Last month I had the opportunity to visit House Spirits Distillery in Portland, Oregon, tour the facilities with head distiller, Andrew Tice and get to know founder & distiller, Christian Krogstad – one of the pioneers behind America’s craft distilling revival.
House Spirits Distillery, a forerunner in Portland’s craft distilling community, is now in their 12th year of operation. And after leading the development of the city’s first Distillery Row in Southeast Portland, making the move into a shiny, new $6 million production facility with tasting room last November, they’ve solidified their position as the largest distilling operation in the Pacific Northwest.
The new 14,000 square foot space includes a 3,000-gallon copper and stainless steel whiskey still, one of the largest on the west coast.
The new production facility allows for them to distill six times their previous distilling capacity and they have more than doubled their production of their flagship spirit, Aviation American Gin.
They’ve only been in their new digs for about eight months now, but according to Krogstad, demand for product has them already outgrowing the building. They may soon have to look for another space entirely for the different legs of production. But in the meantime, they’re running a tight ship, producing excellent products and having fun while doing it.
After having spent some time with Krogstad, I can’t help but think that the convivial atmosphere around the House Spirits Distillery is in large part due to his leadership.
A Seattle native, Krogstad spent some formative years post college in Hawaii where he first got into home brewing. After settling in Portland in ’91, initially drawn by the city’s craft beer boom and working in that industry for 12 years, he then looked to craft distilling as the next big thing. Observing the success of the microbrew scene informed his decision to test the industry waters. But it was the resurgence of craft cocktails and ultimately his partnership with local bartender Ryan Malarian that helped to launch Aviation American Gin as we know it, designed with cocktails in mind.
As a longtime fan of Aviation Gin (and after having celebrated their 10th birthday in July with an original cocktail), I was eager to learn about and try all the other products House Spirits is producing.
Volstead Vodka, cheekily named after the father of Prohibition, Andrew Volstead, was also created with cocktails in mind. Made with pure Cascade mountain water and filtered through charred coconut husks, this vodka went on to win the 2013 Gold Medal at the 2013 SF World Spirits Competition.
I LOVE a coffee liqueur and House Spirits Coffee Liqueur is a lovely take on the category. Using pot-distilled rum made with Barbados molasses and then blended with cold pressed coffee from Portland’s famed Stumptown Coffee, this stuff was made to be sipped on its own, but would also be fantastic in a cocktail.
Aquavit, a traditional Scandinavian spirit, usually distilled from grain and flavored with botanicals, namely caraway seed, is having a bit of a renaissance. Many bartenders specializing in craft cocktails have discovered it to be as important as a base spirit as vodka or gin. Coming from a desire to honor his family’s Scandinavian heritage, Krogstad had House Spirits produce aquavit early on in their development. They now produce two expressions, the unaged Krogstad Festlig Aquavit, made with only two botanicals, caraway seed and star anise and Krogstad Gamle Aquavit, aged in premium French oak wine barrels for 10-12 months, available once a year.
Rounding out House Spirits’ portfolio is the fantastic Westward Oregon Straight Malt Whiskey launched in 2013. Using locally sourced barley and then fermented with ale yeasts, this malt whiskey, inspired by an Irish style of whiskey making, then has to spend two and a half years in new American oak barrels.
Head distiller, Andrew Tice, had me taste the whiskey wash, also known as distiller’s beer – essentially the beer that is to be distilled into whiskey. This normally is not very tasty, tends to have off flavors, and no one would voluntarily drink this unless they were in the business of distilling. But Westward Whiskey’s distiller’s beer was incredible. Like a Saison ale – earthy, fruit forward, nutty, complex and extremely quaffable! Maybe it’s because both Krogstad and Tice have craft brew backgrounds or they’ve just hit on something magic in the process, but if they ever want to go back into the beer business they may have something here!
In any case, this quality wash also creates a beautiful whiskey. And the new facility will allow for even more of it to be produced and aged. They predict 1000 barrels of the stuff in their first year.
To go behind the scenes on my tour of House Spirits Distillery, check out the Snapchat video I made that day below. Many thanks to Christian and Andrew and everyone who helped facilitate this amazing experience. I highly recommend visiting their Tasting Room the next time you’re in Portland. The space is beautiful, the people are lovely and extremely knowledgable and the spirits (and cocktails!) are top-notch. More info here.
