Smithwicks Irish ale, which turned out to be a delicious turn of events. A quiet, but very successful evening.
Tomorrow, the best man from my wedding, Danny, flies in for the NCAA basketball tournament. We'll probably polish off the Jameson's pretty quickly while watching the games, but knowing his love for rum, I'm guessing that I might be switching to rum once the Jameson's is out. I probably won't be posting much until the tournament is over, basketball and friends and alcohol don't make for a very good writing (or reading) experience. I'll be back soon. I'm still working on reviews of Zwack, Canadian Club 30 year, Black Bottle and more.

Monday, March 16, 2009

March Madness in Portland- Your Guide to Eating and Staying in the Rose City

Its my favorite time of the sports year, March Madness, and luckily enough, we get to host some first and second round games this year. While those of you who might be Husky or Zags fans are more likely to have visited our fair city, I think you may get something out of this in addition to all of the Hilltoppers, Boilermakers, Panthers and Fighting Illini. Before we go too far though, a few things you should know and be prepared for during your visit to Portland.

- It rains here. A lot. Be prepared for wet weather. A medium weight jacket and a baseball cap should be just fine.

- We have no sales tax. Forget your camera at home? Buy a replacement while you are here. You can save some decent money on large purchases while you are here.

- We may have the finest public transportation system in the country. If not the country, we have easily the best system west of the Mississippi River. The easiest way to get to the Rose Quarter for the games will be via bus lines or the Max. Check Trimet for trip planning info.

- If you are a member of an alumni or booster group, the Oregon Convention Center is across the street from the Rose Garden. Its easily the best choice for banquets, VIP rooms and anything else you might need for your fans and alumni during the event.

- Its illegal to pump your own gas here. Really.

- Don't miss Powell’s City of Books. You haven't visited Portland unless you've been to Powells.


- While a number of you will be travelling with your schools, should you wish to make your own reservations, let me suggest any of the hotels downtown. The hotels that advertise themselves as being close to the convention center will be within walking distance to the arena, but downtown hotels are a short bus or max ride away to the arena and have far better dining and entertainment options available. If you stay by the convention center, you'll be close to the games but with limited dining options (Red Robin, Burgerville, etc).

- Hotels located in Jantzen Beach or by the airport may look cheaper on paper, but you will more than likely need a rental car during your stay here. Hotels both downtown and by the convention center can be reached from the airport using the max line.


Portland is a great place to eat. Unfortunately, the Rose Quarter is a bit of a culinary wasteland. The food at the arena is just that, arena food. Don't expect more than greasy nachos and hot dogs during the games. However, on Thursday, between sessions, you have a few options. Friday you'll have the city to yourself, and Saturday you'll need a good brunch before the games.

- Bunk Sandwiches is just a short bus trip away from the arena, and well worth it. Tommy Habetz is one of the most talented chefs in Portland, and the food at Bunk Sandwiches is perfect for a long day of watching NCAA basketball. My personal choice might be the meatball hero, but you really can't go wrong with anything on their menu.

- Burgerville is within easy walking distance of the arena. Personally, I don't really understand the appeal of Burgerville, but its better than BK or McDs. I will say its a better burger than you'll get at the arena.

- Downtown. First, our food carts are amazing. There are a good number of them in front of the US Bank Building (the big pink one) with options ranging from BBQ to Czech to Mexican. Cheap, quick and delicious. Food Dude runs the only foodie website in Portland thats worth a damn. His recommendations are spot on.

- The place I bartend, while in the Pearl, is a great lunch or dinner option. 50 Plates is probably really appealling for you Hilltoppers fans, since our bar's main focus is on good bourbon. Come drink the only proper Mint Julep in the Pacific Northwest.

- Ten01 and Andina are both great options for Friday night. Both are wonderful restaurants and have great cocktails to help you celebrate (or dull the pain). You'll need reservations.

- For some less expensive options, 50 Plates in the Pearl, Podnah’s pit bbq, and any of our numerous Thai restaurants are good choices.

- Need a good sports bar to watch the other games on Friday? While The Agency is the newest and hottest sports bar in the city, my preference is the Life of Riley, a cool spot in the Pearl with a nice selection of beers on tap. I'm also rather fond of the Marathon on West Burnside. This is a dive, but the feta burger rocks and they'll have all the games on. Plus, its one of the few bars in town where you could order a beer and a shot at 9am and you'd just be fitting in with the rest of the crowd.

- Brunch. I'm probably going to regret this, but my favorite place for brunch in Portland on a Saturday (and where I plan on being before the games) is Simpatica Dining Hall. The "Logger", a chicken fried bison steak with eggs and potatoes is my favorite breakfast in town. Other good options are the Bijou Cafe (downtown), Screen Door (East Burnside), and the Tin Shed (Alberta).

While this list is terribly incomplete, I hope it gives you some options while you are visiting Portland. Feel free to email directly with any questions or recommendations that you might need. I've got a good friend flying in for the games, so I'll probably run into a number of you at the games and around town this week. I hope you enjoy visiting Portland as much as we are going to enjoy hosting all of you. One last thing, should you need anything at all, directions, recommendations, etc. Enjoy the games!