Until recently, we’d never tasted Drambuie. Since we’re always down to try new flavors, we jumped at the opportunity to add it to our bar. Drambuie is a blend of scotch, honey, spices, and herbs. It’s extremely sweet, almost cloying, but it mixes well with just about any whisk(e)y without overpowering.
We mixed equal parts Maker’s Mark and Drambuie over ice. Anthony Caporale of Drambuie is calling the Maker’s mixture “Little Bit Rusty” because it’s basically a variation of the classic Rusty Nail (which mixes Drambuie with scotch). Honestly, we were a bit skeptical of Drambuie before we tasted it. We’re generally not very big on infusions or herbal blends with whiskey, but this liqueur does make a good accompaniment to any type of whiskey when you’re in the mood for something sweet.
Just in case you needed step-by-step instructions, here’s how to make a Little Bit Rusty:
1 part Drambuie
1 part bourbon
Stir in a mixing glass with ice, then pour into an old fashioned glass over ice. Garnish with a maraschino cherry if desired.
*Even though this nightcap was on Drambuie’s tab, we will always review products honestly. Contrary to popular belief, free drinks don’t automatically taste better.
Phew, long week. Happy Friday!
Michelle Ruocco has been shaking up cocktails at The Bent Brick since February and already the bar has seen a revitalization of its cocktail menu. The Bent Brick uses only domestic spirits in the bar, so Ruocco has supplemented the inventory with her own house-made liqueurs, cordials, and syrups. She changes the menu seasonally, pulling ingredients in from the kitchen’s stock of local farm produce, as well as harvesting herbs from The Bent Brick’s own patio garden.
For fall, Ruocco made an infused bourbon with butternut squash and mixed it with Root, herbal liqueur, and spices to come up with The Fall Back cocktail. To be honest, we were skeptical of a butternut squash bourbon, but after tasting the drink, we are converts. It is well balanced, with the squash taste hitting the palate first, then mellowing into the Root and spices. The bourbon flavor doesn’t get lost, and it’s the oaky vanilla notes that pull this cocktail together.
Being limited to domestic spirits hasn’t posed much of a problem for Ruocco, who noted that America is great at bourbon and other whiskies and Portland produces a number of delicious gins. At the time of our visit, half the drinks on the cocktail menu contained bourbon, which is just what we like to see. The Bent Brick’s well whiskey is Henry McKenna, a Heaven Hill Distilleries bourbon known for its high quality and low profile.
One of the greatest things about The Bent Brick is that they have an old fashioned on tap. Yes. You read that correctly. Old fashioned on tap. And it’s delicious! We asked for just a sample (pictured above), so it wasn’t served over the usual large ice cube, but since Ruocco pre-dilutes the drink, it didn’t really need the ice. She mixes up a big batch of bourbon with carefully measured sugar and bitters, then stirs it all with ice and strains it.
The Damson in Distress is one of Ruocco’s most recent inventions and she’s proud of its low alcohol content. Ruocco said “People aren’t looking to go out and get smashed anymore. They just want to enjoy themselves and enjoy the beverage.” This drink is really tasty and would be nice as an aperitif because it is bitter, tart, and juicy. It is made with whiskey, damson gin liqueur, blueberry syrup, lemon, egg white, and Angostura bitters.
We only tried one item off the food menu and it was one of the best charcuterie plates we’ve ever had. We’ve honestly never enjoyed paté and rillettes more than at The Bent Brick, possibly because they were lightly dusted with flakey salt and pickled shallots. The plate also included two lovely ham slices, pickled cucumbers, and surprisingly tasty pickled celery.
The Bent Brick
1639 NW Marshall St.
Portland, OR 97209
Even though this visit was on The Bent Brick’s tab, we will always review products and experiences honestly. Contrary to popular belief, free drinks don’t automatically taste better.
Here are a few of our photos from Portland Cocktail Week. We were so impressed by how well organized and professional the entire team was. The focus is equally on education and fun, and everyone from bartenders to bar owners to plain ol’ cocktail enthusiasts like us will find ample opportunities to learn about history, new developments, and best practices in the spirits industry.
We’re looking forward to next year’s Portland Cocktail Week and hope to see many of you there.
illustration by Emily Flake
We’re always looking for an opportunity to expand our knowledge, especially when it comes to cocktails, so we jumped at the opportunity to attend Portland Cocktail Week's The Story of Bitters class with Dale DeGroff. If you ever get the chance to learn about mixed drinks from a guy whose alias is King Cocktail and makes bitters with his face on the bottle, you should open your mindgrapes to some booklearnin’.
The class began with a brief history of bitters, including the creation of Angostura bitters in the 1830s as a stomach tonic and how the inclusion of bitters defined a cocktail. He then led us through a bitters tasting, which was essentially the same familiar process as tasting wine or whiskey (if you’d like to try this on your own).
