Welcome to Imbibe Magazine's between-issues look at liquid culture with drink recipes, news and more. From coffee to cocktails, Imbibe celebrates your world in a glass.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Beer World Celebrates the Life of Michael Jackson, the Beer Hunter

We received sad news today. Michael Jackson, the Beer Hunter died today at his home in London. The news came to us from writer Adem Tepedelen, whose story on Hefeweizen appears in Imbibe's September/October issue.

In an e-mail to its members, the Brewers Association said:

It is with deep regret that we must inform you of the passing of Michael Jackson, the Beer Hunter.... Michael's presence in the beer world profoundly impacted us as it did many of you. He was revered and honored each and every time he joined us and brewers in Denver and across the U.S. ... Truly this is a sad day for the beer industry as we have lost a good friend.

For a Web celebration of Michael's life and contribution to the beer world, visit this page.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The MixMaster's Cup

Last weekend we attended the Great American Distillers Festival in Portland, which hosted the MixMaster’s Cup, a gathering of 12 talented bartenders from some of the best bars in Portland. Siobhan, Imbibe’s circulation manager, stepped up to emcee the competition, and I was lucky enough to be a judge along with Lucy Brennan, owner of Mint/820; Tim Davey of Uptown Liquor; and Anne Marie DiStefano, bar and nightlife writer for The Portland Tribune.

We had a fantastic field of competitors, which made the judging incredibly enjoyable. The format was such that each competitor was pre-assigned a spirit category, and they had to use that spirit with any other ingredients to make one cocktail for each judge within 15 minutes. The categories were rum, gin, brandy, vodka, flavored vodka and whiskey, and the designated spirits had to be chosen from those being exhibited at the festival.

The competitors were all very unique in their styles and processes. Kelley Swenson of Ten 01 started things off in perfect Portland style with his “Flaming Liberal,” a lovely blend of rum, Cointreau, orange bitters, fresh lime and a dash of pastis served up in a cocktail glass with a sprig of dried lavender. This drink definitely got things off to a great start. Sarah Lightner of Acadia also took on rum and combined the sweetness of the spirit with the spice of a hot pepper garnish in her "Green Goddess" cocktail.

Next came gin, and Dave Shenaut got things going with a drink that sounds simple, a gin and tonic, but his delicious homemade tonic made the drink much more memorable than the average G&T. Dave works at Teardrop Lounge, a new bar in Portland with a ton of buzz because not only are they making incredible cocktails, but they're making a lot of their ingredients from scratch—tonic, falernum, bitters and more. Also in the gin category was Jason Smith of The Gilt Club. His "Rosemary's Baby" combined gin, grapefruit juice and rosemary served up in a cocktail glass with a grapefruit-infused salt and pepper rim and a sprig of rosemary. And wrapping up the gin round was Flip Romero of Portland’s famed Saucebox. Flip made a “Q Bee” with a pastis rinse, gin and a homemade thyme, ginger and honey tea.

Things got a little molecular in the vodka category with Daniel Stern of Fenouil making one of his famous cloud garnishes. His drink was called a “Reconstructed Zen Cosmo.” The liquid was vodka, fresh lime juice and simple syrup. Then Daniel created cranberry and citrus foams that he split and floated on top of the liquid. Kelly Stewart of the Purple Tooth Lounge wrapped up the vodka category with a Black Widow, a blend of Hot Monkey Vodka, Kahlua, Chambord, Godiva liqueur, and vanilla Stoli. For anyone who hasn’t tried Hot Monkey, it’s a seriously spicy vodka, so a little goes a long way.

Gretchen Wilcox of one of Portland’s best bars and restaurants, Park Kitchen, was Saturday’s final competitor, and she gave a great performance. Gretchen is incredibly knowledgeable and at ease in front of an audience. She crafted a "Portland Streetcar," a blend of Clear Creek’s Doug Fir eau de vie, lemon verbena, rosemary, Cointreau, fresh lemon juice and orange bitters. Like most of Park Kitchen’s cocktails, the Streetcar was crisp and fresh—perfect for a summer day in Portland.

Tim sizes up the Monkey on My Back.
On Sunday we had two more categories to go before the finals, flavored vodka and whiskey. Langdon Peale of Jake’s got us off to a good start with his “Monkey on My Back” cocktail, which brought back Hot Monkey Vodka. I was a little worried that the vodka might overwhelm, but Langdon did a nice job of creating a balanced drink. The vodka was combined with pineapple-infused rum, blood orange bitters, falernum, orange juice, lemon juice and lime juice. He did a pretty sugared rim on his fluted glasses and threw on a plastic monkey for good measure. (Tim Davey sizes up the "Monkey" in the righthand photo.)

