Gabrielle Dion - Portland Cocktail Week

The Mixing Glass / Vaca Group (Costa Mesa, CA)

*at time of award

Portland Cocktail week was one of the most eyeopening, amazing experiences of my career. To have the chance to not only be a witness to the hundreds of likeminded bar industry professionals, but to be an active participant in learning how to better my craft, was an experience I won’t soon forget.

As you may know I was chosen to attend classes in the Advanced Craft Bartender series. It was great. We sat in front of panels with the biggest taste makers in our industry and listened to them speak about topics ranging from how to grow a cocktail culture in area that doesn’t already have a strong foundation of one to the importance of getting back to focusing on the guests experience and better customer service. My favorite panel was one with Angus Winchester, Joaquin Simo, Sam Ross and Derek Brown. They are all very successful in their on right, but each had a slightly different view on what it takes to be successful in both running a bar and working in one. It’s great to see that there is more than one way to skin a cat and you had a chance to pick the points that most applied to your situation and take them home and utilize them in the best way.

The visits to the bars and distilleries were great auxiliary way to learn even more.
Here is where I went:
House Distilleries, Clear Creek Distilleries, Cascade Brewing; both the distilleries specialize in their own unique spirits setting themselves apart, Clear Creek was my favorite. The facility is beautiful, the staff warm and knowledgeable. The specialize in fruit Eau de Vies, using only the most local, most peak produce. The amount of work and passion that goes into everything they make is inspiring in itself. It takes 26 pounds of the most ripe pears to make one bottle of their Pear Brandy. It is exquisite, it has all the flavor and aroma of a pear but without the sweetness. I am putting a drink featuring it on my fall menu because I was so inspired.
Cascade Brewing is a local brewery that specializes in sour beers. That wasn’t on my agenda but it was very interesting none the less.

Multnomah Whiskey Library, Hele Pele, Kask Rum Club, Tasty and Alder, and Clyde Common
Multnomah Whiskey Library was a spectacle! They boast 1500 bottles of spirits, 800-900 of which are whiskies ranging from Japanese Single Malt to local Oregonian Whiskey. It was so hard to narrow down my choices, I found myself perusing the menu endlessly. I ended up having two things; an old fashioned made with the hard to find Black Maple Hill Bourbon, expertly made on a rolling cart bar that was fully stocked with all the bells and whistles and a rare 21 year Glen Farclas Single Malt Scotch whiskey.

Hele Pele is a Tiki bar on the far end of town, it was worth the trek. Seeing how a style of bartending that peaked in the 50′s was actually done was a entertaining and beautiful thing. Tiki can go incredibly wrong, with so many ingredients in each drink, many of which are syrups, balance can be hard to achieve. Not here, both drinks were spot on. I went with the classic 3 dots and a dash, one of my favorites, mixing falernum, honey, orange, 2 types of rum and allspice, it was better than any I’ve ever had(don’t tell Rum Dood!). The second I wasn’t as familiar with but I went for it because I thought it was interesting and something I would have normally written of, assuming it would be to sweet because of the ingredients. The Rum Pot didn’t disappoint, a blend of Demarara Rum, passionfruit, citrus and vanilla, it was balanced, starting sweet up front but finishing with the pop of acidity, it left me with the hint of vanilla that transported me some where else. And isn’t that what all cocktails should do?

Kask was a shorter visit, sadly. With all the awesome events they have planned for you, it was daunting trying to get to all the places you wanted to check out independently. Shortly before I went to PDXCW, I tasted an exciting new spirit called Kummel. I had never seen someone else use it in a cocktail and was excited to see a simple little number on their list. It was basically a margarita but instead of orange liqueur they used the kummel. It was delicious, savory yet balanced and both the agave and the caraway and cumin flavor of the kummel shown through.

Tasty and Alder wasn’t on my agenda, but I wasn’t there for a cocktail but instead breakfast. I was so very surprised when I ordered a Ramos Gin Fizz, which the results of which I am normally left disappointed. In this case I was elated! It was the best Ramos I’ve had since I had one in New Orleans, the cocktails birthplace. It shows that taking pride in your job even if it’s lowly lunch shift can pay off in spades.

Last but not least the pinnacle of my cocktail experience. Clyde Common is ran by, arguably the most talented bartender in the area, Jeffery Morganthaler. He invented the barrel aged cocktail craze, it was his help I sought when I started my barrel aged and he was so generous with his knowledge. So of course I had to get a barrel aged Negroni, it was stellar. The wood was subtle but there and the flavors melded together in a way that isn’t possible when made a la minute. The second cocktail I had was there carbonated, bottled Americano. This is so genius because you just pop the bottle from the fridge open it and you have an incredibly speedily served patron, which can come in very handy in a craft bar that is packed with people clamoring for a expertly crafted cocktail. It was perfectly diluted and so effervescent, it woke me up.

In closing, I want to thank I AM for the opportunity to go to PDXCW, I can’t wait to share everything I know with my peers and proteges.

Best regards, Gabrielle Dion

Bobby Navarro