A very much half-full City of Gold, presented by Alejandro's handsome hands.
I tried this luminous, cultural history-inspired drink after a leisurely afternoon spent wandering around the Old Town District of Portland with Alejandro De La Parra of Teardrop Lounge. It was an exceptional capper to an uncommonly groovy day. We started with a press walk-through of the soon-to-open Society Hotel (open now), Mexican food at Mi Mero Mole, and a visit to Alejandro's friends at Orox Leather Co., where I picked up a sweet money clip. By then it was time for a proper drink, and we ducked into Low Brow Lounge, the much-storied "clean dive" I'd heard bout but never experienced (rock solid, and yes, both clean and a dive), then a quick stop at Teardrop Lounge for my traditional last drink in PDX before hitting PDX Airport itself. A classically grey day, brightened considerably by the company and the exploration.
But the highlight was Alejandro busting out the high concept City of Gold. He'd been talking about it for a few days, and with all the complicated components it wasn't the easiest one to deliver at at a moment's notice. But this afternoon all the elements were on hand at Teardrop. I'll let Alejandro explain the thinking behind this ambitious, golden elixir.
“It's really an attempt to capture the flavors of pre-Columbian Mexican cuisine. There is so much more to food cultures than what appears obvious to us. Just like Italian food isn't all tomato sauce and cheese. Or Thai food isn't all fish sauce and Thai chilies. Mexican food isn't just sour and spicy. There is an inherent earthiness and roundness. Smoke and savor, subtly present amidst sweetness The flavors that sustained the warriors of the Aztecs and the priests of the Maya.”
CITY OF GOLD
2 oz. tequila .5 oz. aperol .5 oz. agave 2 dash sarsaparilla root tincture, 1 dash angostura
Stir, large ice cube (rocks) Grapefruit zest.
Achiote and Roasted corn infused tequila:
Cut kernels off of one large corn cobb and spread on baking sheet. Roast in the oven at 500 for approximately 15 minutes or until slightly charred. Lightly toast in pan a tablespoon of whole achiote seeds, roughly cracked with a mortar and pestle. Combine all ingredients in a large container and add 750ml of Reposado Tequila. Let infusion sit for 12 hours, agitating periodically. Press through cheese cloth.
Sarsparilla Root Tincture:
Add 6oz of sarparilla root into a mason jar. Fill jar with Wild Turkey 101 rye whiskey. Seal tightly and let sit for 2 weeks. Agitate Daily.
I've been on the road a tremendous amount the past couple months - brand ambassador-grade levels of travel - and I've been making Americanos my go-to order at bars along the way. It's prety foolproof, simple, easy to explain even in another language, and most every bar has Italian Vermouth & Campari, even dodgier airport bars. It's also endlessly refreshing after long haul flights -- a low A.B.V. tonic for the jet-lagged. There's a plasticity to the drink that makes it fascinating to see all the interpretations that are both regional, and personal to each bartender I encountered. Got a lovely one from Hannah Waters at 28 Hong Kong Street in Singapore that was a juicy, effervescent re-imagining of the classic Campari/Italian Vermouth/Soda model, appropriate for the near-equatorial swelter of the place (recipe to follow.) Ordering an American is always interesting, not only because each bartender has their own takes and touches, but because you may sometimes wind up with a café Americano, as happened with a fresh-faced bartender at Urban Farmer in The Nines in PDX. (That coffee turned out to be a useful push that particular night, so I think that one was kismet.)
But my all-around favorite so far of this world tour has been from Teardop Lounge's Tyler Stevens. He sticks to the original ratios--mostly--but with a canny blend of two vermouths, Punt E Mes & Cinzano. It's in the selection of vermouth or vermouths where there's so much room for variety, and the blending of two (or more) can hit even more spots on the bitter/sweet/herby flavor spectrum. The addition of a splash of sparkling wine gives it a celebratory finish, which was nice for me as he made it for me at Teardrop on my birthday. I've made a rule that I shall have my first and last drinks there on my Portland visits. (There's a slight flexibility on that rule in that drink can be had at the home of any Teardrop staffer, particularly if that home is closer to the airport and it's rush hour.) I've dubbed this one The All Americano, despite almost nothing in it save water and ice being American, in honor of Tyler's legendary run as star middle linebacker of his high school football team in Newburg , an Oregon town that's possibly even smaller than the one I grew up in, but with a far more impressive team. Just like team at Teardop, and I'm pleased to claim the spot as my bar away from home.
Tyler Stevens' All Americano.
1.25 oz. Campari 1.25 oz. Italian Vermouth (50/50 Cinzano and Punt E Mes)
Stir, add soda in vessel, stir some more, strain and top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a pretty orange peel to impress the ladiez.
Late on recent rainy evening in Portland I found myself tucked into the bar at Pépé le Moko, being tended to by the gracious Talia Gordon. I've loved the dimly lit underground catacomb since I first wandered in during Portland Week on a rainy afternoon (imagine that) and was served a invigorating Irish Coffee by Jeffrey Morgenthaler. And it's worthy of it's name; the 1937 cops and gangsters film set in the Casbah, where the byzantine network of alleys, cafes and bars is the perfect refuge from les flic for bad guy her Jean Gabin. It's also delivers decidedly grown-up, French sexiness as in the scene below.