Who out there has tried sodabi, a traditional West African liquor distilled from fermented palm tree sap? If you’re anything like me, this exotic spirit is unfamiliar…but intriguing! Unless you are from West Africa or have spent any significant time there, the likelihood of you having tried this local specialty of Benin, the birthplace of voodoo, is pretty low.
TAMBOUR ORIGINAL, a spiced sodabi created in 2012 by an American in Benin passionate about the culture and region, is trying to change all that. After having launched in sodabi’s native region, the heart of Benin, and establishing a following there, as well as winning a silver medal in the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, Jake Muhleman and his partners are working to bring this spirit stateside through an equity crowdfunding campaign.
Tambour Original is fairly unusual, even in the local segment, and is considered a modern interpretation. It is distilled twice in a stainless steel still and is then infused with a blend of 14 local plants and spices, making for a slightly aromatic spirit with just a touch of sweetness reminiscent of an earthier cachaca or spiced rum.
But since palm liquor is created by distilling palm wine, I was inspired to use it like a brandy.
The sidecar is one of my favorite cocktails and since it only has three ingredients, I thought this recipe would be perfect to let this spirit really shine.
1.5 oz Tambour Original Sodabi
1 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz lemon juice
Add the ingredients to an ice-filled shaker. Shake 8 to 10 seconds, until the outside of the shaker is well chilled. Strain into a coupe or cocktail glass.
Garnish with a lemon twist. Sugared rim optional.
VooDoo Spirits, the company behind Tambour Original Sodabi, is at the tail end of their crowdfunding campaign to bring their bottles to the US. If you are interested in participating in this project and to help them reach their goal, check their site out here!
Oh, summer, you dreamy, fleeting, hot little minx. How is it you seem to go by faster every year? I will never understand the passage of time…no matter how many Neil deGrasse Tyson YouTube videos I watch. But what I DO understand is that we best make the most of it these next couple of weeks because soon everything will change! (Except in LA, apparently. It’s sort of summer all year round here. It makes for very confusing seasonal recipe testing!)
But we all know that Labor Day weekend really marks the end of summer. And if you’re anything like me, you like to stave off the summer blues and make sure to jam your entire summer’s worth in that one long weekend with multiple BBQs, out-of-town jaunts and outdoor frolicking. I will rule you, SUMMER! And the cocktail that everyone has settled into drinking by the end of the sunny season? It’s usually a pretty simple and refreshing one, like a Moscow Mule, Pimm’s Cup or Gin & Tonic. All of which were my inspirations for this Labor Day weekend cocktail, the equally simple and refreshing, Cucumber Ginger Iced Tea. The best part? It can be batched in a pitcher ahead of time so you don’t have to play bartender all weekend!
I was excited to make this with a local Los Angeles vodka that just recently came to town, Our/Vodka.
Our/Vodka was started in Sweden as a local/franchise distillery concept under the umbrella of Pernod Ricard. They started their first micro-distillery in Berlin and went on to open similar operations in Amsterdam, London, Seattle and Detroit. The Arts District in downtown Los Angeles is their sixth and latest location to open as part of the Our/Vodka brand family.
In each city they partner with local entrepreneurs to distill, blend and hand-bottle in their very own micro-distillery according to the same global recipe. But each city is able to create their own unique flavor profile, to an extent, by using different, locally sourced ingredients. The concept is fascinating. I would love to compare them all to see what differences can be detected. As for now, I’ll take the La La version in this cocktail! Enjoy! And have an amazing weekend!
Cucumber Ginger Iced Tea
8 cups cooled ginger tea, sweetened with 4 oz agave
1 750 ml bottle vodka
1 cup lemon juice
2 liters ginger beer
I cucumber, sliced into thin rounds
1 lemon, sliced into wheels
Pour the sweetened tea, vodka, and lemon juice into a large canister. Add the sliced cucumbers (leave some for garnish) and lemons. Let sit for about 20 minutes. When ready to serve, add ginger beer. Ladle over ice-filled Collins glass, garnish with cucumber.
Last Saturday night, Cointreau, the iconic French orange liqueur, partnered with Jeremiah Brent, TV personality, interior designer and handsome hubs to Oprah bestie Nate Berkus, on a beautiful, travel-inspired evening as part of their “The Art of La Soirée” tour of events.
The fête, set inside the stunning Big Daddy’s Antiques in Los Angeles, is part of a series of events set in five different cities – Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas and New York City – each one curated by a different artist with a slightly different inspired entertaining theme. Last Saturday’s soirée showcased Jeremiah’s passion for travel and global discovery – the Collection de Voyages Soirée.
