Last night I attended the Oregon Food Fete, held here in NY in a loft space somewhere west of the theater district. Although I don’t often report on such events, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality (and quantity!) of cocktails on offer, tucked in among pleasing nibbles like smokey blue-cheese chocolates, cayenne caramels, and award-winning chipotle cheddar.
At first I was skeptical – after all, food festivals typically trot out the best-of-the-best to represent. But then I thought some more about the thriving, delightfully geeky Portland bartending scene. And even the IACP will be recognizing the culinary significance of Portland when their national conference is held there just a few short months — and I intend to be there, elbowing my way to the front of the bar (who’s with me?)
But back to the drinks: First off I sampled two vodkas from Artisan Spirits, which is owned by Wildwood bartender and distiller Ryan Csanky. The first was made from wine, the second from honey. Neither is available here in NY yet, but I think bartenders are going to go bananas over this brand because it has very distinctive aromas and flavors that will blend beautifully into cocktails.
Then I headed over to House Spirits, which is probably best known for the phenomenally successful Aviation gin brand. In addition to Aviation, they were showcasing Krogstad Aquavit (a domestic aquavit? not Swedish? that’s new) and the “Apothecary Line” of eau-de-vie-like liqueurs. The mini bottles are adorable, but the product was just too strong for me to swallow more than a sip. Much more palatable was the bell-pepper cocktail, made with Aquavit, honey, lemon, mint, and muddled bell pepper.
And then the final stop was the Pear Bureau Northwest, which was showcasing pear-based cocktails made by ten-01 mixologist Kelley Swenson. (Disclosure: my Peppered Poire cocktail is a finalist in a cocktail contest sponsored by the PBN, which is why I was at the event in the first place.)
Although he was showcasing a recipe called the Autumn Anjou (Anjou pear puree, Aviation gin – naturally, Aperol, pear brandy, and lemon juice), I found a number of cocktails featured in a PBN booklet even more intriguing — featuring cardamom, clove, even black pepper flavors. Here’s one of those:
A Pear of Cloves
Brian O’Neill, Cafe Gray, NYC
1 1/2 oz. pear vodka
1/z oz puree of fresh pear, such as Green Anjou or Comice
1/2 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 oz. clove-infused simple syrup (see recipe below)
3 to 4 thin slices Green Anjou pear, skin on
In a shaker, muddle the pear slices before adding the remaining ingredients. Fill with ice and shake until cold and frothy. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a slice of pear.
Clove-Infused Simple Syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
6 whole cloves
Bring sugar, water and cloves to boil in a small pot. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 20 minutes. Strain and chill.