Citrus and bourbon are very good friends. Even better is when the citrus is not something pedestrian like lemon or lime. Grapefruit is the star of the show in this cocktail that we decided to make after seeing it on the lovely site Back Down South, both because it looks delicious and because we can see Mount Saint Helens on a daily basis, so we were intrigued by a drink with a similar name.
Mount Saint Helen
2 oz. Bourbon
½ oz. Grapefruit juice
½ oz. Simple Syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
3 Mint leaves
Gently muddle simple syrup, bitters, and two mint leaves in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add the grapefruit juice, bourbon, and ice and shake briefly to combine. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with the third mint leaf.
You’ll notice this drink is similar to the brown derby that we featured before, but this version is more complex. The bitters add a nice contrast to the sweetness. We used a stronger bourbon to offset the other bold flavors in the recipe, and it worked really well.
The folks at Chopin Vodka make three varieties of vodka—potato, wheat, and rye. We love that Chopin vodka contains no additives and its ingredients are sourced locally in Poland, where it is produced.
We were intrigued by the idea of tasting a neutral spirit that uses two ingredients (wheat and rye) that are commonly found in bourbon to see how each vodka would compare with bourbons featuring different mash bills. We know that vodka and bourbon sounds like an unusual pairing, but with careful matching, it actually works. We found an inspiration recipe and adapted it for our use.
1½ oz. Bourbon
1½ oz. Chopin wheat or rye vodka
¼ oz. Cointreau
1 bar spoon Luxardo cherry juice
Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously to combine. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry.
For this cocktail we chose to pair Woodinville bourbon with Chopin wheat vodka. The drink is exceptionally smooth. One of the vodka’s main contributions to the drink is its smooth, velvety texture. This is a strong drink, so it’s a sipper for sure, but we were really impressed by how well the two spirits complemented each other.
We’re looking forward to playing with Chopin rye vodka, too. We think it would go nicely with Four Roses Yellow Label.
Even though this nightcap was on Chopin’s tab, we will always review products honestly. Contrary to popular belief, free drinks don’t automatically taste better.
We recently spent an evening sampling cocktails and nibbles at Double Dragon in Portland. We were served two versions of their whiskey toddy, one hot and one cold. The bartender, Dan, was kind enough to share the recipe with us.
Double Dragon Toddy
2 oz. Rye
1 oz. Honey five spice syrup
1 oz. Lemon juice
Whiskey barrel-aged bitters
The cold version is the same but with the addition of an absinthe rinse. While we preferred the hot version on a chilly evening, the cold cocktail was quite tasty and we always appreciate how an absinthe rinse can amplify whiskey.
We were also delighted to witness some cocktail demonstrations. Dan walked us through how to make two drinks. We’re going to share with you our favorite and the drink that had all our companions reaching for second sips, too.
No Name No. 5
2 oz. Dickel rye
1 oz. Sweet vermouth
1 oz. Italian amaro
You might notice the similarity to the Little Italy cocktail, but the chocolate bitters that Dan at Double Dragon used take this to the next level. It is off-menu, but if you ask for it (and we recommend you do), he will make you one.
1235 SE Division Street
Portland, OR 97202
Even though this visit was on Double Dragon’s tab, we will always review products and experiences honestly. Contrary to popular belief, free drinks don’t automatically taste better.
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.
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.
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.
It has been a rainy, blustery week in Portland. We chose to make this drink as a perfectly cozy accompaniment to our first wood stove fire of the season. Also, the recipe is from a bar in Boston that we enjoyed when we lived nearby.
1½ oz. Bourbon
½-¾ oz. Honey ginger syrup* (depending on your taste)
2 dashes Orange bitters
Add first three ingredients to a heat-safe glass. Top with hot water and stir gently to combine. Garnish with a clove-studded lemon wedge.
This drink is super tasty. We used a stronger bourbon since it was going to be diluted a bit with the water. It is important to use a smallish glass so that the drink doesn’t become too watery. Although we are tea lovers and were skeptical about making a toddy without it, this is actually a very well balanced hot drink that lets the bourbon shine better than if it were competing with black tea.
Honey Ginger Syrup
½ cup Honey
½ cup Water
½ inch Finely grated ginger root
In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients and heat, while stirring, over medium heat for 7-10 minutes. Don’t let mixture reach a boil. Let cool to room temperature before using. Don’t strain, and be sure to shake before each use to redistribute the grated ginger bits.
We’re fans of fresh herbs in our bourbon cocktails. This simple drink from the Tasting Table test kitchen is right up our alley.
3 sprigs Thyme
2 bar spoons Sugar
1 oz. Club soda
2½ oz. Bourbon
Combine first three ingredients in the bottom of a highball glass and muddle gently until some of the sugar has dissolved. Add the bourbon and some crushed ice and stir until chilled and well combined. Garnish with a lemon wedge.
This drink really lets the bourbon be the star, and we love that. We used a good mixing bourbon, Four Roses Small Batch, which has a sweet flavor and spicy finish. Our only complaint about this drink is with the directions. The muddling removed some thyme leaves from the stem and a few of them floated into our mouths when sipping. In the future, we might make the thyme syrup in a separate mixing glass, strain into the highball serving glass, and then add in a fresh thyme leaf as garnish.
Any guesses regarding the origins of this cocktail’s unusual name?
We spotted Thai basil while wandering the aisles of a giant Asian market recently and remembered that we had seen a bourbon cocktail recipe that called for it. And since we thought the ginger and black pepper agave syrup would work well with herbs, we decided to modify the drink recipe to include it instead of just plain simple syrup.
Summer on Sligo (Modified)
2 oz. Bourbon
¾ oz. Ginger and black pepper agave syrup
½ oz. Lime juice
3 Thai basil leaves, plus one more for garnish
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a lowball glass with ice and garnish with a fresh Thai basil leaf.
This drink has a lot going on, but it is actually really smooth and fairly mellow. Thai basil is more citrusy than the sweet basil common in Western cooking and it smells of anise, making it a nice complement to the other flavors in this cocktail. We chose to use a sweeter bourbon to balance the spice and citrus.
An unexpected bonus of Thai basil is that their terminal leaves sort of resemble the mockingjay designs from The Hunger Games.