Evening Mocktail

As a first post I offer the following recipe which has been dubbed “refreshing”.  It contains only minor amounts of alcohol.

3oz Orange Juice
1oz Lemon Juice
Quarter Lime Wedge
1/2oz Grenadine
3oz Tonic Water
Dash of Orange Bitters

In an iced shaker combine Orange juice, lemon juice, squeeze lime wedge and 2-3 dashes orange bitters.  Rim collins glass with lime wedge, sugar part of the rim, attach lime wedge.  Strain shaker into glass, float grenadine, add tonic.

No name for this yet, I was shooting for Shandy-Beeches but I don’t think it’s there yet.  Maybe if I used sugar in the raw for larger grains.

For a full on cocktail I added about 2oz of Limoncello Crema from Ventura Limoncello Company.

A refreshing non-alcoholic treat
A refreshing non-alcoholic treat
A short glass of creamy refreshing awesome
A short glass of creamy refreshing awesome

Shandy_Beeches2

Pineapple Trainwreck : Drink Review

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I’m told rather reliably that the name of this drink is shared by a popular breed of medicinal Mary Jane.  The Pineapple Trainwreck is a whimsical cocktail that you can find the recipe for on the Imbibe magazine website.  I had mine at Oven and Shaker in Portland.

Much like the Dragon’s Tail this drink focuses on the ginger as the telling ingredient here.  But unlike the tail this ginger has more of the bite you would expect of the fresh root.

Not overpowering given the amount of citrus it has to work with, the ginger and the bitters make the mouth on this drink.  The Bacardi knows when to get out of the way giving the other ingredients a chance to shine.  It never felt forced and was thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.  The sour cherry at the end was perfectly sweet to offset the citrus.

Fresh pressed juice is always the biggest factor in a lot of good cocktails and you can see in this one that it really is the best way to put quality up front.

Tools: Trav-L-Bar

One of the most frustrating things about drinking well is the general inability to make that experience carry over outside your home.  It’s all very well to allow people to see your collection, witness your skills with a shaker and partake of the libations you can craft when you have your entire collection at hand.  It is another very different animal to be able to replicate this kind of presentation on the fly.

I was lucky enough to be gifted this particular kit when my parents were cleaning out their garage, the provenance is uncertain but it’s entirely likely that this came down from my grand parents.  (Or my brother picked it up at a yard sale)  If you want a similar kit they sell on Etsy and Ebay for 40-60 will all the original parts intact and some even have the original tags.  This kit had more of the original pieces when I received it but i’ve modified and adjusted for my own uses.

drink photos 214 Here we see the outer case, plain brown but leather and of a very good wear.  The handles and latches are sturdy and comfortable.

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These are my shots of the interior.  I find it to be very well laid out with ample room for all the tools and kit one could want.

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Here is a much fuller shot of the internals.  On the right three compartments suitable for 750ml bottles of most descriptions, on the left there are straps for 4-6 cups as well as a bottle opener and cocktail spoon.  The part I like best is that the straps at the top left are adjustable so you can fit larger or smaller glasses as you need.

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This is part of my standard kit.  The Boston shaker I regularly use and my Oxo measuring cup.  The bitters and Grenadine will obviously fit but I find them a poor use of space given their size and the limits of the case.

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Here is the other half of my tools.  Left to Right we have 3 New Deal Distillery Shot glasses received as part of my many trips down distillery row and 1 Cornelius Pass Roadhouse Distillery glass which I bought as part of my Devil’s Bit St. Patrick’s Day excursion.  The metal tray from the original case along with a cheap Hawthorne Strainer I picked up at Kitchen Kaboodle.  The Cocktail spoon is also from the original case, the jigger is a standard 1 1/2 by 3/4 jigger which I’m probably going to switch out, the oxo measure is just so much easier to use.  A waiter’s friend replaces the bakelite bottle opener which is currently floating around my mother’s 3rd kitchen junk drawer right now.  I don’t mind, having the corkscrew and foil knife has been handy and if this breaks I know I can get another fairly cheaply.

