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Ed Note (This info is obviously a little out of date,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


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.

Mello Greetings Citizen

Welcome to the collision of my only two skills.  Technology and drinking.  Mostly drinking.  I’m going to spend the massive amount of free time I have here trying to get a grip on the modern cocktail culture, some of the gadgets that i’ve found, built or repurposed for making awesome mixed drinks and a lot about the various distilleries, bars and pubs that I find in and around the portland area.  SLAINTÉ.Image

French 75 : Drink Review


This is the French 75 as served at Oven and Shaker where I had a lovely mother’s day brunch.

I first learned about this drink from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, where it sits as a somewhat odd duck.  I think the major reason it’s there is that most bar guides call for it to be made with cognac instead of gin.

Oven and shaker goes for the Gin version, putting 1oz of the local Aviation Gin, 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice, 1/2 oz simple syrup and 3oz champagne.

Vintage spirits calls for about double the gin and lemon and a garnish of a lemon spiral and a cherry.  The addition here of a california strawberry that you could eat like a handfruit was a nice touch.

A smooth drink that gives credence to gun that gives it the name.  My mother was the one who ordered this and she thought it was a touch heavy on the lemon, I felt that with a bite of strawberry it came out just right.  Seeing the recipe in vintage spirits with double the lemon makes me think they’re using a poorer quality gin at Dr. Cocktails house.  Aviation works wonders here and I think this will be making an appearance at my own house around new years, when I have a bottle of champagne to use up.

Bar Review: Oven and Shaker

I had the opportunity to have brunch at Oven and Shaker with my mother, Valerie.  During the Northwest Foodservice show I was privileged to meet Ryan Magarian one of the fine minds behind the place and it inspired me to check the place out and see some of his philosophy in action.

First impressions were nice, it was clean well decorated and lively even at 11:30 AM.  Lots of dark wood, big mirrors and the emphasis on the view out the big front windows as well as the impressive bar.

I wish I had my better camera to really capture the size of the bar on this place.  It’s not so much the seats but the rack of liquor behind the bartenders that impresses.  Looking down the row was a who’s who of local favorites, oddball things I haven’t had a chance to try yet and curious selections.  Everything from the Clear Creek Eau de Vie Douglas fir to the selection of bitters was on display and made for a fun side game looking for specific things.  The only thing I couldn’t find that surprised me was a lack of Galliano.  Not a common thing for sure but with the amount of one offs in the selection it was a small surprise.

I had two drinks, a Pineapple train wreck and a Botticelli,  and my mother a French 75 and a coffee.  Here is the drink selection for the day we went, It changes frequently so expect something new by the time you read this.


The brunch menu was nice and we picked the Ham Plate and the Eggs Purgatory.

I liked the Ham, really wished for more of the biscuits and less of the pimento cheese.  The eggs were great, a little focaccia and marinara.  Mom said the coffee tasted a bit sharp, like they were using espresso beans in the roast, but I think it was more likely the french press.

I would have loved to try a full pizza and will certainly look to get something more substantial next time I go.

I can’t seem to convey how impressive the bar actually was.  Every station was perfect.  All the bitters, juices and items you could need and not a movement was wasted.  I didn’t see the bartender make anything from off the shelf but he did a number of drinks including the three we ordered without having to move a foot.  There was only one guy on duty that morning but there were easily three other stations ready to go for the evening crowd.

The volume of good quality ingredients on that shelf was intimidating.  I hope to one day have a bar that looks that complete.  I could probably have pulled out anything in my current repertoire and had it made in a flash.

The syrups and honey that they use in a lot of their signature drinks really intrigue me and I think next time I go I’m going to try to sample them on their own.  One of my current plans is to start making some more unique simple syrups and growing my own herbs to use in making things like a chocolate mint demerara syrup.

In addition to the alcohol there was an entire shelf of bar guides, cookbooks, mixology manuals and even a whiskey and spirits for dummies.  I can’t say that they’re all for show, Some are pretty well thumbed and there were some pretty major names on there.  (The PDT Cocktail book, Flavor bible and a whole set of Food & Wine guides just to name a few.)

