Portland Cocktail Week 2014 was a blast. My second year in a row attending and I wasn’t let down.
Any time spent in Portland is fun but when boozy events and cutting edge classes happen, attendance is a must.
Any given day of PDXCW is overwhelming. Looking at schedules, I shake my head when I don’t see “nap time” in the curriculum. This is the real deal, to be approached with a studious attitude and a bit of precaution.
Upon my arrival to Portland I make a swift approach to the Imbibe Magazine “Swig’N’Swine” Punch Competition at the Jupiter Hotel (800 East Burnside, Portland, OR) A yearly party held at the major city’s cocktail conferences.
Put together by the Bon Vivants, it’s a very charitable event. Free of charge, all attendees are encouraged to donate to a local school in need. Whether it is donating in exchange for throwing someone into a dunk tank or by purchasing couple of t-shirts – you’re encouraged to “be a nice person” since you’re eating and drinking for free. One punch in particular stood out. In a room with many, for me, there could only be one…
The Fourth Deuce
Someone needs to tell us the ratios here, so we can post them and credit the Bartender who created the punch.
After a long day and night of eating pig and drinking punch and then going out and partying, Day 2 was a welcome change. Classes were in session and things got real. If you were smart, you made it to all 4 classes and then found time for a nap. Or you partied your way through on pure excitement and FOMO and went right to the mash-up parties.
Every year at PDXCW there is a series of mash-up parties where one bar takes over another bar and throws a bash on a liquor company’s dime. I was a little cloudy but I was sure as hell making it down to Dig-a-Pony (736 SE Grand Avenue Portland OR) to be a Death and Co fan boy. I got there minutes after the event started. They were already 3-4 deep for drinks. Alex Day was shaking and stirring his ass off with a smile. He whipped us up a round that was nothing short of what I expect from his East Village cocktail staple, back in NYC.
The Scotch Lady
1.5oz Famous Grouse Scotch
.75oz Fresh Lemon juice
.75oz 1:1 dilution Simple Syrup
Last day of “classes”. I get a kick out of seeing the shape most people are in. Only the most serious of students are in class on time and stragglers wander in with that glazed look of embattled warriors. Another day of class and lots to learn and share before another night’s worth of fun. And what a night we had.
We arrived at Expatriate and I was impressed instantly. Loved the space. Things were warming up nicely with the boys from La Factoria (148 San Sebastian St, San Juan, Puerto Rico) shaking things up.
I got a bottled Don Q Anejo Puerto Rican Rum Old-Fashioned for two with two beautiful blocks of ice in glasses. As I sat back with my friends and enjoyed the drink we heard some talk about where the real party was at. We finished our drinks full of said FOMO and hopped back on the bus (thanks to our friends at St. George Spirits for that) making our way to the Knock Back (2315 NE Alberta Street. Portland, OR).
First things first, Ice Luge with Hennessey shots pouring out of it. Next we walk inside to a banger of a party. Shirts come off, laybacks are had and ice-cold Narragansett beers passed around. Dancing, yelling, and drinking ensue until last call when the lights come up and we shuffled into the streets.
It starts slow. No class, only field trips for those in the Bar Institute Boarding School. We wake to pouring rain and chalk the day up to brunch and board games by the fire (so Portland, I know). We can’t waste away all day so after the team gets some well needed rest we head out for one more night. After a long delicious dinner we head to my one must see stop, Pepe le Moko (407 SW Tenth Ave. Portland, OR).
Being a huge Jeffrey Morganthaler fan and reading/watching his semi-snarky commentary on cocktails – I had to see his idea for a concept. When we arrived we’re greeted by a young man and escorted downstairs to a very sexy space. Pure simplicity with a touch of Noir. Small tables. Pepe le Moko is dimly lit and the bar set-up conjures 50’s diner, complete with ticket rail for service drink tickets. Looking up at your bartender, they appear as if they are being interrogated under a spotlight.
A modest menu with just 12 cocktails. ‘Half of which’, explained our host are drinks that, “usually suck but are reworked to be great” (Pepe le Moko)
I knew exactly which drink I was going to order before I sat down. The Amaretto sour. I remember a few years ago when Jeff posted his version of this sticky sweet classic claiming it the best in the world. He adds over-proof bourbon to stiffen it up. I took him up on his claim and was not let down. Sipping my drink, enjoying my company and the vibes that were to be felt I thought to myself, well done sir… PDXCW 2014 did not disappoint.
Jeffrey Morganthaler’s Amaretto Sour
1½ oz Lazzaroni Amaretto
1 oz Fresh Lemon juice
1 tsp. 2:1 dilution Simple Syrup
½ oz Egg White
Dry shake. Add ice. Hard shake and double strain into a chilled rocks glass.