Brancamenta buttermilk panna cotta


SpiritedOregonCover_Volume1If you’d asked me what my first magazine cover story would be, I probably would not have guessed holiday entertaining tips in the official magazine of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. But here we are! This is the debut issue, and the editors asked me for some recipe idea for holiday cocktail parties covering both drinks and some desserts that use spirits. Inside you’ll find contributions from Anna Brones, Lance Mayhew, Martin Hulth, and my friends at Rum Club, plus a couple from me. The magazine is available online and in Oregon liquor stores.

One of my contributions is Hot Buttered Chartreuse, which I’ve covered before. This panna cotta is one I came up with specifically for this story back in the spring, though I’ve since served it at actual holiday parties and can confirm that guests enjoy it. It’s lightly tart from the buttermilk and lime and has hints of mint from Brancamenta, the minty cousin to Fernet-Branca.

brancamenta panna cotta

1 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 oz lime juice

3  1/2 cups cream

1 1/2 cups sugar

7 grams gelatin powder

4 oz Brancamenta

1. Combine the buttermilk and lime juice in a bowl.

2. Add cream and sugar to pot. Warm over low heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Heat to just below a simmer.

3. Remove from heat and whisk gelatin in the cream and sugar mixture.

4. Pour mixture into the buttermilk, whisking as you pour.

5. Add Brancamenta and stir.

6. Pour into individual serving vessels, cover, and refrigerate. Once set, garnish with chosen toppings (chocolate cookie crumbles, mint, berries, etc.)

[The recipe is based on one in the Mission Street Food book, which does not originally call for booze but takes to it nicely.]

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Ignore the online haters. Eat at Kachka.

Portland has seen its share of absurd restaurant controversies. The latest has, unfortunately, ensnared the owners of one of my favorite places, the wonderful and charming Kachka owned by Bonnie and Israel Morales. Bonnie is of Jewish Belarusan heritage, her grandmother having narrowly escaped the slaughter of more than 900 Jews in Bobr, Belarus in 1941. This makes it all the more painful to them that their restaurant is now subject to inflammatory headlines such as “Kachka denies siding with customer wearing Nazi-affiliated logo” (the ignorant, click-baity headline chosen by our local Eater affiliate).

How did this happen? In brief, a customer came into the restaurant wearing the t-shirt below:

luftwaffe

Precisely what happened next is disputed, but in broad outline, a few other customers objected to management that this was a Nazi t-shirt. Kachka didn’t immediately eject the patron, and the customers then confronted the man in person. From Israel Morales’ account:

Israel Morales said the situation played out over 45 minutes. He’d been alerted by a customer that a man was possibly wearing a “Nazi propaganda shirt” and was researching it online when things escalated.

“While I was starting to look into the shirt online, the rest of his party paid their bill. After they paid, they began talking loudly, which alerted me. One by one, each of the three people left, but not without causing a scene, disturbing other guests,” he says. “[redacted] stood up and confronted the man wearing the shirt—which is when I stepped in. I felt this could become a dangerous situation and my job as a business owner is to keep my customers safe. I walked up to them and barely got two words out before she stormed out.”

It might have ended there, except that one of the guests then posted about the incident online, including a photo of the man in question that included his face. Things snowballed. The owners were accused of siding with Nazis, their restaurant was dragged on social media, and Israel and Bonnie felt the need to issue a statement denying that they support Nazis.

The allegation is ridiculous on its face, given Bonnie and Israel’s heritage and the inspiration for their restaurant. But were the angry customers even correct about the intentions of the shirt’s wearer? The guests leaped to the conclusion that the shirt is Nazi apparel, but “Luftwaffe” is simply German for “air force”  and the term is still in use. The logo differs, too, from the Nazi-era Luftwaffe, in which the bird grasps a swastika in its talons. The swastika is notably absent in the shirt above. Similar shirts are for sale in Germany, where Nazi symbolism is banned. Friends more informed about German symbols and fonts than I am (including one from Germany) have said that they would not assume the design is inherently affiliated with Nazism. It’s understandable that an American might question it, but the wearer’s intentions can’t be gleaned from a photo.

I don’t know who the wearer is, so I can’t ask him why he wore it (though I’m happy to speak with him if he would like to get in touch). A friend of mine who works at Kachka, however, posted an account on Facebook. According to a server who spoke with the guest, the person said that he was visiting from out of town and had purchased the shirt at an aviation museum in Seattle.

