A Quick Cocktail Intro
The Imperial's Brandon Wise kicked off Portland Cocktail Week on Saturday morning with the first consumer class. After a brief history of cocktails, he discussed shaking and stirring, and why you might choose each technique. The basic takeaway: Stirring is generally for drinks made up of just spirits, while shaking is used when other elements, such as juice, are added.
Those in attendance were invited up to try their hand at both mixing methods, preparing shaken Maple Leafs and stirred Manhattans. Wise, who has been with Portland Cocktail Week since its inception, was eager to answer questions and reminded the crowd "this is the best time in history to like things that taste good."
Swig n' Swine
One of PDXCW's trademark "after school activities" is Swig n' Swine, presented by the Bon Vivants (the team behind Trick Dog in San Francisco) at the Jupiter Hotel. The pig roast and punch party is a chance to raise money for charity, and sample drinks featuring liquors from the event's various sponsors.
Examples of the punches include Cosa Nostra, made with Templeton Rye, Carpano Antica, and Fernet Branca, plus pumpkin, orange, lemon, salt, chai tea, and almond milk, and Captain of Infantry, featuring Don Q Anejo Rum, The King's Ginger, plum wine, Shrub & Co. Tart Apple Shrub, lemon, Fee Brothers Walnut Bitters, bay leaf, and oolong.
An On Campus Party
We saw lots of hugs, handshakes, and high fives at Swing n Swine. It's one of the first opportunities the students had to begin bonding, or see old friends. In addition to the food and booze, there are activities such as a horseshoes tournament, a DJ playing in the party tent, and even a gelato cart sponsored by Luxardo, with flavors such as Fernet and Cola and Chocolate and Ginger.
A Visit to the Multnomah Whiskey Library
Opened less than a month ago, Multnomah Whiskey Library is home to over 1,000 bottles of whiskey, as well as other hand-picked spirits. According to lead bartender Jordan Felix, formerly of Clyde Common, the bar is a passion project, with a focus on "getting back to the spirit." His favorite bottle right now? Bowmore 18. Legendary bartender Dale DeGroff said of the space: "I walked in today and my jaw just dropped. I could not believe it. This is stunning."
One of the trademark features at Multnomah Whiskey Library is its collection of cocktail carts. Equipped with all the necessary tools, they allow bartenders to prepare libations table-side. A return to focusing on service was a theme echoed over and over again during the week's events.
I’ll Take Manhattans, The Story of Bitters
Dale DeGroff presented a class to consumers entitled I’ll Take Manhattans, The Story of Bitters. In addition to a history of bitters, their ingredients, and uses, five different bitters—Angostura, Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Boker's, The Bitter Truth Old Time Aromatic, DeGroff's own Pimento Aromatic, and Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged—were poured for tasting, first alone, and then in otherwise identical Manhattans. He used this selection to illustrate the drastic difference bitters can make. About the bitters market today, DeGroff said "it's good again."
Advanced Bar Technique
Panelists Joaquin Simo of Pouring Ribbons, Sam Ross from Attaboy, and Angus Winchester, Tanqueray Global Ambassador spoke about technique and strategy during this course. Moderator Derek Brown, of Washington D.C.'s The Passenger, broke the issues of bar technique down into a few categories: people, property, profit, and product. The four pros focused on concepts such as personality, mise en place, and timing. The group emphasized that bartending is about making the customer feel welcome into a world that can be overwhelming. According to Simo, "your bar personality is an amplified version of your regular personality."
Simo stressed that a bar's layout can improve a customer's experience: owners should aim for bar a setup that requires as little bartender movement as possible. "Good bar design speeds up service," he said. The panel emphasized that a skilled bartender should learn which drinks need to go out immediately, and which can sit for a minute, which will help them determine the order of preparation so that a group's drink order can all be served at once.