I swapped out the metal cups because frankly the ones that didn’t smell like leather smelled like cheap steel or aluminum which I didn’t want getting into my drinks.  Also this lets me show off a nice collection of shot glasses from local distilleries (at least the ones who have shot glasses).

The three compartments on the right side allow for a couple of options when traveling.  First off is the fairly basic cocktail, the shaker will hold a small squeeze bottle of juice or a dropper of bitters and the other two compartments easily hold your base alcohol and your liqueur.

I have done very passable Kamikazi’s out of this kit with just lime juice, cointreau and crater lake vodka.  There are a number of other options here including the classic martini, rusty nail, Pink Gin, old fashioned, or sidecar.

If you can do without the shaker a third bottle slot opens up which lets you get a bit more creative.  I’ve not gone without the shaker yet since most of the parties i’ve done with this kit so far require more than just two bottles but the option is there.  I’m curious to see if the mason shaker will fit in this case but not enough to bring up my timetable on buying one.

At a recent birthday party I wanted to take my cherry limeade with me but rather than take the 5 bottles that make up the entire drink I simplified and made two smaller bottles, one with the limeade and a second with the alcoholic components.  This allowed me to keep the majority of the drink on hand without overloading the case but did limit my options for what to create on the other end.

Tech: Liquor Search Engine

SEARCH1Living as I do in Oregon all of the hard liquor that is sold in the state passes through the halls of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC).  Oddly even the stuff that is sold on site at the various distilleries is first sold to the OLCC and then the distillery buys it back from them to sell in their own store.  Which is why you won’t usually find a price break at the distillery tasting room as opposed to the liquor store on your block.

This has a number of advantages and not a few drawbacks.  It means that liquor stores don’t often do special orders.  I’ve tried at more than a couple.  When I asked for a special order at Progress Liquor they actually told me “We only do it if it’s something we already carry.”  I was so agog that I couldn’t even point out that this wasn’t even remotely “special”.

A secondary factor is that buying liquor over the internet becomes a chore because while I don’t have to pay sales tax the shipping for anything I might want is usually 16+ dollars owing to the nature of shipping heavy breakable goods any kind of distance.

One of the nicer things about the OLCC hold on the bottle is Oregonliquorsearch.com.  Since every bottle sold is tracked by a rabidly efficient government agency they elected to simply put the results of that tracking into a live publicly accessible database.  So if you’re looking for say Sparkle Donkey Tequila it can scour the entire state and tell you that there are exactly two places in oregon where you can buy it and that it runs about $27 a bottle.  It will even go so far as to tell you how many bottles you can expect to find at that location and will map it for you.

You can even reverse the process and look for a specific store, having located it you can run a blank search and get a listing of their entire inventory.  This may or may not help depending on what you’re searching for but it’s a good way to narrow things down or browse their shelves from the internet.

The site also allows you to set a “default location” so that you’re not constantly having to zoom down from stores in Bend or out from the west hills.

There is some limited utility here.  The search only covers Liquor.  Meaning that beer, wine, mixers, barware, tools, rimming sugar, and even some low alcohol products like Lillet Blanc or irish cream might not make the cut for OLCC tracking.  Calling ahead to see if they carry lime juice and margarita salt may sound silly but I’ve been to places where they were out of simple syrup and grenadine so it’s worth it not to have to make another trip just to stock up on essentials.

Additionally Liquor store employees can be amazingly dense when it comes to some products.  Keep in mind they have something like 2500 bottles on the shelf, they may not keep abreast of what is going on in the industry.  I asked at about 4 different places when or where they would get Volstead back in stock and none of them knew it had even been missed or if they carried it at all.

Hunting wiley bottles of odd liquor can be rewarding but with this website you can cut out a lot of calling and running around.  It’s not a substitute for finding out that the Thriftway down the street carries Lillet Blanc but it’s helped me on more than one occasion.

Update: After hunting around I have found search engines in other states that still have some form of state control.

