October 25th, 2010 | by RUTH BROWN Food & Drink |

Portland Cocktail Week: Meet (more) Bartenders

bartend



As Portland Cocktail Week winds up in one big messy hangover, we caught up with more of the top-shelf local and visiting bartenders hanging around Portland's bars on the weekend.

audreyAudrey Saunders
Owner of Pegu Club in New York


Favorite drink right now?
I don't have one. We've created so many drinks, it's like having kids. Every one has a different personality, you birth every one of them. We sit there and work through a drink up to a hundred times. When you go through it that much, it's kind of like going through labor, in a bizarre sense. Then you put it out into the world, and you love it, hang out with it, and create another one.

Favorite ingredient right now?
Right now it's Fall, so I'd probably want to go back to cranberries.

What's your secret drinking shame?
The other night we were drinking toasted almonds with vodka in them—Kahlua, Amaretto, milk and vodka, and it was really damn delicious.

Best drinking food?
For sour-based cocktails, cuisines like Caribbean, Mexican, Indian—things that have a spicy, citrusy cocktails. When you look at a Martini? Maybe devilled eggs. Aquavit? Maybe salmon.

dugganDuggan McDonnell
Owner of Cantina in San Francisco


What's your favorite drink at the moment?
I've always been a wine man. I like bright, high-acid white wines. Second to that, is my own brand, Campo de Encanto Pisco. After that I drink sherry. What an old lady I am. But these are delicious things.

Favorite ingredient at the moment?
Meyer lemons. Because they're perfect.

Worst drink you've ever made?
Lately I've been hired by the "Got Milk?" campaign to make cocktails. It's a real challenge to make cocktails with leche versus cream. Because classically, most cocktails that call for milk are like fatty, creamy milks, not the usual stuff you find in the grocery store today. I suck. I went through a massive trial and error process—a Brandy Milk Punch? Couldn't make it? A Ramos Gin Fizz with milk? Doesn't work. My drinks completely suck with milk.

Trend you'd like to see die?
Pretentiousness.

Next big trend?
Everything is going south. Tequila is in the north of Mexico. Now what's hot? Mezcal. What's below Mezcal? Well, rum is there, but I think we're going to skip through rum, honestly. Then there's cachaca and pisco.

Secret drinking shame?
I used to—ten years ago—I used to work for Amazon.com, from home as a commuter. Next to my hard-drive, I had a box of wine. At home, I'd drink shitty red wine, literally in a coffee cup. I still indulge in shitty wine. Cheap wine I love.

Most under-rated bar in Portland?
God, the lighting in Doug Fir is fucking perfect. Sitting at those counters with those funny swivel seats? I would drink there for hours.

Best drinking food?
The classic bar snack of a hard-boiled egg, cracked open and salted. You leave them at the bar tap, people can crack them and salt and pepper them.

daveDave Shenaut
Bartender at Beaker & Flask in Portland


Favorite drink right now?
A Vieux Carre, a classic from 1960s New Orleans. Benedictine, rye, cognac, sweet vermouth and bitters. So it's like an Old Fashioned but it's got these savory, sweet qualities.

Favorite ingredient right now?
Agave spirits.

Worst drink you've ever made?
Sex on the Beach.

What's your secret drinking shame?
I like boilermakers—dropping shots into beers.

Trend you'd like to see die?
Red Bull.

Next big trend?
I think carbonated cocktails are going to become more and more trendy. They do that in Seattle, at Vessel. You create a regular cocktail and then carbonate it, so force bubbles into it.

Most under-rated bar in Portland?
Park Kitchen. It's not known for its bar, it's known for its food, but I think Adam Robinson's doing a really killer job. He's making really great cocktails there.

Best bar food?
Pork rillette tots—[tater tots] cooked in fat then deep fried.

jacobJacob Grier
Bartender at Metrovino in Portland


Favorite drink right now?
The Boulevardier—it's the predecessor of the Negroni. It's usually made with bourbon, sweet vermouth or Campari. I usually like it with either rye whiskey or geneva. It's just a simple drink, it's got the Italian bitter element to it, very classic, great aperitif cocktail. Good for cold weather.

