Tag Archives: Portland

Hot stuff: Pepper Jelly Cocktails

I’ve been mulling this idea ever since I ran across the Rose City Pepperheads stand at the fabulous greenmarket in Portland OR last year.  The vivid colors and amazing flavors of their pepper jellies  (Thai Mandarin!  Hawaiian Jalapeno!) practically scream “mix me into a cocktail.”

Of course, jam cocktails are nothing new. In fact, they’re rather old: In 1862, mixiologist Jerry Thomas included a guava jelly-spiked Barbados Punch in his Bartender’s Guide, and in 1930, The Savoy Cocktail Book included a gin-based Marmalade Cocktail. More recently, UK bartender Salvatore Calabrese created and popularized the Breakfast Martini, which incorporates marmalade along with gin and Cointreau.

But that’s not going to stop me from playing with the pepper-jelly palette. I found a medium-heat, bright red pepper jelly, which I thought might lend itself to a darker, whiskey-sour style cocktail.

A couple of thoughts for those also thinking of tinkering with pepper jelly cocktails:

Know thy jam. Read the ingredients list carefully — garlic? onion powder? Think twice before adding these to a cocktail. Vinegar? Ok, maybe, but you might need to dial down the citrus a bit, since vinegar is an acid too. Be sure to taste the jam first to gauge for sweetness — you might need to add agave nectar or simple syrup.

Don’t lump it. I posed this question to drinks experts who frequent the Mixoloseum, and they had some great advice.

#1: To avoid a drink with unappetizing lumps, before adding ice to the cocktail shaker, stir together the liquid ingredients with the jam, and use a spoon to smush out any remaining lumps. Then add ice and shake and strain as usual.

#2:  To avoid lumps, dissolve the jam in other liquid ingredients before adding the booze, then double-strain for bits of peel, unless you like ‘em.

Hot Pepper Jelly Cocktail

1 heaping tablespoon pepper jelly (I used Four Monks medium Jalapeno Jelly)

2 ounces Buffalo Trace Bourbon

3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

Spoon the pepper jelly into a cocktail shaker, and use the spoon to mash it against the sides of the shaker to break up any lumps. Add the Bourbon, and stir to dissolve the jelly. Add the lemon juice and ice, and shake vigorously. Strain into a cocktail glass.

If you have a favorite jam-based cocktail, I’d love to hear about it!

P.S. What do you think of the photo? I’m actively trying to up my photography game.

4 Comments

Filed under bar techniques, Drink recipes, Spicy spirits, Uncategorized

Feeding cocktails to children is bad, right?

Someday, I’m going to look back on all this and laugh. Right?

I was in Portland, OR last week, promoting Spice & Ice in between general networking and merriment at the IACP conference. I had exactly two promotional opportunities planned:  a cocktail segment on KATU (the local ABC-TV affiliate), and book-signing at the IACP Cookbook Expo. What could possibly go wrong?

Part I:  Morning

The KATU studio, with Robo-Camera. It's like the world's biggest Roomba!

I arrived at KATU bright & early at 8:45 am, all my cocktail gear in hand. (Including all my chopped cucumbers, poblanos, and more, lovingly peeled and cut in my hotel room the evening before, aka “hotel mise-en-place.” Isn’t my life glamorous?) I set up quick-as-a-wink on a bar that would be wheeled out into the studio at the appropriate moment, and waited for my cue.

And then, they brought in the “studio audience.” I’ve never done a cocktail demo in a TV studio before, and certainly never in front of a studio audience. And for a moment, I froze.

They were children on a class trip.

Not exactly an ideal group for a cocktail demo. In fact, it’s a wildly inappropriate audience for a cocktail demo.

But I took a deep breath, and when the time came, I did my thing, doing my best to forget about who was watching, and focusing instead on making 3 Margarita variations. If you’d like to watch, the video is posted here.  Look for the host’s “trick” with the ice cubes. At least that part amused the kids.

Part II:  Afternoon

Repeat to myself:  no feeding cocktails to children, no feeding cocktails to children.  Fat chance!  At the IACP Cookbook expo, alphabetical order dictated seating order. To my left was Cynthia Nims, promoting her fun new book Gametime Gourmet with fun Scrabble tiles and other fun games. And to my right was Jackie Newgent, promoting her Big Green Cookbook  with “hyper-baked” chocolate chip cookies. Games + Cookies = children, like moths to the proverbial flame.

I found myself shooing away said moths reaching for a glass of pretty pink liquid to wash down their cookies. (Kool-Aid?  No, Blood-Orange Jalapeno Margaritas.) I’d say, as kindly as I could, “there’s alcohol in that,” and they’d snatch away their little hands as if I’d said “there’s poison in that.” 

Feeding cocktails to children is bad, right?  Then why does the universe seem to want me to do just that?

Leave a comment

Filed under Spice & Ice, Uncategorized

Cocktailing: Why Brooklyn wishes it was Portland

I’m back from the IACP conference in Portland, Oregon, and I have to say, Portland is one city that knows how to get its geek on. I’ve never seen so many passionate foodies in one place (and I’m not even referring to the conference). Everywhere, there’s great coffee, great cocktails, great food. A sprawling greenmarket that makes my precious Union Square look like a postage stamp. Everyone seems to be making something or building a small business, and sporting a deeply personal tattoo while they’re at it. It just feels like a place where it’s easy to find one’s tribe.