Utah DABC
Ohio
Idaho
Maryland
New Hampshire
North Carolina (Mecklenburg)  – Seems to be broken down by city (PITA)
Pennsylvania
West Virginia

Bulleit Rye Whiskey

bulleit I am not a huge whiskey drinker.  I’m carefully cultivating cocktail snobbery and I must say it is taking far longer than I might have imagined.  Some people think you can just stumble into being a drink snob.  I’m here to tell you brother that it takes both time and not an inconsiderable amount of effort.

Consider how easy it would be to simply buy a bottle of two buck chuck or some Jose Cuervo Especial and kill off a few hundred taste buds and brain cells.  It takes no effort at all to buy bad booze.  Hundreds of thousands of people do it every day.  Some well meaning people even buy things that I wouldn’t clean lawn mower parts with and try very very hard to mix it into something that they can get past the gag reflex and into a well warmed buzz.

Bulleit Bourbon and Bulleit Rye are a revolution and a half past the days of fuzzy “martini” drinks and overly sweet cocktails.  While Bulleit’s Bourbon is a small batch whiskey produced by Four Roses in Lawrenceburg Kentucky, Their rye is a mass produced product of MGPI in Lawrenceburg Indiana. Bulleit may have come to some people’s attention through a recent Sly Stallone movie Bullet to the Head where he brings his own bottle of the bourbon to the bar because they don’t carry it.

I have to say, I’ve tried their bourbon and now the rye and I’m very comfortable with both.  Smoky scents on first blush, and it keeps the head for a good while.  It sips well and blends nicely into a number of things I’ve tried with it.  Goes well with both lemon and lime.  I don’t get a lot of after burn, the alcohol catch is all in the front of the mouth and the charcoal and aromatics hit the sides and back in a nice progression that leaves your throat alone.

My rating system isn’t very advanced and I don’t like decimal points in ratings so i’m giving this a 4/5 shakers.  I like it in a few things but I don’t see myself polishing off a bottle on my own anytime in the near future.

Editors Note: Having learned considerably more I’ve adjusted several of the items in here to reflect reality.  I did eventually polish off the bottle, and it didn’t take as long as I thought.

Wry Grin

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Wry Grin

I’ve purchased a bottle of Bulleit Rye Whiskey at the recommendation of a friend.  I was shifting through my copy of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, (the book that honestly started all this mess to begin with) and found that with my current bar stock the next best thing to add would be a good rye.

Rye Whiskey makes an appearance in at least 10 drinks in the book and of the other likely candidates was the only one I hadn’t tried yet.  At the above mentioned friend’s birthday a bottle was around and making some fantastic manhattans.  I had already run through the stock of cherry liqueurs that I had brought for the purpose of making hard cherry limeades and had a few odds and ends left around.  This drink was the result and it has been a smash hit ever since.

1oz Limeade
1 1/2 oz Rye Whiskey
2oz Maraschino syrup

Shake, strain into glass over ice.

The flavor has been likened to a jolly rancher, which to my mind simply means sweet but if done properly you get more than a nice dash of both cherry and rye flavors without a lot of burn.  Alcohol flavor about 1/10.

The Dragons Tail: Cocktail Review

On quite possibly the hottest day of the year so far, with the thermometer topping 80 well before midday I and the rest of the family packed up for Fair in the Grove.

For those unfamiliar this is a yearly ren-fair sponsored by the SCA.  A nice batch of merchants and demos all wrapped around the Mcmenamins grand lodge out in forest grove.

Taking the opportunity since I wasn’t going to be driving I elected to sample a few things I missed on my trip out to Imbrie Hall on st Patrick’s day.  For starters I got a lemonade and Penny’s Gin.  The edgefield distillery has made a pretty comfortable non-threatening product.  A little lemonade and I could barely taste it.  I want to like this better so I’m going to reserve a full review for later when I can play with it a bit in tonics, cocktails and shots.