There aren’t that many aviation in museums in Seattle, so I looked into it. One of them is the Flying Heritage and Combat Museum in Everett, backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The museum has a gift shop. Photos of the museum’s gift shop are on their website. And if you zoom in on one of the photos, you see this:

Screenshot_20180317-100915

At the upper left of the t-shirt rack you can see what looks to be the same shirt that the guest was wearing. His story checks out.*

Now it’s possible, though unlikely, that this guy is a closet white supremacist who deliberately wore this shirt to a Jewish-owned restaurant in Portland to trigger the libs. It’s much more probable that he’s telling the truth and that he is just a guy on vacation who saw a cool-looking shirt in a museum and wore it because he liked it. Absent any evidence of the former, we should assume the latter.

Regardless of the wearer’s intentions, this clearly exonerates the owners and staff of Kachka. The shirt’s meaning isn’t obvious at a glance and it’s taken several days to figure out where it came from. Israel had to attempt to figure out what it meant during a busy service. Accusing a guest of being a Nazi is not something a restaurant owner should do lightly, and he was right to look into it instead of making assumptions.

I’m not one to use “SJW” as an epithet, but this incident was Portland social justice activism at its worst, potentially destroying the reputation of both the owners of Kachka and the unknown diner without any context. The whole incident could have likely been avoided by simply talking to the person wearing the shirt in a civilized manner. (And let this be a caution to the “punch Nazis” crowd and be glad that these three customers were more into shaming on Facebook than committing assault; other people with that mindset might have ended up slugging an innocent tourist.)

The people who dragged Kachka into this mess owe them apology, as do the journalists who covered the incident poorly. I hope lots of others in Portland go in to the restaurant to show their support; it’s a fantastic place and they deserve your business. And if you’re not in Portland, this would be a great time to buy Bonnie’s new cookbook.

*For what it’s worth, I’ve reached out to the museum to see if they can provide more background on the design. I’ll update if they get back to me. I think it’s unlikely that Paul Allen is selling Nazi memorabilia in his museum. Update: Statement from the museum follows.

The shirt referenced was made as part of a 2014 Luftwaffe exhibit and is no longer available. Luftwaffe, which means “air force” in German, has since taken on a new meaning that is not consistent with our values of equality, respect and diversity. Our organization is dedicated to an inclusive environment free of discrimination and intolerance.

[Disclosures: I know the owners of Kachka from frequenting the restaurant and from Portland food events, and they carry a few spirits I work with.]

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A pair of Underwood Rosé cocktails

Drink PinkEarlier this year, my friend David L. Reamer (photographer of my book Cocktails on Tap) recruited me for a collaboration with Union Wine. The project: Create a collection of cocktails with Union Wine’s popular Underwood Rosé to be published by Scout Books. It’s finally come together with illustrations by The Ellaphant in the Room, and it looks great. My fellow Portland bartenders Mindy Kucan (Hale Pele), Lauren Scott (Angel Face), Douglas Derrick (Ava Gene’s), and Ansel Vickery (Free House), along with Maitland Finley from Union Wine, all contributed recipes.

Pink Peruvian
Photo by David L. Reamer.

My first contribution (above) is the Pink Peruvian, which was an opportunity to mix with Encanto Pisco’s new Barkeep’s Whimsy, a pisco created by a team of bartenders on a visit to Encanto’s distillery in Peru. The grape blend essentially inverts their popular Grand & Noble pisco, leading with Torentel grapes backed by Quebranta, Moscatel, Mollar and Italia. It’s beautifully floral and aromatic, perfect for light and complex summer cocktails.

2 oz Encanto Pisco Barkeep’s Whimsy
1 oz Underwood Rosé
1/2 oz Combier Pamplemousse Rose (grapefruit liqueur)
lemon peel, for garnish

Stir with ice and serve in a cocktail glass, expressing the lemon peel over the drink.

My second contribution is the Rosé City Sour, a fairly straightforward gin sour with a rose wine syrup. A dash of Chartreuse provides a little herbal complexity.

2 oz London dry gin
1 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz rosé syrup
1/2 teaspoon green Chartreuse
edible flower, for garnish

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass, garnishing with the flower.

For the syrup:

1 cup Underwood Rosé
1 cup white sugar

Combine in a pot over medium-low heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Bottle and refrigerate.

Look for the Drink Pink booklet to appear around Portland this summer.