Favorite ingredient right now?
I've been really liking the Smith and Cross Jamaican rum. It's a very funky, pot-stilled rum, high proof. Just using a small amount in a cocktail can add a really interesting element to it.

Worst drink you've ever made?
We had one night at my restaurant where Lemon Drops with Splenda rims caught on.

Your secret drinking shame?
The infamously named Car Bomb— Jameson Irish Whiskey, Bailey Irish Cream, dropped into Guinness.

Next big trend?
I think we're at the phase where quality is more about spreading now, we've reached a really high level in the craft and now it's just about expanding that so the drinks at your average bar keep getting better, as opposed to just in mixology. Sort of parallel to coffee a few years ago, where specialty coffee was new for everybody and now t's about raising the bar in your average coffee shop.

Most under-rated bar in Portland?
Biwa. Biwa's bartenders are really into exploring with home-made ingredients and different spirits than other bars are using. They're known for their restaurant, but their bar doesn't seem to get as much attention.

Best drinking food?
Late-night Pad Thai at Whiskey Soda Lounge.

brandonBrandon Wise
Bartender at Irving Street Kitchen in Portland


Favorite drink right now?
It's a drink that I put on my menu recently. It's called the Old Curmugeon, named after yours truly, by someone else. It is single-barrel Buffalo Trace bourbon, pepper jelly, Cynar, Aperol, home-made grapefruit bitters—there's all these interesting flavors and textures. I did have a drink at Teardrop Lounge recently that Daniel just put on the menu, it's called The Search For Delicious. It's like two ounces Cynar, and ounce of Punt e Mes [vermouth], salt, lemon juice, etcetera. It's such a nerdy drink. It's a Portland drink.

Favorite ingredient?
The egg—like quail egg.

Worst drink you've ever made?
I recently had a guest come in and ask for something non-alcoholic, that was interesting, but it couldn't have citrus in it. So I tried to do a Coke float, like deconstruct that and do it a couple of different ways. And before I added the Coke, I did a little straw taste and tried it and it was absolutely ghastly.

Secret drinking shame?
St Germain, Aperol and soda. It's too refreshing and it's one of those pink drinks people avoid ordering.

Trend you'd like to se die?
The impersonal, self-proclaimed "startender" or mixologist. Bringing the personality back to the bar. Remembering that it's a service—it's hospitality.

Next big trend?
I think Daniel's Search For Delicious is part of the trend—ingredients that on their own are not something you would sip on, or are meant to be complementary, but flipped upside down as a feature.

Most under-rated bar in Portland?
I'd say June. The bar at June, it's a small place. Kelley Swenson, formerly of Ten-01, mans that bar. And I know they're new, but I feel like the quality that they provide, and the consistency—people should flock to the bar there more. He's a talented guy in a great neighborhood. A fantastic combination of food and drink. People should find a barstool there.

Best drinking food?
Totchos.

neilNeil Kopplin
Bartender at Clyde Common in Portland


Favorite drink right now?
Vespa. It has to be an Oregon vodka, Oregon gin, and a locally-produced vermouth called Imbue. That's a shameless plug, 'cause I made it, but that's honestly my favorite drink right now. Just delicious. All locally sourced ingredients.

Worst drink you've ever made?
Oh my dear God. When I worked at Blue Hour, I had a dream about this guacamole-margarita hybrid. And I muddled up avocado and cilantro, and added tequila, fresh lime and sugar, and then shook it and served it straight-up. And it was VILE. It was terrible. In theory, that should work. But it just didn't.

Secret drinking shame?
I drink a lot of Old German. O.G. out of the can. Jim Beam, as well. I actually don't have a whole lot of shame about Jim Beam—that stuff is just delicious—but it's not cool to drink Jim Beam.