At lunch came a better surprise.  The Dragons Tail cocktail.  Nominally a rum drink, the amount of ginger in this cocktail was staggering at first sip.  Not sure what I was expecting from something with a ginger liqueur and a ginger syrup but this was a surprise.

dragonstail

Most ginger products I’ve run into lately shoot for more of the raw root burn common to ginger in Asian dishes.  This was a bit more akin to a ginger ale bite without the burn, pleasant and tart without really challenging your palate.

dragontailrecipe

Not as refreshing as the lemonade but it cut to the core of itself nicely and went well with burger, salad and hummus.

I think it has inspired me to play around with the Jamaican Ginger Extract that I discovered online.  It’s one of those old medicinals that they used to prescribe for things like dyspepsia and hysteria.  I think the medicine went (Dram of Ginger extract, lemon peel and a health measure of gin.)  One could of course throw out the lemon peel and ginger and still be well on your way but I digress.

Distillery Crawl Portland

Ed Note (This info is obviously a little out of date,

This is my own personal route that I travel on my birthday week every year with a select group of friends.

I usually buy the Distillery Row Passport which for $20 covers all the tastings I would normally have to buy as well as some nice around town coupons.

I go on a saturday starting at around 11am.  Depending on the crew and how well we’ve eaten we might start the tour with a stop at the Beaverton Farmers market which is almost right off of 217 and has a fantastic BBQ guy who does a wonderful burnt ends plate.

Stop 1 is Clear Creek Distillery , 2389 NW Wilson St., Portland, OR

A great place to begin any tour, it’s almost all alone on the west side so we hit it first and get it out of the way.  The tastings here are also free so it’s a nice place to stop just about any day they’re open.  Clear creek runs a wide variety of Fruit Liqueurs, grappa, eau de vie and brandy in both pear and apple.  They also release a small batch whiskey called McCarthy’s which usually sells out in about a month after they release it in march.  The part I like is that while you only get 5 samples if you bring friends you can pass them around a bit and get a little of everything.

Stop 2 New Deal Distillery 900 SE Salmon

We cross the river and head to the first of our east bank locations.  New deal makes some good stuff too.  I like their #1 gin, Hot Monkey pepper vodka and ginger Liqueur.  They’re also always doing something new so it’s worth a visit any time.  I pick up my passport here more often than not.  The last time I was there you got a free shot glass as part of your tasting which brought my count of them up to 3.  They’ve moved since the last time I was there, can’t wait to see their new location.

Stop 3 Vinn Distillery 833 SE Main St. Ste 125

Practically right across the street from New deal this tiny hole in the wall is a tasting room for a distillery in wilsonville.  They make a traditional rice Baijiu and rice vodkas.  They weren’t really to my taste, I may stop in again this year to see if they have anything new but I doubt i’ll linger.  Give them a shot, the rice vodka is a nice change for the gluten free crowd.

Stop 4: Bunk Bar 1028 SE Water Ave

A bit of a divergence from the straight line but this is the point in the tour where the drink starts to catch up with breakfast.  Bunk bar is a wonderful little spot where you can get a pork belly cubano, Roasted Poblano Torta or even a PB & J, side of debris fries and even order a decent cocktail.  Their shelves are pretty well stocked, lots of local stuff and even a few things like Maraschino liqueur that you don’t often see.  Their menu drinks are often Beer+ which doesn’t help me much but they all sound interesting at the least.  Grab a sandwich and go or sit and let the last 3 places settle before heading out again.

Stop 5: House Spirits 2025 SE 7th Ave

A bit further out than the next stop would suggest but I have a reason.  House carries a wide array of spirits, everything from gin to aquavit to a white dog whiskey.  Their tasting tends to be a little more varied than some of the other places which specialize a bit more in one kind of spirit or another.  Additionally this is the point where heat, botanicals and liquor start to cause burn out.  Go light here, taste what looks good but don’t get carried away there are still a couple more places ahead.

Stop 6: Eastside Distilling 1512 SE 7th Avenue (at Hawthorne)

Best for last (so to speak).  Eastside has continued to impress me every time I go.  Over the holidays they had egg nog, holiday spice liqueur, and peppermint bark, On top of their line of already very drinkable rums, bourbon and vodka.  Try everything, you won’t be disappointed.  I’m a big fan of their double barrel bourbon and their burnside bourbon as well as the rums.

