I recently returned from an all-too-brief sojourn to Portland, Oregon. Aside from enjoying a beautiful setting, nearby mountains, lush greenery, and workable public transit, the denizens of Portland seem to pay exceptionally close attention to what they put in their mouths. We had some stunningly good coffee (double macchiato for me, cold-brewed iced coffee for my special lady friend -- both were fantastic and rich, and we're greatly enjoying the Burundi Bwayi beans we brought home) at Stumptown's downtown location (with a comically-hip magazine selection), some good microbrewed beer (Hogsback Oatmeal Stout at the Mt. Hood Brewing Company's Ice Axe Grill in Government Camp, LTD 02 at Full Sail in Hood River, and Golden Ale at the Lucky Lab in Portland), and even some wine.
But all of that, no matter how good it was, is well outside the mission statement of this here site. I am pleased to report that Portland treated us very, very well on the cocktail and spirits fronts. The first place I decided to check out was Clyde Common, run by the estimable Jeffrey Morgenthaler. (Jeffrey wasn't there at the time -- the guy unaccountably seems to get some days off once in a while -- but Shannon cut through the happy-hour crowd of braying hipsters and took good care of us.) The cocktail list there was fascinating and complex, and I wanted to try everything on the menu.
We limited ourselves to one each, though, as we had other commitments later on. My girlfriend chose the One-Trick Pony (Pelinkovac bitter, Maraschino, house-made tonic, lime), which was very good. I hadn't heard of Pelinkovac before -- from what I could taste in this drink, it was reminiscent somewhat of fellow Eastern-European bitter Unicum -- but the idea of mixing a digestive bitter with Maraschino liqueur and bitter-ish tonic sounded yummy. The liqueur and tonic balanced out the herbal bitterness nicely, and it went smoothly down the hatch.
The drink that I'd been itching to try, though, was the Barrel-Aged Negroni, which absolutely blew me away. I was very intrigued to read Jeffrey's blog post about barrel-aging finished cocktails, and his description of the Negroni was dead-on:
After six weeks in the bourbon barrel, our Negroni emerged a rare beauty. The sweet vermouth so slightly oxidized, the color paler and rosier than the original, the mid-palate softly mingled with whiskey, the finish long and lingering with oak tannins.
I also thought it smoothed out the bitter spikes that can come from the Campari, and basically mellowed the whole thing. The whiskey barrels gave it an oomphier flavor that melded well with the vermouth's spiciness, and added a complex richness to the drink. This was a great before-dinner drink that almost made me want to skip the dinner.
(Another installment of PDX cocktail-y goodness coming soon!)