Next big trend?
From my point of view, I think craft cocktailing has kind of reached its apex. There's a lot of craft cocktail bars. So I think you're going to see things simplify a little bit. I think you're going to see people taking the concept of craft cocktailing and simplifying it down to like hand-crafted soda bars, where you've got the sprits on the back bar, but you've also got 12-15 sodas that you make yourself that blend really nicely, like on tap or the old-school soda fountain. So it's a rum with hand-made lemon-lime soda, or it's gin with a handmade tonic-soda. Simple but well-executed and easy.

Most under-rated bar in Portland?
North 45. They're open late, they have great late-night food, their bartenders know what they're doing, they have an amazing whiskey selection, an amazing spirits selection, they're very hospitable. It doesn't get a whole lot of press but it just sings awesomeness every time you go in there.

Best bar food?
Popcorn.

suzannaSuzanne Allard
Bartender at Gilt Club in Portland


Favourite drink right now?
An Old Pal. It's bourbon or rye, Campari and dry vermouth.

Favourite ingredient right now?
Peach pickling liquid! I use it with gin, dry vermouth, cherry bitters, and also absinthe.

Worst drink you've ever made?
Holy cow—Chambord, Bacardi and Bailey's. Layered! The worst.

Cocktail trend that needs to die?
Mojitos.

Next big trend?
Shrubs.

Secret drinking shame?
Wine wine from the 7-Eleven.

Most under-rated bar in Portland?
Speakeasy [Tavern]. It's a lovely punk-rock bar, you're always welcome. When you walk in, they know what you want, they know what you drink. They have pinball and they have reasonable prices and they're lovely, awesome people.

Best bar food?
Hot wings.

jimJim Romdall
Bar Manager at Vessel in Seattle


Favorite drink right now?
Scotch.

Favorite ingredient to play with?
Probably a bottle of Mangalore that I got from Canada, which is sort of a chili all-spice liqueur.

Worst drink you've ever made?
Two ounces of Louis XIII over ice with a splash of soda water.

What trend needs to die?
The Pickle Back. It just didn't do it for me, I didn't jump on the band-wagon.

Next big trend?
Spirits. We're getting to a point where if you ask bartenders what they drink when they go to a bar? A shot and a beer. We're getting to the point where our palates, our customers' palates—the people who got into cocktails a few years ago—now their palates are going into boozier cocktails, without citrus. We're getting far more into spirits than cocktails.

Most under-rated bar in Portland?
Laurelhurst Market. It's not THAT under-rated, but because it's a restaurant. Evan Zimmerman runs an amazing program there, and I think the most definitive quality about it is that whether he's there or not, it's still as good of a program, and it's in a restaurant. That is one of the most definitive factors about a great bar—consistency, even though the person behind the bar program is not there.

jennJenn Hegstrom
Bartender at Pope House Bourbon Lounge in Portland


Favorite drink right now?
I just made up the Cinna-Manhattan. Two ounces of bourbon, a half-ounce of Antica, cinnamon syrup and orange bitters, garnished with a cinnamon stick.

Worst drink you've ever made?
There was an article in Forbes magazine about the 10 most fattening drinks—a Long Island Iced Tea has 750 calories in it! Ninety-five percent of the time, anyone who orders a Long Island, they're either one: 21 years old, or two: they want to get fucked-up really quickly.

Secret drinking shame?
I love Fernet. It's my before the night, it's my end of the night.

Trend you'd like to see die?
Super fruity, nasty shots. The club shots. People who are giving themselves a self-induced hangover. When you come out to go drinking, I want you to remember it, I want you to have fun. Yeah, shots are OK here and there, but let me at least make your experience happy. You're going to wake up and like me, not hate me!

Most under-rated bar in Portland?
Moloko, also known as "the white bar." They're kind of a hole-in-the-wall, not everybody knows about them, but they have fantastic drinks and a lot of infusions. They know what they're doing.

Best drinking food?
Bar Bar burgers. Amazing.
 
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