October 23rd, 2010 | by RUTH BROWN Food & Drink |

Portland Cocktail Week: Meet the Bartenders

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Many of Portland and America's best "mixologists"—that's a fancy word for "bartenders"—are gathered here for Portland Cocktail Week. With such a wealth of knowledge on all things boozy in the one place, we cornered a few of the cocktail world's movers and shakers at the bar:

Craig HermannCraig Hermann
Bartender at Thatch Tiki Bar in Portland


Favorite drink right now?
Three Dots and a Dash. It's a mix of Martinique rum, Demerara rum, orange juice, lime juice, honey, something called pimento dram—which is an all-spice liqueur—and something called falernum—which is a ginger, almond, spiced-lime liqueur. It's really gorgeous. It's kind of hot and spicy and balanced, and it was invented at the Las Vegas Don the Beachcomber's in... 1947? No, it had to be before that, because it was "V for victory"—because three dots and a dash is morse code for "V for victory", so it had to be World War II.

Favorite ingredient right now?
White grapefruit—I've got five of them in my trunk right now that are going to be turned into Three Dots and a Dash and Navy Grogs later on.

Worst drink you've ever made?
Once we got an order for a "diet vodka Red Bull". But I think the worst drink I ever made was when someone wanted a Gimlet, but we didn't have lime cordial, just lime juice, so it turned out to be a gin sour.

Secret drinking shame?
Seven and Seven. Seagram's 7 Blended American Whiskey and 7UP.

What cocktail trend needs to die?
Celebrity bartenders.

What's the next big trend?
Everyone says "service", but I think the new fad is going to be "acceptance"—less snobbery and elitism between bartenders and customers.

Best bar snack?
Pok Pok's Vietnamese hot chicken wings.

What's the most under-rated bar in Portland?
The Mock Crest Tavern in North Portland on Lombard. They've got decent liquor behind the bar, good beer, they're very welcoming and they have really great food.

Erick CastroErick Castro
Former bartender at Rickhouse in San Francisco


Favorite drink right now?
Same as it was yesterday and tomorrow, and that's an Old Fashioned.

Favourite ingredient right now?
Salt.

Worst drink you've ever made?
Any drink I have to make for myself.

What's your secret drinking shame?
I love White Russians! Those are great cocktails.

Which cocktail trend needs to die?
Sour on the gun.

What's the next big cocktail trend?
I think Amari is only going to continue to grow. Everything from a mariner to amaro fernet.

Favorite bar in Portland?
Mary's.

Adam RobinsonAdam Robinson
Bar Manager at Park Kitchen in Portland


Favorite drink right now?
My go-to drink is always an Old Fashioned. It's something that can be any spirit, and every bartender does it a little bit different—kind of like a dealer's choice type thing. If people behind the bar know what they're doing, it can be a different drink every time.

Favorite ingredient right now?
I'm pretty new to Oregon from New York, so I just like the local spirit scene here. I try to use a lot of local ingredients whenever possible, and I love that here. It's unique—the sheer number of spirits being produced in Oregon right now is staggering. And it's awesome, from a bartender's perspective.

Worst drink you've ever made?
A Spanish Coffee at 8pm when I'm in the weeds is my least favorite drink to make. I can make a mean Spanish Coffee, but just when it happens at 8 o'clock—I don't keep whipped cream around, I make maybe one or two a week—so at 8 o'clock on Friday when everyone comes in, it throws a wrench into my gears. But I'm a bartender, my goal is to serve the customer.

Secret drinking shame?
It used to be Sparks, but I haven't had one in about a year.

Which cocktail trend needs to die?
Pretentiousness, cliquey-ness. It's on its way out, the new thing's hospitality—serving your customer, making sure your customer is having a good time. You don't see it so much in Portland, but in bigger cities, you do see an exclusivity between certain levels of bartenders. I don't like that—I just want to have fun and make good drinks.

Next big trend?
Everyone's saying "rum," but I'm trying to think what's after that. It's really going to be craft, local spirits. And that's been a trend, but you're seeing micro-distilleries pop up all over the country. Two just opened in Brooklyn.

What's the most under-rated bar in Portland?
Spint's Ale House. With a name like "Spint's Ale House" you just think "beer." But they actually have a really incredible cocktail program. The chef there, Alyssa, she makes crazy liqueurs. She has a corn liqueur. She's got a smoked banana liqueur. She's got a really got list over there.

Best bar food?
Charcuterie.

Jason LittrellJason Litrell
Bartender at Dram and Death and Co. in New York


Favorite drink right now?
Whatever my customers want.

Favorite ingredient right now?
St Germain has always been very good to bartenders. They call it "bartenders' ketchup" or "bartenders' duct-tape". It just makes everything better.

Worst drink you've ever made?
I had a customer one time specify exactly what they wanted in their cocktail, to the recipe. And I made it for them. I had no choice—they asked specifically for this drink, and it was awful. And I had to give it to them, because it was exactly what they wanted.

Secret drinking shame?
Well if I told you, it wouldn't be a secret then, would it?

Which cocktail trend needs to die?
Bartenders that are in it for the money.

Next big trend?
Hopefully hospitality. Giving a shit about what you do. Making good drinks is not enough. Being very perceptive of your guests' experience at your bar, THAT is the important thing. And I think that's coming back. We all work at very small bars, but the concept of us giving customers a drink as a "gift"? I think that's what's going out right now. I think people coming into our bars—that's the gift.

Best bar snack?
I'm a huge fan of popcorn.

Best bar in Portland?
It's gotta be Teardrop Lounge. I love Clyde Common, and there are so many amazing bars—like Thatch, Beaker & Flask—so many awesome bars coming up in this town. But I've gotta go with Teardrop Lounge. The meticulous attention to detail? That really turns me on. Plus they've got a sense of humor about it.
 
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