Thursday, November 1, 2012

:: highlights of portland cocktail week 2012 ::

On Friday, we got back from a 7 night adventure in Portland centered around Portland Cocktail Week. In the tradition of Tales of the Cocktail and the Boston Cocktail Summit, I will start my posting quest with a best moments of PDXCW. Luckily, the long flight back gave me some time to compose my thoughts. Order here connotes nothing here:

Location: First off, just being in Portland was amazing. It felt safer, the people seemed more pleasant, and it had a higher than average quality and quantity of bars and coffee shops. Even the homeless people were polite and apologized when you walked by them as they were using the um, open-air facilities.
Fred doing public speaking?: One of the reasons I was at PDXCW was to give a talk on writing a book. It was great hanging out with my co-panelists of Natalie Bovis and Dave Stolte to discuss it all the night before at Kask. I made an audio recording of the seminar which I will post later, and thanks to our sessions sponsor Glenfiddich for making public speaking easier.
Best inter-city trashtalking: The dunk tank at Pig & Punch charity event was a lot of fun. The photo above was one I took (although the caption aspect was someone else's) and is of one of my two kills, namely Todd Richman, with the other one being Joe Fee. My favorite Richman heckle directed at me was, "Your city's hero is a janitor who knows math." Luckily, all this trash talk was for the kids and a lot of money was raised for a Portland school.
Just not Dale DeGroff: Another reason I was at PDXCW was to take Bar Smarts Advanced. I was praying that I did not have to impress Dale DeGroff during the drink making session; instead, I got Don Lee... who compiled a long list of critique. He prefaced it with the fact that none of these were counting against me, but the litany of complaints was his attempt to make me into a better technical bartender. Perhaps Dale would have been easier to please in the end.
Boston in the House: While it was great meeting all of the West Coast bartenders new and old (as well as bartenders from elsewhere), it was great to hangout with Boston bartenders including Corey, Sabrina, Chad, and John H. and Worcester's Dave and Joy. Also, we had our own DJ (TJ a/k/a Senator John) and photographer (Natasha Moustache) working the event.
Best booze-flavored food: Yellow and Green Chartreuse cream-filled donuts from Voodoo Donuts served at two events.
Best "It doesn't feel like Portland" moment: The tropical paradise of Hale Pele! We got to visit Blair (of BG Reynolds ex-Trader Tiki syrup and blog fame) and see his dream come true. Replete with thunderstorms and rainfall (not on the patrons) ever 15 minutes or so, as well as lots of classic Tiki drinks. The house originals will apparently be added once the bar becomes a more oiled machine. When we went, it felt like New Orlean's Cure bar in that it was filled with industry folk from the cocktail week.
Funniest seminar: Charlie Pap of the Windmill Lounge in Dallas did a seminar on shots. Besides a discussion on traditions for toasts and beverage choice, the jokes bandied about were amazing.
Best seminar on a spirit class: Tad Carducci and Todd Richman's Blinded by the Dark talk on amaros replete with the Zwack family in the audience (they released Unicum, the more bitter and complex forefather to Zwack liqueur, to the U.S. market later that week).  See next item below.
Best amaro tasted: Varnelli Amaro dell'Erborista. Honey, smoky, gentian, citrus peel, clove, with tea-like notes.
Runner up seminar on a spirit class: The Demystifying Vermouth one run by Giuseppe Gallo (Martini & Rossi), Neil Kopplin (Imbue Vermouth), and Junior Ryan (bartender, Clyde Commons).
Craziest event: The Jägermeister "Tankz ünd Drankz" event. They quickly answered the question of whether they were trying to make Jäger a craft cocktail ingredient (which it definitely can be), as it was a fun circus with an amusing photo booth and tons of swag. I was impressed at how intellectual people can look when they punch the lenses out of Jäger sunglasses. Above is a photo of Morganthaler explaining his Jäquiri (2 1/2 oz Jäger, 3/4 oz lime, 1/2 oz 2:1 simple) that was put into a frozen drink machine.
Best room at the Kennedy school during PDXCW: Tough call, but the Detention Room with free Fernet Branca shots might get it. The hidden Bacardi mixing room replete with free snacks and a teacher with a ruler (although sadly, she didn't smack anyone with it) was a close second.
Best event booth concept: For the "Red, White, and Booze" event honoring the 34 USBG chapters in attendance, the L.A. one set up a casting couch with faux-coked up sirens.
Best quotable quote I tweeted: "Sugar is the airbrushing of the cocktail world." by Todd Richman.
Best Drink of the Week: Luc-Lac's White Buddha. Recipe to follow in the next week or so.

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