It’s the time of year for celebratory holiday cocktails; you know, the kind with champagne in them. All over the world, people just like you are gathering, shopping, brunching, and pouring crappy cocktails made with cheap sparkling wine down their throats.
My first bartending job, back in, ahem, 1996 was at a little neighborhood tavern in the college town of Eugene, Oregon. It was a dive bar before anyone used the term. Back then, they were just referred to as bars. If you wanted a fancy cocktail around that time, you had to take your chances at a restaurant or hotel bar. Most bars were places with television sets or jukeboxes, or both. You drank there.
Twenty years ago, when I started bartending, there were a limited number of liquor brands behind any standard bar. The selection at most establishments looked a lot like what you’d expect to see at the airport these days: the three most recognizable tequilas; four gins, maybe; American whiskey limited to guys named Jack and Jim; and that’s about it. But then this whole spirit and cocktail renaissance came along and suddenly it was craft this and small batch that. With all of the options facing you, the consumer, the options can be daunting.
Once again, fall is here. Almost overnight here in Oregon, the weather has turned crisp, the leaves have started falling from the trees and the wind has picked up and begun to cool down the state. Every so often, you’ll catch a whiff of a fireplace burning in the distance.
I’ve had the good fortune to travel a lot throughout my life. I was raised by parents who instilled a deep love of getting to see the world, and my job certainly hasn’t hindered that in the least. And, of course, I’ve gotten to learn a lot about the way people drink in other parts of the world beyond just the city where I tend bar. One style of drinking that I’ve always been enamored with is the European tradition of low-proof highballs in the afternoon. I’ve come to refer to them as café cocktails.
You know what I’m not ashamed to admit? I’m a guy who loves a summer picnic. I know that the word conjures up images of, well, girls, mostly. Frolicking in summer dresses and eating little cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off, drinking pink wine and sitting on flowery little blankets. But I can’t help it; I love everything about it. It’s food, it’s drinks and it’s sunshine. What could be better? Personally, I think the word has gone soft and that we need a better, more masculine word than “picnic,” but until one comes along I’ll stick with it.
For the past decade or so, we’ve been told by the cocktail gestapo that blended drinks are bad. They’re not for grown-ups, they’re too sweet and they don’t belong in the canon of classic cocktails. But what these critics seem to have forgotten about blended drinks is possibly the most important point of all: They’re fun. Having spent thousands of hours manning a blender station over the course of my career, I thought I might offer some insight into this polarizing piece of equipment.
One of the hot buzz terms in writing about cocktails these days is “modern classic.” It’s thrown around like pretty much every other worthless term you see when you read about drinks on the Internet. You know, like “master mixologist” or “bespoke cocktails.”
Bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s favorite spot to stand while building cocktails at Clyde Common in Portland’s Ace Hotel is in front of the tavern’s large window. One wonders if—as he looks out onto Stark Street contemplatively stirring a cocktail—he’s dreaming up the next big thing.
More often than not, the most common ingredient found behind a bar is hubris. I should know; I used to stock more than my share. It’s a funny thing: The older you get, the less of it you typically have. But there’s nothing quite like the misplaced confidence of an inexperienced bartender.
Last week, I had the good fortune and extreme pleasure of visiting Kentucky for the first time in my life. The trip was long overdue, as I’ve been running a bar with a fairly aggressive bourbon selection for the past six years now and had never been offered a trip to visit the distilleries I’d been supporting for a very long time.
So after much deliberation, I decided to print this question and my response, as it’s a question that I get from you guys at least once a month. And therefore I think it’s important. So here we go: Hey Jeff, I’m new to the bar, but not our company’s restaurant group. I’ve done my research | Read More
Judging by the quickly changing skies outside my window in Portland, Oregon — where I see moments of brilliant sunshine followed by a short, warm downpour of rain — it must be spring. And as the saying goes, in the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of spring cocktails. Or something like that. Anyway, springtime always makes this youngish man’s fancy turn to thoughts of the Pimm’s cup.
I’ll just preface this piece by saying that I’m not a cocktail historian. Really. And it’s not that I don’t care about a cocktail’s history, it’s just that I’m not really very good at doing research or checking facts to unearth the precise origins of a particular drink. Don’t get me wrong: I think it’s an important facet of our industry, but I have other strengths that I choose to focus on.
Last week, my good friend and mentor David Wondrich posted this article about something that resonated with a good many of my peers in the bar world: the recent trend of some bartenders, myself amongst their number, reviving what Mr. Wondrich would have you believe are “crappy” drinks. Long Island iced teas. Kamikazes. Mudslides. Dave states that we’ve been “reaching back into the Dark Ages” in hopes of making modernized versions of the drinks “that this whole craft-cocktail thing was created to avoid.”