Stop 7 Pacific Pie Company 1520 SE 7th Ave (Last Stop)

Literally next door to Eastside Distilling is a pie shop.  It’s probably 5-5:30 by now, you’re toasted lightly from the heat, sauced and full of lord knows how many herbs, botanicals and crazy concoctions.  The best thing for you is Pie.  Their menu changes regularly but they offer a majestic line of both sweet and savory pies and pasties.  If you can get it I recommend the strawberry margarita pie or the chocolate bourbon hazelnut.  In addition their bar offers a lovely line of cocktails featuring the best of everything i’ve listed so far.  For $8 you can get anything from a Tom Collins with Aviation Gin to a Bondi using Hot Monkey Vodka.

Alternates for this coming year:  I’ve still got a few months planning to do so i’ve been poking around to see how I might change things up.  The following are options that i’ve seen around town.

Breakfast: Leave much earlier and stop at the Oven and Shaker 1134 NW EVERETT.  They have a brunch menu which starts at 11:30.  Not ideal time wise but a ham plate, gravlax or pizza with duck eggs sounds delightful.  And they have some cocktails there like the French 75 that would make for a nice opener.

Westside additions: Bull Run Distilling 2259 NW Quimby Street

Only about 6 blocks from Clear creek I found out about these guys at a friend’s birthday when someone presented him with a bottle of their Temperance Trader Bourbon

Rogue Distillery 1339 NW Flanders St,

One of the bigger names in the local brewing scene they still make rum, whiskey and gin which might make them worth a try.

Review: Volstead Vodka (House Spirits)

Periodically I like to pick up a passport and do the portland Distillery row.  Usually around my birthday, a couple of friends will pile into a car with a designated driver and we’ll make a point to hit everywhere that we can.

I’ll post the route I usually run along with a timetable another time since I think if you haven’t done it at least once you’re missing out.

On my first trip through I somehow missed the brightest star in the bunch which is House Spirits.  My second time through I did catch it and I found there a vodka unlike just about any other I had tasted.  Softer than Crater Lake, smoother than Stoli and with none of the offensive marketing BS of Svedka or Grey Goose.  That spirit is Volstead Vodka.  Made with the very sweet bull run water and filtered over charred coconut husks this thing is a monster of a good vodka.

Volstead old

The first bottle I bought, I refused to let my buddy mix it with anything and we sat around doing straight shots of this until we had demolished most of the bottle.

When I heard that it had finally come back in stock with a new label I dropped everything I was doing and went to grab another bottle.  It was 5:45 and their tasting room closed at 6.  I had already exhausted all of the local liquor stores so I knew the only chance I’d have to get a bottle was to hit their tasting room directly.  Thankfully I had another friend with me who was as excited as I was about this vodka and he drove like a madman to get us there before they closed.

volstead new

I really like the older apothecary style bottle with the cork rather than the screw cap but you still can’t beat the fact that at $19.99 a bottle this stuff blows the doors off of just about anything else on the shelf.

You can find House Spirits products in at least 15 states and from a number of online retailers, I didn’t have any luck getting volstead from any of the retailers listed on the House spirits website but keep trying, it’s only been back for about 2 weeks now so it may just take some time to get around to all the places.

My rating: 5/5 Shakers.

Buy it if you like vodka, if you want something to mix that doesn’t burn out your nostrils or if you want to fill out a bar with good inexpensive liquor.

Devil's Bit

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I picked up this little beauty on st Patrick’s day this year.  Devils bit is a small batch whiskey made by mcmenamins edgefield distillery.  I don’t know how long they age it but they only release a couple of hundred bottles every year.  I made it out to the Cornelius pass roadhouse at around noon the day of the release and they had only 29 bottles left out of their 100 allotment.  For such a small pint it is a fantastic Irish whiskey.  I definitely plan to grab another two bottles next year.

Update: I did get my bottles for 2014, My good friend Evan made the run out to CPR to pick them up.  I haven’t cracked them yet but they look a lot darker.