The Rise of Oregon

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Although there are only three states on the West Coast of the United States, many people can only name California. Few people east of the Rocky Mountains can even pronounce Oregon (Or-uh-gun). Yet in the world of alcoholic beverages, bartending and mixology, Oregon is becoming a strong force, alongside such historical greats as New York, Louisiana, Kentucky and California. Here’s why.

Oregon is the home to fabulous mixologists such as Lucy Brennan and Kevin Ludwig. Lucy was voted one of the top bartenders in the country by Playboy magazine recently. She tended bar at the wonderful, innovative restaurant Saucebox for years before opening her own two establishments. Kevin Ludwig of Park Kitchen has been noted recently for his mixology acheivements, including the creation of his own tonic water.

Juniper can be found growing all over Oregon, and is now being used to flavor some premium brands of gin – House Spirits’ Aviation Gin and Bend Distillery’s Cascade Mountain and Desert Juniper gins. The presence of wild juniper makes Oregon’s burgeoning gin industry a natural.

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The existence of wild Oregon hops has been one of the factors contributing to the explosion of Oregon beers. Oregon is the second-largest hop-producing state in the country, and as a result Portland has more breweries than any other city in the world. Oregon beers such as Widmer, Rogue, Full Sail and Deschutes are being exported all over the globe.

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Oregon just happens to reside at roughly the same latitude as Burgundy, France. This, in conjunction with Oregon’s climate and soil, have made the state a natural home for cool-climate wine grapes, most notably the Pinot Noir variety. In 2005, there were 314 wineries in Oregon.

Oregon grapes are also used to create Clear Creek Brandy, whose pear, apple and grape eaux de vie are winning awards and gaining accolades all over the country.

Oregon is the birthplace of Imbibe Magazine, a brilliant bi-monthly magazine about all things liquid. If you’ve not had the opportunity to read Imbibe, I strongly recommend you visit their blog and then head over to the magazine’s website to pick up an inexpensive subscription.

Spearmint grows wild all over Oregon, making mint-based cocktails such as the Mojito, Mint Julep and Richmond Gimlet feel right at home here.

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Finally, Oregon was on the map last year for its celebration of Repeal Day, a day which is now poised to be the next major drinking holiday in this country.

7 Replies to “The Rise of Oregon”

  • Jeffrey says:

    Thanks, for sharing, Phil!

    I forgot to mention that there are some fantastic Oregon weblogs out there that specialize in mixology, and Phil’s blog Lamb Martini is one of them. Definitely check him out!

  • Mike says:

    Gah! You’re reminding me that I really, really want to head out to Oregon. Perhaps this summer when the weather’s a little nicer!

  • paul says:

    Dude, your article made it onto mixology.eu – great site if you speak German. I love how this sounds:

    Oregon – das neue Mekka der Trinkkultur?

    Sweet. If there’s an Oregon board or Tourism they should sponsor you!

  • Siobhan says:

    Thanks for the mention of Imbibe….and speaking of Kevin’s legendary tonic water, his recipe appears in our March/April 2007 issue.

  • Jeffrey says:

    I’ve heard about this! I subscribed last month or so (finally) but I haven’t received an issue yet. I look forward to trying out Kevin’s recipe.

    I tried Fever Tree tonic at the Vegas bar show today, and I was suitably impressed. I’m going to talk to my Young’s Columbia rep tomorrow and see if I can get it in Oregon.

  • Alex says:

    See, the problem with people here in NYC is that they just don’t understand.

    “Fresh air? Mountains? Oh, we have those.”

    “Err, no. You have absolutely no idea.”

    I miss Oregon and everything about it. Kids growing up in Oregon go get drunk in the woods just like everyone else, but we did it with micro-brews. I think that speaks volumes.

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