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Oatmeal Ryesin Punch for Rye Beer Fest

rye punch

“I sure am glad I had this old bottle of Frangelico lying around,” is not a sentence I expected to be saying to myself this week. But when working on unusual cocktail assignments, sometimes those neglected dusty bottles can come in handy.

Tonight is Portland’s annual Rye Beer Fest, a celebration of rye beers taking place during PDX Beer Week, and this year the festival is extending into rye whiskeys as well. As part of that expanded focus, founder Kerry Finsand invited me to create a beer cocktail for the festival using George Dickel rye whiskey and the official beer of the fest, a collaboration with Back Pedal Brewing in the Pearl District.

The beer we came up with is Oatmeal Ryesin Cookie. Back Pedal’s idea was to create an ale made to “conjure up childhood memories of a fresh baked cookie.” The mash combines English malts, rye, and toasted oats, and it’s fermented with aromatic saison yeasts. The beer is cold conditioned on Flame raisins and an addition of Tongan and Madagascar vanilla beans. At 33 IBU and 7.8% abv, it’s a lightly hopped, smooth, malty ale.

Taking a growler pulled fresh from the conditioning tank, my main goal in making a beer cocktail with it was to keep highlighting those raisin cookie notes. That’s where the hazelnut liqueur Frangelico came in handy. After one try at a Flip that was actually pretty good, I decided an ale punch in the old English social tradition was the way to go. The maltiness of Back Pedal’s beer is perfect for this. (And it’s a lot less work for me than shaking Flips all night.)

I’ll be serving this Oatmeal Ryesin Punch tonight at the Rye Beer Fest from 7:00-9:00 pm at Eastburn in Portland, Oregon (where I’ll be selling signed copies of my beer cocktail book as well). Given the rarity of the beer, this is probably the only time the punch will be served. But for the sake of completeness, here’s a recipe that could be used as a template.

4 tablespoons sugar
peel of 1 lemon
4 oz water
1 1/2 oz lemon juice
6 oz George Dickel rye whiskey
2 oz Frangelico
16 oz Back Pedal Oatmeal Ryesin Cookie
cinnamon, for grating

Make an oleo-saccharum of the lemon peel and sugar in a punch bowl, muddling the peels to extract the oil. Add the water and lemon juice and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved. Pour in the remaining ingredients and grate fresh cinnamon over the surface of the punch. Slip a large ice block into the bowl, or ladle into individual glasses over large cubes.

KGWBonus footage: Here’s a clip of us making the punch live on KGW News in Portland, Oregon.

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Berliner weisse beer cocktails

Berliner weisse mit schuss. (Photo by David L. Reamer from Cocktails on Tap.)
Berliner weisse mit schuss. (Photo by David L. Reamer from Cocktails on Tap.)

The first half of my book on beer cocktails features on vintage recipes, drinks created before the modern rebirth of cocktail culture. My book proposal tilted much more heavily toward contemporary cocktails, but as I researched older sources, it became clear that beer’s use in mixed drinks had a richer history than I’d imagined. Most of these come from English and American sources, no doubt in part because those are the sources I’m able to read.

I did try to find drinks from other countries though. A couple from Germany made the cut. Despite the Reinheitsgebot, or beer purity law, Germans aren’t too averse to corrupting their beers with spirits, juices, and syrups. The most widely known German mixed beer drink is the Radler, combining beer and citrus, and currently enjoying popularity in America in various pre-mixed forms (with varying levels of success).

Somewhat lesser known is the tradition of mixing with Berliner weisse, the lightly tart wheat beer originating in Berlin. Up until a few years ago, the style was nearly extinct. It too has enjoyed a revival, both in Germany and in the US. (Read Evan Rail for a closer look at its history.)

Good Berliner weisse is delicious on its own, but it’s often served with additions of spirits or syrups to sweeten it. To enjoy the beer mit schuss, add himbeer (raspberry) or waldmeister (woodruff) syrup. For a stiffer drink, have it mit strippe, with a shot of korn or kummel.

This Friday we’ll be serving both of these variants at the excellent Portland German beer bar Stammtisch. We’ll have Professor Fritz Briem 1809 Berliner Weisse on draft, with options for mit schuss with the locally made B. G. Reynolds’ woodruff syrup and mit strippe with the excellent Combier kummel. I’ll also be there selling and signing copies of my book, Cocktails on Tap, which features the drinks. If you’re in Portland, join us from 5-8. Not in Portland? You can buy my book and a commercial version of woodruff syrup online.

Event details: 5-8 pm, Friday, July 31 at Stammtisch, 401 NE 28th Ave.