Not to be outdone, Suzanne Allard (pictured above) from Castagna closed flavored vodka with her "Mrs. McIntyre," which married rose vodka with non-flavored vodka, a raspberry/peach puree and lemon juice. This incredibly balanced and refined cocktail was served up in beautiful vintage glasses with a fresh raspberry garnish. Suzanne’s enthusiasm and affable personality made her a lot of fun to watch, and her cocktail was a joy to drink.

Finally, came the whiskey category with Lance Mayhew (pictured above) of Meriwether's and Charlie Hodge of Clyde Common. Of all the categories, this one probably offered the fewest options—no bourbons, for example. But with these guys, you’d never have known the spirit options were limited. Lance gave a very well-informed presentation, and he put a ton of work into his drink. Called “The Raena Marie” (after his wife), he combined Snake River Stampede Whiskey with homemade grapefruit bitters, turbinado syrup, smoked lemon juice (he actually smoked lemons!) and chamomile liqueur. He then used dried and powdered Licor 43 to rim his cocktail glasses. If we could give individual prizes for preparation, Lance would have gotten one for sure. Maybe we can get him to divulge recipes for some of those intriguing ingredients….

Charlie Hodge took us home with his “Oxbow,” a complete departure from any other cocktail in the competition. Like Lance, Charlie chose the Snake River whiskey for his base to which he added a condensed milk/vanilla combo and cream. He served it up in glasses rimmed with vanilla paste and finely ground smoked-salt. His drink was surprisingly balanced given the unexpected combination of salt and milk, and Charlie’s stage presence is fantastic—lots of dual-action shaking going on and a fun, laid-back, yet creative approach to drink-making.

Onto the finals! The format of the final round was a la Iron Chef, with the competitors getting a mystery ingredient unveiled to them on the spot. The secret ingredient was G Joy sake, as well as fresh blackberries that had to be used somehow as a garnish but could also be incorporated into the cocktail. Each finalist had 15 minutes to create and execute a cocktail on the fly, and they were all great!

The finalists competed one by one, and Suzanne dove in first with her “Whoop, There It Is,” a delicious combo of sake, muddled blackberries, homemade ginger syrup, lemon juice and vodka served up in a cocktail glass with a fresh blackberry. Suzanne has a very intuitive approach to drink-making, and she seemed to know immediately what flavors she needed to put together—this drink could easily go onto Castagna’s menu today.

Kelley (pictured above) came out second, and he was much more experimental, grabbing various spirits, trying out different flavor combinations, scrapping his concoctions and starting from scratch. In the end, he settled on a simple but elegant blend of sake, gin and peach bitters served up in a cocktail glass with a speared berry, and he finished with just seconds to go.

Charlie closed the finals with more experimentation and testing. He’s so much fun to watch because he’s not afraid to get messy, and he brought his same cool and collected demeanor to the finals. His drink combined sake with huckleberry liqueur, lemon juice, muddled blackberry and maraschino liqueur served over ice, topped with tonic water and garnished with lime zest and a dollop of muddled blackberry.

All three finalists were so impressive, especially given the fact that they had no idea what they’d be making beforehand, but Suzanne took home first place for her “Whoop” creation. Her completely overjoyed reaction to winning was priceless and so much fun to watch. Behind Suzanne, Charlie won second place and Kelley won third. Big congrats to everyone who competed! —Karen Foley

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tomatoes & Tequila

Every August, I'm swimming in vine-ripened tomatoes from my garden. My favorite summer seasonal fruit requires quick consumption, so after picking a pint of grape tomatoes, I went to the shelf and opened the May/June issue of Imbibe to put those sweet tomatoes to use. The Drinko de Gallo (pdf) was contributed by Jeff Hollinger, co-author of Art of the Bar and manager at Absinthe Brasserie in San Francisco, and this refreshing summer cocktail marries tequila and fresh tomatoes, cilantro, Cointreau and lime with an optional hot pepper.

As I sipped my Drinko de Gallo and sautéed some veggies for a tostada, I got an idea: instead of chucking the leftovers from the shaker, why not add them to my guacamole for a little kick? The addition of tequila-soaked tomatoes gives me yet another reason to make this drink again and again. Hmm, I wonder if my gazpacho can do double duty in a bloody mary? —Siobhan Crosby

Here's my easy guacamole recipe:
1 fresh, ripe avocado
1 Tbsp organic salsa (or more to taste)
1 tsp fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp kosher salt

P.S. If you're in the Portland area this weekend, come see us at the Great American Distillers Festival to sample craft-distilled spirits (pdf) from all over the country and check out the Mix Master's Cup mixology competition—should be a great time. And please be nice to the emcee (that would be me).

Photo by Studio3 from the May/June 2007 Issue of Imbibe

Friday, August 17, 2007

Idaho, Land of Potatoes ... and Artisan Drinks?

