September 16th, 2010
Ted Munat blogged this recently: “I love the cocktail industry. It is brimming with creativity and with beautiful and amazing people. The affection people have for what they do, and for the others that do it, is unmatched in any other community on earth I have ever encountered.”
You might view that as mushy hyperbole from a happy drunk if Ted didn’t just publish a book, Left Coast Libations, that makes a solid case for the above statement over 160 pages of bartender profiles, city descriptions and recipes/photos of the splendid mixology that’s happening on the other side of the country. Left Coast Libations is an intelligent, cheeky, utterly heartfelt love letter to “the art of West Coast bartending.”
The book grew out of a pamphlet that Ted and his brother Charles put together and introduced, as I remember it anyway, at Tales of the Cocktail in 2008. “One copy fell into the hands of Scott Bodarky, a Bay Area book publisher,” writes Ted on the LCL website, and soon thereafter work on a “real life big boy book” began in partnership with recipe guru Michael Lazar and photographer Jenn Farrington. Here’s a brief excerpt and recipe from the Portland, Oregon section’s writeup of Evan Zimmerman of Laurelhurst Market (which I highly recommend):
“Evan’s a tornado behind the bar. And creative, wild, borderline insane shit flies in every direction from where he stands. For the love of God, the man’s drink in this book calls for smoked ice. Do you have any idea how far gone from reality a person has to be to conceive of smoking ice? I was a teenager once, and I tried smoking just about everything… but never ice.”
1 1/2 oz Tennessee whiskey
1 oz manzanilla sherry
3/4 oz Pecan Syrup
1/2 lemon juice
1 dash The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter bitters
Combine all the ingredients except smoked ice in a shaker with (not smoked) ice. Shake hard. Double-strain over a 2″ by 2″ block of the smoked ice in an Old Fashioned glass.
If you want to know how to make smoked ice and pecan syrup — and you like fun cocktail writing and tasty recipes — you have to buy the book. (Don’t worry, not every recipe in LCL calls for such complicated ingredients).
I don’t know if there will ever be an East Coast Cocktails-or-something-or-other to rival LCL, but, Ted & Co., you have officially fired the first shot. Cheers and congrats to you all.
Tags: California, Left Coast Libations, Oregon, Ted Munat, Washington, West Coast
Posted in Books & resources, Cocktails | 6 Comments »
November 30th, 2009
OK, I get it. After my first visit to Seattle, WA, and Portland, OR, I get why I’ve never met anyone who has said of either city, “I just had to get out of that hellhole!” The people are friendly, the mood is casual, the roads are civil (no one jaywalks!), the cultural scene is vibrant, and the weather is … well, a bit warmer in winter than New England. Most important of all, the bars and restaurants are tops.
Me (left) at Tavern Law with Leonora and Paul Clarke, and Jamie Boudreau.
Honestly, about half the reason I took this trip was to go to the ZigZag Cafe and to meet the inestimable Murray Stenson, who has tended bar in and around Seattle for more than 30 years. The thing about Murray, the reason why his fans include the arbiters of the cocktail and bar renaissance in addition to legions of regular customers, is that he combines the chops and charm of an old pro with the mixological enthusiasm of today’s cocktail geek — all in a manner that comes across as completely genuine and welcoming to all.
Murray and his co-worker Sabrina Ross at the ZigZag.
And it’s not like Murray’s the only talent on the ZigZag team. The place as a whole — its dark-wood bar anchors a contemporary-looking restaurant — radiates an easygoing hospitality, and co-owners Kacy Fitch and Ben Dougherty and the rest of the bar staff turn out expertly made drinks with often rare ingredients. A couple of the cocktails Murray made for me involved Giffard products from France, which are generally unavailable in the States: Mangalore liqueur (made with cardamom and other spices) and macadamia-nut syrup. Then there was the pre-Prohibition bourbon. Oh, and something special that caught this Bostonian’s eye: on the ZigZag’s cocktail menu was the Bohannon, created by our homeboy Casey Keenan.
I visited several other Seattle bars, including:
Jay Kuehner in perpetual motion at Sambar.
Sambar – Thanks to Charles Munat for insisting on driving me and Paul Clarke out to Seattle’s Ballard-Fremont neighborhood to experience this smart, little cafe connected to Le Gourmand restaurant. Bartender Jay Kuehner is well respected for mixing some of the most creative and tasty cocktails in the city, and he is a sweet guy to boot.
Keith Waldbauer tries to set fire to Vessel.