The immersive experience was a Moroccan summer’s night meets Croatian holiday crossed with a Mayan Riviera getaway. And the cocktails, curated by Jeremiah, also drew inspiration from those cities that made the most impact on him through his travels – Tulum, Mexico; Marrakech, Morocco; Hanoi, Vietnam; and Split, Croatia. Los Angeles, of course, played a role in the night as well. Despite feeling transported, the beautiful guests, unusual, dual-purpose event space, and the hip DJ, electric guitarist entertainment for the night helped to remind us that we were still in La La Land!
Oh, and, look who I ran into?! The lovely powerhouse mixology couple, Kyle and Rachel Ford, profiled on this here blog last year in our Bartender Style series. This event actually marked Kyle’s last as Cocktail & Spirits Expert for Rémy Cointreau. And with the decision to focus primarily on their revamped consulting firm, Ford Marketing Lab, Kyle has officially passed the Cointreau torch. I have no doubt the Rémy Cointreau family will miss him!
It was an enchanting night! And I sort of felt like I went on a mini 3-hour vacation to some exotic locale with elegant natives, citrusy cocktails and dazzling light fixtures everywhere. Jeremiah Brent, can you curate my life, please?
If you are interested in attending one of The Art of La Soirée events, check back in to Cointreau’s site to see about a soirée near you!
All photos courtesy of Shannon Carpenter from This Aperture.
Twist Your Spirits is a collection of artisanal cocktail kits designed to create the perfect cocktail at home or on the go.
Curated by mixologists, each kit contains cocktail mixers, bitters, syrups or shrubs from smaller companies making their mark in the cocktail game. They even provide a jigger, coasters, garnishes and stirrers, so you are fully equipped to mix up their easy-to-follow recipes – and you won’t have to go searching for a shot glass or something to pretty up your drink when you’re entertaining on the fly. It’s a one stop party in a box. Just add booze!
And, in my case, with a recent box of their Smoke Y Margarita cocktail kit, a little pink grapefruit juice for my own little twist! According to co-founder Alison Dinerstein, the Smoke Y Margarita is their most popular kit, and you can see why. The box contains ELEMENT Lemon Mint Shrub (obsessed with shrubs at the moment!), GLOSSOP’S Smoke Sugar Syrup (EVERYONE loved the smokiness of the cocktail!) and (my new favorite discovery!) CALIFORNIA CRISPS Lemon Slices. As I mentioned in last week’s post involving a shrub, a fruit based vinegar syrup, this can be substituted for citrus since it provides the acidity necessary to balance out the alcohol and sweet. So, this is a slightly different take on the traditional margarita.
While the Twist Your Spirits recipes are created to be as easy to follow as possible and curated so you won’t be needing any extraneous ingredients, we all know I like to put my own spin on things! I just added a little grapefruit juice and a splash of sparkling water, and it was, as the kids say, 100!
Twist Your Spirits offers cocktail kits like the Chili Spiced Old Fashioned, Pineapple Rum Punch and Lemon Mint Gin-let, each containing enough ingredients for 8 cocktails, all for around $35. So, where can you get your very own party in box? You can purchase them directly from their site or through Amazon. And since booze in not involved, the delivery is pretty seamless.
Smoke Y Margarita (Created by Twist Your Spirits, with a Bit by a Fox twist!) – 1 serving
1/4 ounce ELEMENT Lemon Mint Shrub
1/4 ounce GLOSSOP’S Smoke Sugar Syrup
1.5 ounces Tequila
1.5 ounces Grapefruit Juice
In an ice-filled cocktail shaker, add everything but the soda. Shake until well chilled. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Top with a splash of club soda and stir. Garnish with CALIFORNIA CRISPS Lemon Slices.
It was an accident, really. I was craving a gin and tonic because…summer. And I was home with plenty of booze and mixers and serums and bitters because…booze blogger. But I didn’t have any tonic! Which is strange. But, there it is…
Then I remembered I had a whole box of goodies, all from Portland, Oregon artisans in honor of Aviation American Gin’s 10th birthday, that I had YET to dig into. In celebration of their 10th year, Aviation has partnered with a handful of their favorite Portland brands on Project 10, offering limited-edition specialty items, like those pictured here.
Aviation American Gin set the precedent for the American Gin category – one of the first to move away from a traditional juniper heavy blend to a balanced variety of other botanicals. In their case, botanicals like lavender, cardamom and sarsaparilla from the Pacific Northwest, where this spirit was born, help to make this gin a favorite for bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts alike. Also, look how sexy this bottle is. Ooh la la!