The sequence of bitters we tasted were (from left to right) Angostura bitters, Boker’s, The Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters, DeGroff’s Pimento, and Fee Brothers Whiskey-Barrel Aged Bitters. After tasting the bitters on their own, he then had us sip each one mixed with rye whiskey. Then we were served a couple different manhattans (made with rye or bourbon and one of the sampled bitters) to taste how the different bitters interacted with the other ingredients to create variations of the classic Manhattan. While it might be tedious to get into the minute details of each cocktail and bitters, we did notice a wide variation in flavor. (For the record, our two favorite Manhattans were mixed with the Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters and The Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters.) Since we’re sure you’re curious, the Manhattan recipe used by DeGroff was as follows:
1½ oz. George Dickel rye
¾ oz. Sweet Dolin vermouth
½ oz. Dry Dolin vermouth
The general takeaway was that knowing your bitters will make you a better bartender. The Angostura bitters made a much sweeter Manhattan, while the Fee Brothers and DeGroff bitters made much for a much smoother overall texture. Every drinker will have a different preference. Our class of about 30 people was pretty evenly split on which of the five Manhattans was our favorite.
The event took place at Portland’s newest whiskey bar, the Multnomah Whisk(e)y Library. As wordnerds and whiskey lovers, we feel this place was created almost specifically for us. Not only does it have an extensive catalog of whisk(e)ys, but they accounted for every detail from library ladders on the back bar to dimly lit accountant lamps to create a very classic library atmosphere. Any library where drinking is encouraged is our kind of place.
There’s really no better way to start a Sunday morning than with a light cocktail and French pastry. Lillet, St. Jack, and Imbibe made that lovely experience possible with their Apéritif Cocktails 101 class for Portland Cocktail Week.
We were fairly new to Lillet, but thankfully Lady Lillet (AKA Amanda Victoria) taught a great class, which was full of students just as excited as we were.
Apéritifs are low in alcohol and intended to stimulate the appetite before a meal. Lillet, founded in 1872, is a fortified wine composed of 85% Bordeaux grapes and 15% macerated liqueur containing 10-12 different stone fruits, barks, and quinine.
Lillet Blanc is the original and the most popular Lillet product. It was created in 1872 (though it has been reformulated since that time) and made famous by the Vesper cocktail in Casino Royale. Lillet Rouge was released in 1962. It is sweeter and tastes rather like sangria. Lillet Rosé was released in 2002. It is blended in the Champagne style and is more delicate than its sister products.
The best way to drink any type of Lillet is “on ice with a slice” of orange, lime, or grapefruit. They are also terrific in cocktails, recipes for which are readily available online (and one appears below). One of us preferred Lillet Blanc, while the other was partial to Lillet Rosé for sipping on their own, but we are both intrigued by the possibilities of Lillet Rouge for whiskey cocktails. It could be used in place of sweet vermouth in classics like the manhattan or the boulevardier.
We then created our own apéritif cocktail as a class.
2 oz. Lillet of your choice
1 oz. Raspberry tea
½ oz. Honey syrup
Combine first three ingredients in a highball glass. Add a generous amount of ice and top with grapefruit tonic. Garnish with a lemon wedge and mint sprig.
Portland Cocktail Week is in full swing, and we’ll be covering as many events as possible. First up was a blind Scotch whisky tasting at the Richmond Bar with Martin Daraz of Highland Park.
To start, Daraz reminded us how to properly taste whisk(e)y: smell it first with your lips parted for several seconds, then take a sip and “chew” it for a few seconds, swallow, then “chew” again with an empty mouth to fully experience the finish. No scent or tasting note you detect is wrong. Daraz emphasized that there is no correct answer for smell and taste, only a correct process of nosing and tasting.
Daraz’s focus is on whisky as a liquid (what does it smell and taste like?), rather than on any particular brand, region, or style of whisky. To that end, we tasted 16(!) different Scotch whiskies so that each guest could make up his or her own mind about what Scotch he or she preferred.
(Yes, those are giant platters of Pok Pok wings. Bonus points granted to Daraz.)
An interesting point for us came when Daraz remarked that Scotch producers are indebted to the American bourbon industry because most Scotch whiskies are aged in used bourbon barrels. (Remember that barrels can only be used once, when they’re new, for aging bourbon.) This is the "recycle, reduce, reuse" mantra from our childhood at its best, don’t you think?
You can now sport our blog’s banner on your chest! We’ve made There Will Be Bourbon shirts available in light and dark options, though the dark shirts are a few dollars more. Unfortunately, we don’t have a whole lot of say in the pricing since we’re using Skreened for now, but any pennies earned from these shirts will go right back into making this blog as great as it can be.
We love this gorgeous video showcasing the Oregon Distillery Trail. Each stop is well worth a visit.
The Oregon Distillers Guild is an organization working in behalf of 28 distilleries in the state. Equal parts brotherhood and ipseity, the Guild promotes its growing industry in the beautiful state of Oregon, as well as the individual characteristics that make each distillery unique.