Tavern Law – Part contemporary saloon, part speakeasy (the speakeasy is upstairs behind a semi-hidden door). Bartender Miles “Scrappy’s Bitters” Thomas mixed me a couple of refreshing drinks from the old school — the Kemble House (orange gin, dry vermouth, Fernet Branca) and the Rose Cocktail (dry vermouth, kirschwasser, bitters) — which I enjoyed in the company of Paul Clarke and his wife, Leonora, and Jamie “the man, the legend” Boudreau, who is between bartending gigs at the moment.
Vending-machine art at the Hideout. Abu-Grape "Follypops."
Plus … the artisanal cocktail bar Vessel, where Keith Walbauer’s mixture of bourbon, Pommeau de Normandie, Benedictine and Fee’s Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters was inspired by Misty Kalkofen‘s Fort Washington Flip; the hip, den-like Rob Roy, where I said hello to Anu Apte, who just started the Washington State chapter of LUPEC; the Hideout, which lives up to its name and where you can get a good cocktail and admire (and purchase) cool, local art; Spur Gastropub, whose creators are also responsible for Tavern Law; Bathtub Gin, a narrow and cozy speakeasy where Marley Tomic-Beard, formerly of Eastern Standard, now tends bar; and Brouwers Cafe, a beer bar with an impressive list of Belgian and northwest U.S. brews. Finally, I must mention that I stayed at the historic Sorrento Hotel, which itself has joined the Seattle cocktail scene with its Drinking Lessons led by some of the country’s top bartenders and drink historians.
After a pretty ride to Portland on Amtrak’s Cascade line and a brief gawk at beautiful, old Union Station, I made a beeline to Clyde Common in the Pearl District (one of those industrial-turned-artsy neighborhoods). It was happy hour, and bartending/mixology blogger, Repeal Day impresario and international playboy Jeffrey Morgenthaler was helming the bar. Twenty-somethings who were attractive in an approachable way filtered in for what appeared to be a continued sampling of Morgenthaler’s cocktail menu, with solid stuff like the Bourbon Renewal (Maker’s Mark, lemon juice, cassis, bitters) and the Norwegian Wood (Krogstad Aquavit, applejack, Cinzano Rosso, yellow Chartreuse, bitters). A “European-style tavern” — think northern European in design — Clyde Common is a jewel in Portland’s considerable culinary crown, with its pronounced focus on local ingredients and simple preparations.
Norwegian Negroni at Beaker and Flask
Another such jewel is Laurelhurst Market, a butcher shop that expanded into a hip steak house in the Laurelhurst neighborhood (a little ways across the Willamette River from the Pearl). There’s a fine bar program here, too, and I had a Swoon cocktail — applejack, lemon juice, egg white, burnt chamomile syrup — before digging into my steak frites.
A quick cab ride got me over to Beaker and Flask, which has no sign and appears to occupy a building that was once a show room for cars or home appliances. It sits on an elevated spot, and its large windows offer a great view of the city lights across the river. Bartender David Shenaut, who also pulls shifts at the Teardrop Lounge (see below), made me a tasty Norwegian Negroni with Krogstad Aquavit, Cynar and sweet vermouth. Then, what with Blair “Trader Tiki” Reynolds walking over and introducing himself to me, we decided to do something experimental with falernum, Irish whiskey, egg white, bitters and I honestly don’t remember what all else. It was interesting, though.
Daniel Shoemaker at the Teardrop. Dig the fat necktie knot.
The Teardrop Lounge is one of those must-visit bars for any cocktailian visiting Oregon. They make a lot of their own ingredients, including tonic water, liqueurs and bitters. The space, with its large, oval bar, is like a shrine to the artisanal cocktail, and the bartenders dress sharply. I was happy to see dry-humored Daniel Shoemaker, whom I had met at Tales of the Cocktail, again on his home turf.
It's a beer store. And a beer bar.
After all that cocktailing, man, was I thirsty for a beer. Luckily, Portland can satisfy those cravings and then some. On my last night I pub-hopped from the venerable, English-style Horse Brass Pub (terrific mix of British, European and Northwest brews) to Belmont Station (a no-frills beer bar that grew out of a kick-ass craft beer store) to Prost (new and a rarity in the States — a contemporary beer bar focusing on German beer and cuisine; great stuff) to, finally, Cassidy’s — a 30-year-old saloon-style bar that attracts industry types late-night after their shifts. Given Cassidy’s reputation, what choice did I have but to end my Northwest bar hop with a Rainier tall-boy and a shot of Fernet?
Thanks to all my friendly Northwest guides for a fabulous time!
Nightcap at Cassidy's: Fernet with a Rainier back.
Tags: beer bars, cocktail bars, Oregon, Pacific Northwest, Portland
Posted in Seattle | 13 Comments »