I was dying to dip into the Pok Pok Som Drinking Vinegar, Cardamom & Tangerine – developed to pair with Aviation’s range of botanicals. Drinking vinegars, or “shrubs” as they were referred to in the Colonial era, have been making a comeback in the states mainly because of the resurgence in cocktail culture here. It is a fruit based vinegar syrup that is wonderful with sparkling water or as a mixer in cocktails. It often doubles as the acid and sweet part of a cocktail and can be an easy and really refreshing mixer.
After a little experimenting, a touch of bittersweet from Campari here, a squeeze of lime juice there, and a heavy pour of Pamplemousse LaCroix (my new FAVE!), I found my perfect summer concoction.
Take that, you boring ol’ G&T! It also created the most lovely shade of blush. With all of the fruits and botanicals involved, it reminded me of a perfect summer garden party…
The Garden Party
1/2 oz Campari
In an ice-filled highball glass add gin, drinking vinegar, Campari and lime juice and give a generous stir. Top with LaCroix sparkling soda to taste and stir once more. Enjoy your new favorite summer cocktail!
Early last month, I had the opportunity to test out some prototypes of beautiful, handmade wooden muddlers created by the Los Angeles-based wood-working husband and wife dream team behind The Wooden Palate, Ryan Silverman and Eileen O’Dea. After some slight adjustments, these stunning muddlers are up on their site and ready to muddle all of your cocktails in the most gorgeous way possible. These pieces really are usable art. I recently got my hands on the final product when I visited Ryan and Eileen at their massive wood shop in the Gardena neighborhood of LA.
During my visit, I was able to see their craft first hand, peek into future projects, and witness firsthand Ryan’s love for Clase Azul Tequila! So much so, that they’ve amassed quite the collection of the beautiful reposado bottles over the years. Clase Azul, a gold medal winning tequila, is made in Jalisco, Mexico with 100% organic blue agave, harvested after at least nine years to achieve optimal flavor, aged for a minimum of eight months in oak barrels and distilled in copper pot stills. It is then filtered three times to smooth everything out. The resulting product is complex yet extremely smooth and approachable – worthy of the kind of cult-like following they’ve gained through the years. The Clase Azul ceramic decanters are hand-crafted and hand-painted in Mexico by local artisans. Like The Wooden Palate’s products, each one of these bottles is useful AND a piece of art! Who could toss these beauties away after they’ve been cleaned out?
This wall of bottles made for gorgeous backdrop (and inspiration!) for our cocktail of the day: The Blackberry Basil Tequila Cobbler.
Blackberry Basil Tequila Cobbler
2 oz Tequila
1/2 oz Amontillado Sherry
7 fresh basil leaves + more for garnish
3/4 fresh lime juice
6 ripe blackberries (1/2 for garnish)
1/2 ounce agave syrup
Muddle blackberries, basil, lime juice and agave in a mixing glass. Add tequila and sherry, gently stir. Add ice and stir again. Fill rocks glass with crushed ice and strain cocktail into glass. Top with a splash of soda water and stir. Add more crushed ice, basil and blackberries for garnish.
Today is officially summer and we are FEELING it in Los Angeles! It’s not even noon and we are hovering around the triple digits on the east side of town. Yikes! You know what can cool you off realllll fast?! Popsicles! And you know what can make those popsicles even better? BOOZE!
I was recently asked to create a fun, summery drink for popular food site The Kitchn’s Friday happy hour – #kitchnhappyhour. Since it’s been so hot here lately, all I’ve been thinking about is boozy icy treats. Luckily, they were into a popsicle version of a cocktail!
There’s a reason mojitos are so popular in the summertime. Lime, mint, rum and sugar, when balanced, is a pretty perfect warm weather combination. And everyone familiar with this cocktail also knows how easily these go down…
I love using coconut water as an ingredient in summer cocktails and wanted to experiment with it in these mojito popsicles. It adds just a subtle creaminess and coconut flavor, and its hydrating properties can’t hurt with this weather!
Coconut Mojito Popsicles
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1 cup coconut water
6 sprigs of fresh mint
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup rum
1 lime sliced into thin lime wheels
Combine sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add mint and stir until boiling. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand 10-15 minutes.
Using fine mesh, strain syrup mixture into a pitcher. Add lime juice, coconut water and rum to strained syrup and stir. Once mixture is completely chilled, pour into popsicle molds, placing lime wheels in each mold, and freeze.
