Thursday, June 19, 2008

Our Trip to Portland Part II: Cocktails

OK, so we've established that Portland is a hotbed for coffee and beverages in the coffee family. It was a double delight; however, to realize that this city is also chock-full of creative and innovative bartenders!
We spent each day and each meal trying various tipples at places like Ten01, Toro Bravo, and Clyde Common, (we saved the Teardrop Lounge for our next visit) and each one was more delightful and playful than the one before. Having seen the interesting mixtures and pure craftsmanship at work, I saw a wonderful opportunity here, and not just to get elegantly drunk!
There is a growing literature about the art of pairing cocktails with meals, a la a glass of vino. Mixology is starting to push past the simple Happy Hour and periphery of meals and get right up next to the pastas, steaks, salads, and poultry dishes of the modern foodie. This allows the insightful drinker to not only get to try more cocktails, but also to accentuate and augment both food and drink. This, my friends, is synergy!
The best example came at our final dinner of our vacation at a restaurant called Park Kitchen.
The bartender clearly had a variegated and challenging menu, and my first drink was a wonderful play on the Manhattan called Battle of the Whiskies. I received two different drinks, one made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon, the other with Maker's Mark. Needless to say, the gold standard of bourbon won the day. Onward Maker's Mark!
My main course was a beautiful piece of halibut poached in a chorizo infused liquid. Nothing on the cocktail menu seemed up to the challenge, so I asked if the bartender would be up to crafting something on the spot. I am SO glad I asked!
Just as my food arrived, so too did a glimmering opaque beverage in a martini glass with a mint leaf garnish. The bartender brought it himself, and with a huge smile, said how much fun he had in the crafting. He divulged the ingredients, but I didn't have the chutzpah to ask for the actual recipe.
Hendricks gin
dry vermouth
housemade orange bitters
This was the most remarkable drink I've ever had, simply because of the way it joined hands with my meal and started to dance. This is definitely going to be the next frontier as I start to build a cocktail/food pairing repertoire.
As our amazing meal wrapped up, we had the opportunity to enjoy an after-dinner drink. Jess went with an amazing cream sherry, and I basically went off the reservation.
I am a huge fan of eaux de vie, and my eyes immediately went to that section of the drink menu, where I found eau de vie of DOUGLAS FIR!
Yup, right alongside the apple, pear, peach, and cherry brandies was a distillation of the venerable Douglas Fir tree.
The drink was a shiny green at the bottom of the glass, and the bouquet was absolutely massive! It smelled like a forest had just sprouted in my nose (spare me the nosehair comments, I trim like crazy!) The flavor was the single most unique flavor; rich, woodsy, sweet, spicy. It's a massive drink, and I coudn't finish the measure they brought me, but definitely an unforgettable experience.
Next time you stop by The Shapiro Lounge, you may just get the opportunity to try it. And please, if anyone has had profound cocktail and meal pairings, you must share in the comments section!


Jenny Weddel said...

I wouldn't mind a cocktail made out of the 'chorizo infused liquid' myself. Mmmm....

Steve and Kelley said...

Speaking of infusion....a fantastic drink was emjoyed on our recent escapade to London. A "nicotini" using Cuban cigar infused vodka. It was fantastic. The bartender tried many different cigars in varying proportions before coming up with his final creation. On top of that, he claims the equivalent amount of nicotine as a cigarette. So an extra little mood alterer without blackening the lungs.