Yesterday my co-pilot at El Vaquero, Scott, and I made our way up to Portland at nine in the morning for the Great American Distillers Festival – a feat not easily accomplished by two bartenders who had closed the bar the previous night.
The list of products available for tasting was short – this ain’t Vegas – but still fairly well-represented across the major categories. What was of particular interest to me, though, was the mixology competition located in the subterranean bunker several hundred feet below the Earth’s surface.
Siobhan Crosby of Imbibe Magazine emceed the event, with illustrious judges such as Lucy Brennan of Mint and 820, Tim Davey of Uptown Liquor, Anne Marie DiStefano, a writer for The Portland Tribune and Karen Foley of Imbibe Magazine.
I had read some great reviews of the Teardrop Lounge and have been excited to check out their space, but alas, they’re closed on my one day off. Fortunately for us, we were able to meet up with owner Daniel Shoemaker and bartender David Shenaut, who gave us a private tour of their enormous collection of housemade bitters, syrups and mixers after the festival.
Daniel made us an Adonis cocktail with SakeOne G-Joy sake in place of sherry, and their housemade pau d’arco bark bitters standing in for orange bitters. The flavors were complex, savory, and balanced – and opened up another mile by the addition of lemon zest.
Next we tried their Sazerac, made with Sazerac rye, Herbsainte and housemade cherry-vanilla bitters, on the rocks. It was lighter than a traditional Sazerac, with a balance that explored the savory side of the rye in a way that I’d never considered before.
By this point it was getting to be time to sober up for a few hours and make the long trek back to Eugene. All in all, it was a great experience, and I’m looking forward to getting back up to civilization again very soon.
Update: Phil over at Lamb Martini has a great little write-up here (I can’t believe I didn’t get to catch up with him) and Trader Tiki went all out. There’s also a pretty in-depth product review at Blotto.