In other words, it’s like the the best bits of what has become funky Brooklyn sprawl were all mashed together into one clean, rain-swept, bike-able small community, minus the Manhattan envy.

Let’s take cocktail culture, for example. (You knew I was going there eventually…) And it is indeed a culture.  Perhaps it’s because real estate prices are just so much lower than other metro areas, and scale is less of an issue, it seems like anyone with an artisan cocktail pipe dream can open a bar (hello, Beaker & Flask!) or start a business (hello, Trader Tiki and Aviation gin!)

My first day at IACP, I sat next to a local denizen who insisted that “Portland is a beer city located within wine country. Cocktails are a far third.” After spending some time in the local watering holes, I have to heartily disagree. Yes, there is plenty of great local beer and wine — especially the latter. I finally understand all of the references to “good bread” in France. The vinious equivalent of “good wine” surely must refer to the enjoyable, drinkable stuff made in Willamette Valley.

But the cocktails!  What I loved most about Portland’s cocktail scene was the  joy everyone seemed to take in experimentation.  I didn’t get to try every place I wanted (sorry, Teardrop Lounge…Saucebox…Belly Timber…Vault. next time, I promise).  But here are some places I did get to try, and highly recommend:

Cocktail shakers at Beaker & Flask

Beaker & Flask:  I was lucky enough to have Patrick Coleman, food editor from the alt-weekly Portland Mercury, as my tour guide for an evening. He knows all the bartenders and best tippling spots, plus he’s quite the snappy dresser so it was fun to be seen with him. Our first stop was Beaker & Flask, one of those spots where they embrace local brands and make their own grenadine, syrups, and coconut water ice cubes. I tried The Triple Lindy (Muscat Grappa, Riesling Syrup, fresh lime and lemon, demerara sugar). It was light and oddly floral, although it grew on me the more I sipped.

“It’s an intellectual drink,” Patrick quipped. “It’s like someone you respect, but don’t enjoy talking to.” His drink, Between the Posts (Rock & Rye soda, fresh grapefruit, Campari, Peychaud’s bitters), would have been the better dinner companion.  I swiped the menu on the way out -scroll down if you’d like a closer look.

Thatch:  A sweet little tiki bar, kitch, pupu platters and all. I was astounded that we easily scored seats at the bar, which would never, never happen on a weekday night in New York.  We were offered a preview of the new spring/summer menu, which hadn’t yet been printed up (nothing for me to pocket, alas). I tried a fabulous, fragrant rum drink called “The Broadway Baby.” It was also quite potent, as tiki drinks often are, so I can’t recall what else was in the drink.

Clyde Commons Negroni

Clyde Common:  I went later in the week, explicitly to try something with Jeff Morgenthaler’s famed barrel-aged spirits, and settled on a Negroni. And yes, everything you’ve read about it being the best Negroni you’ve ever had are true. About halfway through the drink, Morgenthaler slid over another drink, in a slightly smaller glass, and uttered those magic words that are like catnip to a drinks journalist:  “It’s not on the menu yet.” It was Robert Hess’s Trident creation, equal parts Cynar, Sherry, and Whiskey (here, barrel aged about 8 weeks). 

Again, I swiped the menu (last seen beneath my cocktail, in the photo at right). And again, I’m scanning it so you can view it below.

Bar Ten 01:  I went, but didn’t stay, since it was understandably packed on a Saturday evening. But since I saw charming barkeep Kelley Swenson at an IACP event earlier in the week and thoroughly enjoyed his Chamomile Sour cocktail there, I say it counts.

Beaker & Flask Cocktail Menu

Clyde Commons cocktail menu

13 Comments

Filed under Bar culture, Uncategorized

See you in Portland?

Later this week, I’ll be headed to Portland, Oregon, for the annual International Association of Culinary Professionals conference.  I’m excited to be attending for a number of reasons:

1. Seeing in person friends I otherwise only get to see on Facebook, Twitter, e-mail…and meeting new people who enjoy talking about the food world in gloriously geeky detail, as I do.

2. For once, I’m not involved in presenting a panel….so this feels a little like a mini-vacation. It will be great to attend seminars and relax and fully immerse in listening to the presenters, rather than hoping feverishly that all my presenters and critical ingredients have arrived on time and in good condition. (there’s a story in there about AWOL ingredients and presenters in less-than-pristine condition, which I’ll save for another day.)

3. But yes, it’s still a business trip, and I’ll be signing copies of Spice & Ice at the IACP Culinary Book Fair.  I’ll be making drinks too, in case you needed extra inducement to stop by and say hello!

4. While I’m in town, I’ll also be on KATU’s Primetime TV show (that’s the ABC affiliate), talking about the book and demonstrating cocktails. And yes….unlike my last TV appearance, they WILL be cocktails, not mocktails!  (insert cheering sound effects here)

5.  Portland itself. This will be my first time there, and I’ve heard amazing things about the city’s vibrant food and beverage culture. I have a long (and growing!) list of bars, coffee houses, distilleries, and restaurants I’m looking forward to trying out.  And if you’ve got a place (or a drink!) to suggest, I’m all ears.

Leave a comment

Filed under Spice & Ice

Drinking in Oregon-inspired cocktails

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, tBell pepper cocktailhey 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.) Kelley Swenson, mixing things up

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under bar techniques, Drink recipes