Negroni Week officially starts TODAY! Presented by Imbibe Magazine and Campari, this seven-day celebration of all things bitter, ruby-red and delicious is also all for a great cause.
Negroni Week launched in 2013 as a celebration of one of the world’s great cocktails and an effort to raise money for charitable causes around the world. From 2013 to 2014, Negroni Week grew from more than 100 participating venues to more than 1,200 participating venues around the world and more than $120,000 raised for charities.
In 2015, more than 3,500 venues around the world mixed their favorite Negroni variations and raised over $320,000 for charitable causes.
This year Negroni Week takes place from June 6-12 with over 6,000 participating bars, restaurants and retailers.
The growth of Negroni Week has been accompanied by the rising popularity of this cocktail. Because of its bittersweet reputation, it IS an acquired taste. But once you come around, you’re hooked. This is now a favorite of so many. And, one of the reasons why, besides it being ridiculously delicious and complex, is that it is one of the simplest cocktail to make – equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. For the last couple of years, I’ve done my own twists on this very basic recipe. This year, since I’m California living and it seems as though summer is in full swing, I decided to make a snow cone version!
Crushed ice, I’ve found, is unbelievably easy to create in a decent blender, and the snow cone “syrup” is literally the cocktail ingredients poured over it. If you don’t consume the infused ice immediately, it soon turns into a slushy, but then, hey, you have a negroni slushy! Not a bad deal on a hot summer’s day either!
Negroni Snow Cone
1 ounce Gin
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce Sweet Vermouth
Add the Gin, Campari and Sweet Vermouth to a mixing glass and set aside. In a blender, add 4-6 ice cubes and enough water that the cubes float above the blades. Blend gradually to a high-speed until ice is well crushed. Drain off water and immediately scoop into a glass. Strain the negroni over the crushed ice. Option: Twist a large orange peel over drink and add to glass for garnish.
As Memorial Day weekend quickly approaches and summer starts to tease, I can’t help but get a little giddy about one of my most favorite times of year; That’s right, it’s Spritz Season! While I’m partial to a well made spritz any time of year, there’s nearly nothing as refreshing during the warmer months than this low alcohol, bittersweet sparkler. However, I maaaay have tried something recently that rivals my beloved spritz (just don’t tell my Italian side!) in the light, refreshing, low alcohol and sparkling department – TRULY, Spiked & Sparking, a sparkling water that just hit shelves less than two months ago, has just a hint of fruit (that tastes like real actual fruit!), and is then SPIKED for good measure! By adding a small amount of alcohol made from cane sugar (5% ABV), TRULY takes sparkling water and buzzes it up just enough…
The past couple of years have introduced us to the hard seltzer segment – an entirely new alcohol niche we didn’t even know we needed! This trend is building on the major growth and popularity of carbonated bottled water in the U.S., which has apparently doubled since 2012, and the overall interest in lower calorie alternatives to wine, beer and cocktails. This is NOT just a flavored malt beverage ala the dreaded Zima (still sold in Japan!) from the 90s; In fact, TRULY is gluten free – for those that are avoiding the stuff. It may only be 100 calories and they avoid using artificial flavors and colors but, most importantly, the product actually tastes good.
Of course, women are the target audience for this new segment, but I’m just relieved that the TRULY packaging is as clean and tasteful as the product. There isn’t a lady in a dress on the label and it’s not covered in pink rhinestones (no offense to pink rhinestones, I’m down with bling, just not when I’m being “marketed” to as a lady consumer.) They’ve rolled out with three flavors: Grapefruit & Pomelo, Colima Lime and Pomegranate. Each one has just a subtle hint of the flavors featured on their labels. My favorite was the Colima Lime, tasting like a burst of effervescence with a squeeze of fresh lime.
I tested all three flavors out with friends a few weekends back, and I’m happy to report that the dudes were equally as into it as the ladies. It’s nice to lighten things up every now and then, and TRULY is a nice refreshing alternative to a beer or higher alcohol sparkling wine.
So, as you all prepare for the long weekend and get ready to hunker down for the next couple of days, look out for this new spiked and sparkling sipper to add to your provisions. TRULY is available in about 20 major markets throughout the U.S. at the moment, but they’re already seeing growth. To find out where you can buy it, visit their site.
TRULY Spiked & Sparkling products provided for this post. As usual, all opinions are my own.