Effective Bar Management
Part of the Bar Ownership major, this panel was lead by Daniel Shoemaker of Portland's Teardrop Lounge, with Naren Young (of Empellon), Todd Thrasher (of PX and TNT Bar in the DC area), and Erik Adkins (of the Slanted Door group) presenting. Again, personality and service came up as a central focus. Adkins spoke to the importance of an "invisible thread" tying a cocktail menu together, while Shoemaker said "you want your bar program to outlive you." All four stressed how crucial good bartender training is, although they differed in how they execute that. Adkins has his bartenders train for two to three shifts, while Thrasher requires a two-week process.
All Hands on Deck
All Portland Bartender Institute students were required to take The Art of Service as part of the core curriculum. Seattle's Murray Stenson joined Adkins, Simo, and Shoemaker to once again discuss just how important service is to the cocktail industry. Stenson, who suffered from heart troubles in 2012, received two standing ovations from the crowd. "Working a bar is not just about serving drinks, it's about creating a community," he said.
Adkins shared specific tips on everything from the proper way to stand behind the bar (Standing with an open stance, with your back always towards the bar, and always facing the guest, never crossing your arms or hunching over the bar), to how to greet guests (say: "Hi, my name is...") Adkins stressed: "Service is active, it's not passive…it's our job to really craft the experience."
Fords Gin Negroni
The Eighty Six Company showcased their portfolio of spirits with drinks prepared by Jeffrey Morgenthaler of Clyde Common, among others. PDXCW attendees told us that three and four ingredient recipes are gaining popularity over more modernist takes, at least in some circles.
Dushan Zaric, best known for Employees Only in New York City, is one of the men behind The Eighty Six Company. He was on hand at the event to talk about the group's Aylesbury Duck Vodka, Fords Gin, Cana Brava Rum, and Tequila Cabeza.
House Spirits All American Distillery Party
Moving off campus, the first event of Sunday evening was held at House Spirits Distillery, and featured the company's Aviation Gin. Different bartenders from across the country each put a local spin on their gin cocktails.
Desert Diablo Punch
Rich Heider II, of Scotsdale, Arizona's Market Street Kitchen, said he likes Aviation in Collins-style drinks because it has light botanicals. He prepared a Desert Diablo Punch, with Aviation, freshly pressed lime juice, prickly pear syrup, and ginger beer, topped off with a blackberry.
Travis Tober of Austin, Texas concocted a drink called The Devil Went Down to Texas, mixing Aviation with lime juice, Bad Dog Fire & Damnation Bitters, and grapefruit soda.
Four Roses Bourbon sponsored Road Soda back at Jupiter Hotel. Derek Brown and Brandon Wise prepared a number of different bourbon-based cocktails alongside Brian Gilbert of Teardrop Cocktail Lounge, out of a 1967 Airstream.
Distillery No. 209 Negroni at The Imperial
One of the weekend's most exciting concepts was Bar MashUPs, which brought bartenders from across the country to share shifts at Portland bars. Erik Hakkinen of Seattle's Zig Zag Cafe, for example, worked alongside Brandon Wise at The Imperial. Lindsey Johnson told us that having bartenders actually making drinks, rather than pouring from a big pre-mixed batch, is something she's proud of. (Batch pouring is pretty common at big cocktail events.) "That's not what people came for. There's no other way you could see Pouring Ribbons, Rum Club, Broken Shaker, Oven and Shaker, Monkey Pod, and Hale Pele in one night…but I don't want to go and see them pour batch. I want to go see them work!"
Apéritifs Are Back
Lillet presented Apéritif Cocktails 101: Elegant Fundamentals with Lady Lillet, all about "bringing back the apéritif." Lead by brand ambassador Amanda Victoria, the company's Blanc, Rouge, and Rosé bottlings were tasted, first on their own, and then with a cube of ice and citrus segment.
After tasting all three varieties, attendees were invited to create a cocktail called Aperiteaf, using their favorite of the three varieties. Two parts Lillet were combined with one part brewed raspberry tea—any fruit tea will do—and a half part honey syrup. Ice was added and the glass, which was then topped off with Q Sparkling Grapefruit and garnished with fresh mint. This refreshing drink is pretty low in alcohol, and would work well at brunch.