One thing that really interested me; I spotted my favorite vodka on a smaller shelf and knowing that Ryan had also been a co-founder of House Spirits it wasn’t surprising to see Volstead in his bar.  But what the bartender told me was that the whole shelf was the owner’s reserve and that they weren’t allowed to pour from those bottles.  I snapped a photo and there are some very nice and very rare things on there.  I couldn’t identify more than a couple but try it yourself when you go, it’s neat to get a glimpse into what a professional keeps in his private stock.


Review: Burnside Bourbon


One of the most surprising products to come out of any of the local distilleries has been Burnside Bourbon.  There are a number of whiskeys both aged and unaged.  Everything from pendleton to hogshead to white dog has made an appearance.  Many of them are new and still finding their feet, several are well on their way even if you can’t find a bottle to save your soul.

Burnside Bourbon comes from Eastside Distilling, in my opinion the one with the best location in town.  They are right next door to the pacific pie company which means good booze and good pie within stumbling distance of each other.

Aside from a bevy of fine rums Eastside has also produced some of the best holiday liqueurs and the Bourbon which I present to you tonight.  There are actually two Bourbons here, the normal Burnside and the Burnside Double Barrel.

Burnside on its own is a fantastic product, and I say that as someone who is not a huge fan of whiskey in general.  As noted in my drink review of the manhattan this stuff is smooth and complex enough to obviate the need for a lot of complicated mixers.  A quality product needs no footmen to bring it around but an excellent product can sing with the choir and not outshine the rest of the group.   This, I think, is Burnside’s real strength.  Having mixed it into a few other cocktails it seems to shine on every occasion bringing smoky notes and complex flavor to the event and never trying to bury the rest of the drink.  What makes this particularly amazing is that Burnside is a slightly higher proof than some others on the market so even with the extra alcohol the product isn’t a kick in the teeth.

I picked up a bottle of Burnside at the pathetic liquor store up the street from my house which means it should be kicking around almost anywhere else in portland.  About $30 should see you into a bottle.  Not cheap but not on the high end either.

Now about that Double Barrel.  If you have the money to drop for it I strongly advise it.  It’s a small batch spirit which means you won’t find it in any of the other stores in town.  You have to visit the tasting room to get some but it is worth the trip and the money.  At much closer to $55 a bottle the extra 60 days in the Oregon white oak puts a spit and polish on this spirit like you won’t believe.  I’m getting another bottle as soon as I can but it’s going into the back of the cabinet away from prying eyes and grubby mitts.

The Old Fashioned


If you do even the most casual of research, the title “Old Fashioned” can be applied to a list of drinks as long as your arm.

Some include the makings of a fruit cocktail to rival a Hawaiian hotel Mai-tai.  Some are splashed with soda water and twists of this and that.  Over the years as things have progressed in drink culture the “Old Fashioned” has become more of an expression of the cocktail than a recipe itself.

Even the description of an Old Fashioned is vague enough to cover an entire range of drinks.  made by muddling dissolved sugar with bitters then adding alcohol, such as whiskey or brandy, and a twist of citrus rind.

Without even having to nit pick you have an open ended listing for the sugar, the main spirit and the type of citrus.  The only core components here are sugar and muddling.

The Dr. Cocktail recipe I snagged from my copy of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails doesn’t even get into amounts it simply decries the rather mishmash nature of the drink up to present and then exhorts the reader to make it as he selects which is 2 dashes angostura bitters, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, a few drops of water , a broad swathe of orange peel and a good rye or bourbon.

I made this version myself and I can say that it isn’t bad.  I used Regans Orange Bitters and the new bottle of Burnside Bourbon I picked up.  I’m still a bit new at muddling but I’m going to poke around and see if there really is anything to it.  Soak the sugar with water until it’s moist, add bitters and muddle with orange peel.  An ounce and a half of bourbon and a short stir later and you’re in business.

After a few sips I can see the desire to play around with this.  Orange peel and orange bitters give it a nice aroma and the taste is fine.  A dash of Orange Curacao would I think give it the same effect and indeed that is common for a number of Old Fashioned versions.  As cocktails go this is about as simple as a pink gin.  Liquor + bitters = drink.  I have to say that if you’re buying a good rye or bourbon that there isn’t much of a need for the orange or the sugar.  They don’t offset the alcohol flavor in any way you’d note and they do play fast and loose with the bourbon flavors which can be quite subtle.

