There’s no doubt that a simple cocktail like a screwdriver is easy to make and easy to think of when the bartender finally asks for your order. But what about a shot of Hazelnut Espresso Vodka?
There’s no doubt that a simple cocktail like a screwdriver is easy to make and easy to think of when the bartender finally asks for your order. But what about a shot of Hazelnut Espresso Vodka? How about Organic Chamomile Liqueur? Do you even know what you’ve been missing?
If you have any interest in liquor and the art involved in that martini you’re drinking, you shouldn’t miss this weekend’s Great American Distillers Festival. In its fifth year, this festival is bringing together 22 craft distilleries, most based here in Portland. That’s a big jump from the four distilleries that participated in the first year, and this year the liquor is pouring in from as far away as New York and Maine.
“What will be interesting is meeting the out-of-state distillers,” said Tom Burkleaux, distiller and owner of New Deal Distillery.
New Deal is a local distillery that has been involved with the festival since its inception. The company is participating again, this time featuring its Hot Monkey Vodka, which is infused with five types of chili peppers. Burkleaux can boast that the distillery’s liquors are all natural. In other words, they don’t go the cheap route and use essences for flavor.
“We try to create everything we can from simple ingredients,” Burkleaux said.
You can expect the same high quality from the other distilleries involved. And if sampling the spirits isn’t enough, the Mixmaster Mixology Competition is sure to keep you entertained. Local liquors will be used in a contest between 24 bartenders to determine who creates the best mixed drink. Competitors are allowed to bring homemade ingredients for mixing drinks and panels of “cocktail professionals” will judge them, as Dave Shenaut from the Oregon Bartenders Guild puts it.
A ticket for both days not only grants you admission to the competition and six taster tickets, it also allows you to check out everything else the festival offers.
Saturday kicks off with a keynote address from Bill Owens, president of the American Distilling Institute. Later, there will be an after party where the Green Dragon Pub plans to tap a number of bourbon and whiskey barrel-aged beers.
Sunday grants you a Bloody Mary brunch—the best hangover cure, of course—followed by various informational seminars. These seminars can help you gain important knowledge on topics like the history of the cocktail or the relationship between distillers and mixologists. It’s like sitting in class at Portland State, except liquor is not only allowed, but encouraged.
If you suspected that the liquors mentioned above exist only in a fantasy world, you’re wrong. Hazelnut Espresso Vodka is one of Bendistillery’s specialties, claiming a 2006 platinum medal for “Best Flavored Vodka in the World.” J. Witty Spirits’ Organic Chamomile Liqueur just won a gold medal in the International Review of Spirits. You can find both at the festival this weekend, along with some great bourbon, a few absinthes and more great liquor than your palate can handle.