When my husband Mark and I decided to spend a week on a glacial lake near the border of Idaho and Canada, we knew we’d find some good canoeing and hiking, and hoped for a Twin Peaks-esque diner or two, but we didn’t know what to expect on the drinks front. Were we destined for seven days of diner coffee and macrobrews, or would we find that even mountain folk appreciate good drinks? Having found great drinks in unexpected places in the past, we hoped for the latter.

We weren’t disappointed. On the drive from Portland to Idaho, we discovered two craft breweries and a tiny natural foods store/ice cream shop with an incredibly well-stocked beer fridge. In Roslyn, Wash. (pop. 1,017), an old mining town in the Cascade Mountains—and the filming location for the 1990s TV series Northern Exposure—the Roslyn Brewing Co.’s taproom and beer garden weren’t open, but we vowed to stop for a pint on our way back through town. At Lefties store and ice cream shop, we stocked up on brews for the week, choosing from a good selection of Belgians and rare domestic microbrews. Half an hour later, we stopped in rural Ellensburg to fuel up at Central Washington Biodiesel and stumbled on Iron Horse Brewery, home of the appropriately named Rodeo Extra Pale (the whole town is gearing up for the 75th “diamond jubilee” Ellensburg Rodeo later this month.) The brewery wasn’t open, but now we're looking for Iron Horse brews at Northwest stores and restaurants.

In Sandpoint, Idaho, the biggest town (with a whopping 6,000 residents) near the lake we were visiting, we found yet another craft brewery, Laughing Dog Brewing, and a brewpub, MickDuff’s, where we sampled a deliciously creamy-spicy house-brewed rootbeer and a house IPA. Next door at Three Glasses wine bar, locals and tourists quaff Northwest wines, and several other Sandpoint restaurants feature wines from the local Pend d’Oreille Winery and other Idaho makers. (Did you know there are more than 30 wineries in Idaho?) Also in Sandpoint, on a quest to find an alternative to a major chain coffee retailer, several residents pointed us toward their local roaster, Monarch Mountain Coffee, where we had the best espresso we’d supped since Portland. The Monarch Mountain coffeehouse had a dozen single-origin coffees on hand, proudly displayed behind the counter in large glass jars.

On the trip home, back in Roslyn, Wash., we nursed a Roslyn Lager at the Brick Tavern, an old miner bar that’s said to be the oldest operating tavern in the state (check out the gargantuan, original bar, complete with a gutter of streaming water that runs under the stools, for spitting into), and marveled at a week’s worth of local drink finds.

What are some of your favorite out-of-the-way drink spots? Surely there are some good ones in your neck of the woods, wherever you live. -Kate Darling

(Photo: Roslyn Brewing Co.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tiki Oasis 7: Hawaii A-Go-Go

Attention lounge lizards: Tiki Oasis 7, “the Tiki community’s annual family reunion,” according to promoters Otto and Baby Doe von Stroheim of Tiki News Magazine, kicks off this weekend at San Diego’s Crowne Plaza Hotel. This year’s theme is Hawaii A-Go-Go, and the event features parties with Hawaiian, garage, surf and go-go bands, vendors offering tiki trinkets to trick out your own personal oasis, and expert symposiums where you can brush up on the finer points of the Tiki lifestyle. Learn to dance the frug with San Francisco’s Devil-Ettes, soak up some history from Tiki historian Sven Kirsten, and best of all, learn the history of Hawaii through drinks with Tiki cocktail expert Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (profiled in Imbibe, May/June 07), author of the newly published Sippin’ Safari. It looks to be a super swingin’ time; reserve your spot now and find more details at their website.

Thursday, Aug. 16-Sunday, Aug. 19. Crowne Plaza Hotel, San Diego-Mission Valley, 2270 Hotel Circle North, San Diego.

Monday, August 13, 2007

MxMo XVIII: Orange You Glad

It's been a while since we've participated in Mixology Monday, so we're happy to join in on the latest MxMo hosted by Intoxicated Zodiac. This month's theme is orange, so we thought we'd revive a very tasty recipe we created to celebrate our first anniversary back in May. To see the rest of the submissions, head over to Intoxiated Zodiac, where all of the recipes will be posted.

Orange You Glad
Sweet, bright orange oil and bitters mingle amorously with bone-dry Spanish bubbly for a match that might inspire a second round of toasts.