I'd asked Talia for a highball as I was searching the world for some great variations for this story for T. I asked for something in the classic gangster style--whiskey, lots of soda. As she mused on that Nat King Cole's "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons" played on the sound system. Great track, fit the mood just right, and it always reminds me of the surprising scene in "As Good As It Gets" where Helen Hunt is pissed off at Jack Nicholson. He pulls out a box of cassette tapes, all labelled with designations of different occasions. He pulls the one that reads: "For emergency use only" and puts the tape in the stereo. It plays the song for a moment and you think some thawing magic is going to happen, but Hunt actually demands he take it off--it's too emotional. And possibly manipulative. Standout scene in a film I found overrated. But it also reintroduced the song to another generation.
The slightly on-its-ear riff on a classic whisky and soda highball she handed across the bar was just what I knew I was craving but didn't know quire what form it would take--empathic bartending at work. The addition of a touch of Creme de Cassis brought just the right level of sweetness and and herby quality. Talia's recipe below (and handwritten above); the version that wound up in the Times omitted the lime wedge as I'd already shot and filed a photo without--A production snafu that I hereby apologize for. Below, the drink in its perfect form. No rainy night or cave-like bar required, although those things can't hurt.
2 oz Woodford Reserve
.75 oz lemon juice
.5 oz 2:1 simple syrup
.25 oz Creme de Cassis
Shake and strain over fresh ice. Top with 2 oz soda water and a healthy lime wedge.
I'd been thinking "High-end Highballs" for this collection of summer appropriate tall drinks I organized for T Style Magazine, but I like "Highball Season" better. Almost ominous, like "High Noon" or "Earthquake Weather". All photos mine except middle bottom, the "Silver Spoon" by Samuel Slater.
I mentioned Dustin Sully of Fog City's Daredevil highball in this interview with Smashd, and it's a fine example of the kind of uncomplicated, light and refreshing drink I'm going for this summer. Campari, ginger beer (preferably Fever Tree) and lemon--simplicity itself, and a powerful reviver on a hot summer day. I'd wanted to somehow tie the drink into the Netflix series that has singlehandledly redeemed the glut of superhero movies for me, but its utter pleasantness is out of step with the brooding show. I thought I'd better check in with Dustin before to see if we were talking that daredevil. "It is in fact a reference to the super hero," he confirmed. "I haven't seen the show, but DD was my favorite hero as a kid. The color and the spice and the cool finish of the drink conjured up illustrations of DD's stunts for some reason." I'd certainly wish for Matt Murdoch to be able to enjoy one of these tall sippers while taking a break from defending Hell's Kitchen from evil developers.
1.5 oz. Campari .5 oz. fresh lemon Ginger beer
Build in Collins glass. Fill glass with ice, fill to top with ginger beer (fever tree preferably). Garnish with a lemon twist.
I was interviewed by Jonathan Riggs for Smashd on the state and future of cocktails (nothing grandiose about that topic, nor arrogant about my answers). As always, lots of editing went on for the final version, which is to be expected, but one part that got cut that I'd like to restore here was the answer to this question: What are some great web sites/tastemakers/etc. to follow online to stay abreast of this field? My answer: Difford's Guide by Simon Difford is the hands down most authoritative coverage of bars and cocktails around the world. Exhaustingly thorough, passionate, seemingly unbiased. Jeffrey Morgenthaler of Clyde Common and Pepé le Moko is a great how-to resource (as is his Playboy column.) David Wondrich's column in Esquire is the best source of cocktail savvy and history in the game. Everyday Drinking is so well written it depresses me.There's a wave of useful cocktail books that have come out recently, including Julie Reiner's (Flatiron Lounge, Clover Club) The Craft Cocktail Party Book, Jeff Morgenthaler's The Bar Book—a thorough primer of techniques—a kind of Cook's Illustrated for bartender.
Unimpressed with the cocktail offerings available in flight and in airports*, Zach Patterson of Melrose Umbrella Company recently took matters into his own mad scientist-y hands. He texted me that he was excited as he was "flying to Boston on the redeye and I love to drink and fly!" When I expressed my shared fondness for drinking at 30,000 feet he added, "It's the best! And I cryovac 3 oz mini cocktails!" It was like the heavens had opened and god had delivered new commandments, in fly-with-able cocktail form. And what was he serving up? "4 different Old Fashioneds," He replied. "I'll text you the menu" Menu? For one's own in-flight drinks offerings? Genius. Technically, the menu is simply MUC's own Old-Fashioneds menu from which is to-go drinks are culled, but it's a nice bit of gilding the lily. Given the superior grade of drinks at Umbrella Co, and Zach's penchant for elaborately inventive drinks production and delivery, I knew I needed to see this in action.
Complete with branded packaging and ingredients.
The on-premise Old-Fashioned menu.
I just find the whole production to be a inspiring example of ingenious lifehacking. When I asked the inevitable question about TSA and airline regulations, ZP replied, "I didn't say it was all good with TSA. ;-) but so far they haven't checked a bag. I'm sure if everyone started doing it the garbage would find a lot of delicious cocktails. But for last 3 years I've been flying good!" Now I certainly hope that no diligent TSA agent is scouring the internet for examples of rule-breaking and finds this post, but even with that outside chance I couldn't resist sharing with the world this subversive method of getting craft cocktails into the sky and making flying a more fun, and more delicious experience.
*Ed. note: One Flew South in Terminal E at Atlanta International is a serious exception to the near-universal blah-ness of airport bar cocktails.
I made this mix for a friend Michael Mclaren's going away party, when he left a position with Chivas Brothers and returned home to Scotland to rejoin the family non-booze related business, doubtless a smart move for his long term health and sanity. The playlist has a little old, a little new, has some slick new euroloungey stuff, some old soul, a soupçon of yacht rock--this is a pretty good, one-groove-fits-all 4 hours and 7 minutes of background music to help give an evening some sexy momentum.