Given that bitters and a muddling stick aren’t going to be commonplace at the lower class of household bar I think this one can stay on the shelf and I’ll have my bourbon neat.

Review: Coole Swan

cooleswanListed as a Superior Cream Liqueur this thick milky beverage comes straight from Dublin Ireland. At about $34 for a 750ml this is certainly the top shelf for irish cream. As a comparison I was seeing Bailey’s the shelf below at $18-20 and some of the knockoff brands as low as 6-8. So for a four times markup this had better be fantastic.

This was first recommended to me by Derrick Schommer of Common man Cocktails. He swears by the stuff enough in his video reviews that it made me wonder.

Color on this is very nice, none of the tans or browns of most other creme liqueurs. A very bright white. Smell is pretty similar to most other creams I’ve had, no real scent of alcohol but those hints of whisky at the nose that ensure you’re talking about the real thing.

First taste is light on the tongue, second taste is much harder giving me the impression that once the cream gives you a tongue coating that the rest is getting a bit further back on the palate

I could sip this very easily, but I think that I would enjoy it more if I were an actual whisky drinker.cooleshot

I like the feel of the bottle, it has a nice even sided construction as opposed to the bulbous long necked baily’s bottles.

Mixes: I elected to do some of the more common things one might do with Irish Cream.

Hot Chocolate: As an additive and not a replacement this is an excellent addition. Full flavored without being a harsh kick it gives a smooth heavy cream sensation.

Kahlua or Coffee: I’m not a straight coffee drinker but I did mix this with the Below deck coffee rum. They don’t blend well being of very different weights but they do combine nicely in the mouth.

Buttershots: The slippery nipple is a pretty classic shot and I have to say that the addition of coole swan while not amazing was a good choice here as well.

Update: Sorry to say that likely due to the $35 price tag the OLCC stopped carrying this.  Sad Face.

Tools: Shakers

I’ve not had a serious opportunity to use many shakers in my testing so far but I can speak reasonably about some of the benefits.

My current shaker is a lovely Boston shaker that was purchased for me at Crate and Barrel for about $20.  What makes this model interesting as Bostons go is the rubber seal rim around the glass portion.  This makes the seal between the glass and metal a lot tighter and doesn’t rely on the fit of the glass itself.  One down side is that the rim is starting to crack after only about 4 months of infrequent use and I’m not sure a replacement is possible.  The hawthorn Strainer that I have also doesn’t fit well into the glass making me think it’s a bit more narrow than a standard pint glass you might find elsewhere.

I have a metal on metal Boston purchased by another friend which I have only used once or twice having received both at around the same time.  I like having some visibility on what i’m shaking which also means the metal on metal has stayed in the cupboard.  I may take the larger half and a pint glass as a replacement if the rubber rim on my crate and barrel job fails entirely.

I had previously a nice metal shaker of a more traditional style with the strainer built into the top.  It was fine for myself but once I started mixing for friends it became a hindrance as it was not full sized and could hold at best a third of the volume of my current rig.  I would go back to that style again as I enjoy not having to wash an extra tool but it is my understanding from more professional bartenders that this style tends to gum up or freeze shut with prolonged use and can be more of a chore to clean between drinks than a separate strainer.

My next purchase is likely to be a Mason Shaker.  At 32oz this monster lets you mix some serious drinks.  I attempted to do some larger drinks at a recent convention and I think after 2 servings my current selection simply cannot hold the volumes required.  Being fitted to a Mason jar allows for both the built in strainer as well as glass sides to observe the process.  It’s not classy by any stretch but it will do when one needs to mix 4-5 drinks at once without having to stop and re-ice your shaker between runs.  I can foresee this being a much more two handed affair but at $29 i’m actually impressed with some of the quality i’ve seen.

An insulated shaker may be my next purchase.  The loss of heat in the shaking process means wet ice, watery drinks and the like.  Instead of having to change ice more frequently or change out shakers for one more recently inside the freezer this option seems like a way to keep the cold where it should be.

All picky business out of the way you really cannot undersell the benefits of shaking over any other method.  I have had drinks poured from one solo cup to another and there simply is something magical in the conversion going on inside a shaker.