1 slice ripe sweet orange
1/2 oz. honey syrup (equal parts honey and water, blended until uniformly syrupy)
2 dashes orange bitters
1 oz. sweet vermouth
Cava brut
Ice cubes
Tools: mixing pint, muddler, bar spoon, shaker, strainer
Glass: classic champagne flute (6 oz.)
Garnish: orange twist

In a mixing pint, combine orange slice with honey syrup and bitters, and muddle well. Add vermouth and stir briefly. Pour contents into a shaker and shake with ice until the shaker is uniformly cold to the touch. Strain into a flute. Top with cava. Garnish. (Note: If you're using an oversized contemporary champagne flute, such as a 12-ounce stemless flute, adjust recipe accordingly.) Photo: Imbibe Magazine

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Great American Distillers Festival

One more reason we love living in Portland—so many fantastic drink events! In two weeks (August 25-26), the 3rd Annual Great American Distillers Festival will take place at the Gerding Theater in Portland's Pearl District. Craft distillers from around the country will be on hand doing tastings and seminars, and there will also be a fun mixology competition with professional bartenders showcasing their stuff. Tickets are $10, which gets you 3 pours, and then additional pours are $1 each after that. There will also be food and live music, and part of the event's proceeds go back to Portland Center Stage, which is a wonderful theater group. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, Aug 25, 11 a.m-8 p.m. | Sunday, Aug 26, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
$10 per person for 3 pours; $1 per pour thereafter
Mixology Competition: Saturday, 1-4:30 p.m. | Sunday 1-5 p.m.
Gerding Theater: 128 NW 11th Ave. (at Davis), Portland, Ore.

Friday, August 10, 2007

What Makes a Great Bar?

Recently we helped judge the Spirit Awards at Tales of the Cocktail, and several of the categories awarded bars for excelling in certain ways: best drinks selection, best classic cocktail bar, best new bar, etc. Bars like Zig Zag, Bourbon & Branch, Cantina, Vessel, Pegu Club and Flatiron Lounge were nomintaed in the various categories, and it was interesting to see why each place was nominated. And it got us to thinking more about the formula for a great bar and why we frequent certain places more than others. What is it that keeps you coming back to your favorite bars? Is it a certain drink, a bartender, the atmosphere, the crowd?

Also, a quick shout-out to our buddy Paul Clarke who got some kudos in a recent piece on Salon—check it out.

And welcome another Imbibe friend, Chuck Taggart, who for some weird reason is just now making it onto our blogroll. Chuck's blog is highly entertaining, and we always learn something new and interesting over there. And make sure you try his fantastic pimento dram recipe in the current issue—delicious! And a final welcome to The Thirstin' Howl, another fun blog and new addition to the roll.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Win the San Francisco Cocktail Square-Off!

Okay imbibers, time to roll up your sleeves and come up with a killer cocktail recipe that could win you a trip to San Francisco to compete on September 25 in the Square-Off Cocktail Competition, sponsored by Square One Vodka, Imbibe, CHOW.com and Om Organics. Here's how it works. Click here to submit your recipe and check out the competition rules and details (note that submissions and prizes are restricted in certain states)—you can also view and vote on the other submissions. Entries are due by August 31 and will be narrowed down to two finalists by a panel of judges. The finalists will meet in San Francisco, where they will go head to head with their winning recipes and also have to create a cocktail on the spot using a secret ingredient from the local Farmers Market—for inspiration, refer to "Drink Your Way Through the Farmers Market" in your May/June issue of Imbibe. The final winner will receive a very cool ProDesign Bar Set.

This should be a really fun event, and who needs a better excuse to visit one of the best cities in the country? So buckle down, start mixing and be sure to submit your recipe by August 31. Good luck!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Late Night With Wine Library TV

We love Gary Vaynerchuk's fun, down-to-earth approach to wine tasting. His show Wine Library TV is all about breaking down the intimidating barriers that often keep people from exploring wine as much as they may want to. Recently, he tried to do a little wine tasting with Conan O'Brien—dirt, grass, stinky socks and all. If you missed the episode, here is a clip, and it's hilarious. For more on some of the odd flavors Gary describes to Conan, check out our "It's Just Wine" feature in the March/April issue, which provides a great wine-tasting 101 primer.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Keg Party

One of our all-time favorite root beers is Virgils, and while we were in New Orleans a couple weeks back, we spotted something in a deli that made our hearts flutter. A WHOLE KEG OF THE STUFF! Okay, it's not a real keg, more like a mini, but who cares? It's a fun novelty filled with some of the most satisfying root beer goodness around. The 5-liter keg is available in Root Beer or Cream Soda and sells for $15.99-$19.99. You can order kegs from the website, and Cost Plus and some Whole Foods and Costcos have them.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

2007 World Barista Champion

Congrats to James Hoffman of the U.K. who just won top honors at the World Barista Championship in Tokyo. More than 40 baristas from around the world converged in Japan this week to participate in three days of intense competition. U.S. Barista Champion Heather Perry placed 2nd, Carl Sara of New Zealand nabbed 3rd and Miyuki Miyamae of Japan came in 4th. Under the ever-watchful eyes of judges, competitors had to serve four espressos, cappuccinos and signature drinks. James' signature drink combined an intriguing blend of ingredients, including coffee, hazelnuts and tobacco-infused cream—fantastic!