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January 28th, 2004 KELLY CLARKE | Bite Club
 

820 PROOF

     
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LUCY BRENNAN
IMAGE: WYNDE DYER
Lucy Brennan plays by her own rules: shake, smile and slap it hard. Hell, Bite Club has lived by that mantra for years.

But in the case of Brennan--P-town's first lady of the cocktail--these commandments guide her sweet liquid philosophy.

Since September 2002, more than 350 people have attended Brennan's sporadic cocktail classes, snagging recipes for some of the 40 house cocktails she pours at her sleek North Portland dinner spot, Mint, and its dirty-little-sister-of-a-lounge, 820.

It seemed high time that the Bite Club-come-lately figured out what all the fuss was about. After all, this is a woman named one of the "Top Nine Bartenders in America" by Spirit, the in-flight magazine for Southwest Airlines. This is the woman whose inventive drinks--capitalizing on the rich flavors of everything from passion fruit to figs, from cilantro to beets--attracted cable types from the HGTV network to skulk around her bar.

She's become so damn popular we wondered why she's still teaching the masses, but Brennan explained that it's her way to get back behind the bar. She stopped mixing drinks at 820 and Mint because she was chatting with so many well-wishers she could barely complete her orders. "The classes are the best because I can be me," the mixologist says.

That's for sure. Until we attended her class, we didn't know Portland's biggest swizzle stick, who's planning her very own book of cocktails, would be so much fun.

"Cocktails are just building blocks," Brennan told our class of 10 eager students. "If you've got booze and fruit, you're good to go." The next two hours were a blur of pint glasses, plastic bottles of fruit purées and ribald jokes as Brennan launched us--warp speed--into the cocktail cosmos.

We learned to how to properly swirl Captain Morgan's Private Stock Rum into a mandarin-spiked Lucy's Sidecar.

We became expert rimmers--frosting big martini glasses with thick rings of extra-fine baker's sugar. We fondled our topless cocktail shakers after learning that only martini shakers have lids. Remembering Brennan's rules, we shook our shakers vigorously, smiled at imaginary customers, and sharply slapped our glasses to release frothy, perfectly mixed mindblowers like the blackberry Bella.

But the best part of class was listening to this top-shelf talent tell beer- and pretzel-guzzling mortals that we, too, could become savvy sip makers, if we drew upon fresh ingredients and a creative attitude.

"Making cocktails is like cooking," Brennan says.

"Just taste your ingredients and see what marries together. Everybody likes it a little different."

*

After tasting Brennan's clever little mix of figs and Absolut Vanilla--a drink that won a local cocktail contest sponsored by Absolut Vodka this month--we were just dying to earn a little extra credit by shaking up this belly warmer. In the name of libation education, Brennan graciously offered the recipe:

ABSOLUT MISSION

2 oz Absolut vanilla

1/4 oz ruby port

Splash lemon lime juice

Splash vanilla syrup

Teaspoon of fig purée

Shake, and then serve in a small martini glass. Garnish with an edible flower.


Cocktail Classes with Lucy, 820 Lounge, 820 N Russell St., 460-0820. 3:30-5 pm every last Sunday of the month. $50. Call for availability and reservations. Private-event classes also available.
 
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