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.
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.
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.
The Portland distilling industry is growing out of its infant stages. One business distinctly on the upswing is Bull Run Distilling Company. Patrick Bernards, a marketing executive, and Lee Medoff, formerly of McMenamins and House Spirits, founded Bull Run in 2010. They produce vodka, gin, rum, aquavit, and whiskey, including bourbon, rye, and Oregon whiskey (more on this later). At any given time they also have a number of extremely small batch infusions and other experiments going on.
Boasting the largest stills (800 gallons) west of the Rockies, Bull Run Distillery is serious about becoming a major player not only in the local spirits market but the national scene as well. Enthusiasm for Bull Run products is high from Portland to Chicago to Boston, all due to their focus on quality, history, design, and storytelling.
Bull Run has a traditional production process, but their creativity shines in how they use a variety of barrels to add unique flavors and aromas to their products, particularly rum and bourbon. Since their focus has always been on dark spirits, we were interested to learn how the Oregon climate affects the aging process. According to Bernards, the mild climate contributes to an active aging process. Because the warehouse rarely, if ever, gets below 48° in the winter, the aging process never goes dormant. Additionally, the lack of humidity reduces the angel’s share.
In addition to his post at Bull Run, Bernards is the president of the Oregon Distillers Guild, an organization working in behalf of 28 distilleries in the state. One of its goals is to write and pass legislation creating a new category of whiskey, Oregon whiskey. The product would have a legal definition (e.g. bourbon regulation) and would stipulate the use of local grains, water, and barrels. We’re looking forward to seeing where this effort goes.
We’ll save our review of Bull Run’s bourbons for another day, but we will say now that they—and all the Bull Run products we tasted—are delicious and well worth adding to your home bar.
Bull Run Distilling Company
Tasting Room Open 12 – 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday
2259 NW Quimby St. Portland, Oregon 97210
You might have noticed the frequency of our posts has slowed down a bit lately. We’d been conserving our bourbon, saving it exclusively for our blog posts and trying to provide recipes for you as long as we could. But now we’re out of bourbon.
Don’t worry, though; it’s only temporary. We’re taking a brief hiatus from There Will Be Bourbon while we make our way back to the Pacific Northwest. We may post a sporadic Weekending post, but for the most part our attention will be directed at getting ourselves settled in Portland, OR. Until then, we hope you’ll find something delicious to enjoy in our archive. We’ll see you on the Best Coast, where there will be bourbon.