“You won’t like it,” he told me. I had convinced my father to give me my first drink of beer. I was in elementary school and he was sitting in this favorite purple chair.
One of my most memorable sips of alcohol to this day was from a 40-ounce bottle of Budweiser and hoo boy, did I do a lot of talking to get it.
I’ve had much better beer (and cocktails) since but I’ve always acknowledged context such as this in my drink writing, especially when it comes to roundups. Some of my (and surely your) favorite or “best” food and drink memories are classified as the most memorable — for so many reasons — but often based on context.
Here’s my list of boozy drinks I enjoyed in 2014 (with some context).
Whey of the Gun from The Whey Bar at Ox
I was riding in an elevator with Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton after picking up my press credentials for Feast Portland, and the first thing to spill out of my mouth was how much I loved the Whey of the Gun cocktail.
Whey of the Gun is made from rum, bourbon, whey, and lime. The mouthfeel of this cocktail silky, smooth, and citrusy, and will stay on your mind for quite some time.
While I love Tiki drinks, Whey Bar gets bonus points for using rum to build a solid cocktail from surplus ingredients instead of a typical Tiki-style drink.
The Whey Bar is a great spot to grab a drink and wait for your table at the ever-popular Ox restaurant but I recommend going there just to drink. In the summer months, the sliding doors to the small bar are fully open and you’ll feel like you’re in your own craft cocktail oasis, tucked back from cars blasting by on MLK Blvd.
Aged (and boxed) rum in Colombia
Since I’m on the rum tip: boxed rum. We need it.
In April I flew to Bogotá, Colombia to stay with an American friend I had met while I was living in Minneapolis. It was one of the most terrifyingly beautiful places I have ever experienced. Due to slight elevation headaches and the overall uncertainties of the city, I was fairly sober for this trip. When I was drinking though, I was drinking rum. Boxed rum. Inexpensive rum, aged for four years is available in the grocery store. We need accessible aged rum like this in the States.
People often tell me how they dislike rum.
If you dislike rum, you haven’t had good rum yet. In 2015 I challenge you to try a rum aged four or more years. It will change your opinion of rum.
Another imbibing option in Colombia is Aguardiente.
Derived from sugarcane and flavored with aniseed, Aguardiente is Colombia’s national drink. If you’ve ever tried this “firewater,” you know why it’s so memorable.
Portland Caprese from Acadia
I stopped into Acadia over the summer to try the Portland Caprese designed by Beau Burtnick. I was in search of summer cocktails for Drink Portland’s list of summer cocktails.
Beau was visually excited about this drink and within reason. It tops my list as one of my most memorable drinks of 2014.
The base of the cocktail is made from clarified tomato juice, which Beau repeatedly pressed through a sieve to produce a light and refreshing base. No other bar (that I knew of at the time) was producing a cocktail like this with great mouthfeel that engaged multiple senses.
The liquid-form Caprese is beautifully arranged so as you sip, you take in the aroma from the basil as the clarified tomato juice hits your tongue. Portland Caprese interacted with taste, vision and smell in a way very few have matched.
In July, I flew to New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail, for “five days of what’s now, what’s new and what’s next in bartending.”
If you’re in the industry — whether you’re a bartender, a bar owner, or a writer — it’s a huge honor. Being granted media credentials was HUGE. I tried cocktails from bartenders I had only read about and sat in on seminars led by some of the best in the industry, including Jack McGarry of Dead Rabbit.
Before leaving New Orleans a sazerac was in order. This sazerac was one of the best I’ve ever had. Just the right amount of bitters and prepared as if the bartender had been making only sazeracs for 20 years.
If you’re ever in New Orleans head to the Carousel Bar for a sazerac.
The Old Fashioned at Multnomah Whisk(e)y Library
I had just started writing full-time for Staffing Robot, a beyond rad website design company. For one of our weekly happy hours we went to Multnomah Whiskey Library. And we didn’t have to wait in line.
I would have waited in line for this Old Fashioned though. It was as solid as they come and my first time sitting within the bar’s exhaustive collection of whisk(e)y.
Amari tasting at Nostrana
And it’s true. I was hooked. And I discovered new amari. While editor of Drink Portland I was given so many opportunities to try new things and this was a memorable tasting experience as I discovered new bitters and tried old favorites (Thank you Irene.).
Suitcase mezcal at Xico
I had stopped into the “aggressively modern Mexican” restaurant in the past to write about cocktails for Drink Portland but in December I was back in Xico to write about suitcase mezcal for Mise Magazine.
The owner Liz, has been bringing back mezcal back from Oaxaca and I was thrilled I could share this story that began in her early 20s.
Mezcal, or any booze for that matter, just tastes better when you know where it comes from and you can hear the story first-hand. Especially when it involves getting shocked by car batteries.