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Fika dinner at Broder Nord

Bron_Fika

I’m excited to be taking part in an upcoming event with the Portland Culinary Alliance on Friday, May 15, celebrating the release of my friend Anna Brones’ lovely new book Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break, co-authored and illustrated by Johanna Kindvall. Here’s what we have in store for you:

– A signed hardcover copy of Fika, Anna and Johanna’s guide to the Swedish coffee tradition and the pastries that go with it.

– A demonstration from Anna on how to make kanelbullar, Swedish cinnamon rolls.

– A selection of coffees from top Swedish roasters selected and brewed by the team at Sprudge.

– A Dill Collins cocktail made with Gamle Ode dill aquavit made by yours truly.

– A delicious Scandinavian dinner from Broder Nord, one of my favorite restaurants in town.

Tickets are a steal at just $35 for PCA members and $50 for non-members. Buy them here before they sell out.

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Imperial Old Fashioned

Imperial Old Fashioned

The Craft Brewers Conference is taking place in Portland this week, so the city is overrun with brewers and more great beer events than anyone could possibly attend. We were lucky to host one of these at The Multnomah Whiskey Library with Widmer Brewing, who asked us to come up with a few cocktails using their beers.

This Imperial Old Fashioned is my favorite of the ones Michael Lorberbaum and I came up with for the evening. It’s a bit over the top with Clear Creek’s peated single malt whiskey and a 2-inch, crystal clear ice cube laser-etched with the Widmer logo. To sweeten it, we made a syrup with cane sugar and Widmer’s KBG Russian Imperial Stout, which has dark, roasted malt notes that complement the smokiness of the whiskey. (For a similar idea using genever and rauchbier, see Katie Stipe’s Vandaag Gin Cocktail in Cocktails on Tap).

2 oz Clear Creek McCarthy’s Single Malt Whiskey
1 barspoon Imperial Russian Stout syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash Bittered Sling Malagasy chocolate bitters
grapefruit peel, for garnish

Stir over ice and pour into a rocks glass with a big ice cube (laser etching optional). Garnish with the grapefruit peel.

For the stout syrup:

1 22 oz bottle KGB Russian Imperial Stout
44 oz cane sugar

Combine in a pan and stir over low to medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, taking care that it doesn’t spill over. Let cool and skim any foam, then bottle and refrigerate. You should feel free to scale down the recipe and drink the remaining beer.

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Hangman’s Bier

Hangman's Bier. Photo by Paul Willenberg.
Hangman’s Bier. Photo by Paul Willenberg.

One of the frustrations of writing a cocktail book, rather than a continuously updated blog, is the long interval between writing and publication. In the time between sending the book to the printer and seeing it arrive on store shelves, you’re bound to come across drinks you wish you’d been able to include. And with Cocktails on Tap coming out tomorrow, I’m sure this process will only accelerate as I hear from bartenders and cocktails enthusiasts about their favorite beer cocktails.

This post is devoted to one of these that I’d love to go back in time and slip into the manuscript. My friend and colleague at the Multnomah Whiskey Library, Jordan Felix, introduced me to it, and it was a popular cocktail on the menu there this winter.

The “Hangman’s Blood” is a cocktail that reportedly first appeared in Richard Hughes’ 1929 novel A High Wind in Jamaica. From Wikipedia:

Hangman’s blood… is compounded of rum, gin, brandy, and porter… Innocent (merely beery) as it looks, refreshing as it tastes, it has the property of increasing rather than allaying thirst, and so once it has made a breach, soon demolishes the whole fort.

In the 1960s, novelist Antony Burgess offered an even more potent recipe to The Guardian:

Into a pint glass doubles of the following are poured: gin, whisky, rum, port, and brandy. A small bottle of stout is added, and the whole topped up with champagne or champagne surrogate. It tastes very smooth, induces a somehow metaphysical elation, and rarely leaves a hangover… I recommend this for a quick, though expensive, lift.

“This is a highly dangerous mixture and consumption is not advised,” warns The Burgess Foundation, who “takes no responsibility for illness or injury caused by following this or any other recipe by Anthony Burgess.” A fair warning.

Let’s be honest. Both of these drinks sound abominable. But part of the fun of exploring old cocktail recipes, especially those with a literary pedigree, is reviving them with better balance. Jordan’s Hangman’s Bier is a much simplified take on the drink, with lime and demerara standing in for funky Jamaican rum, and this version is a lot less likely to leave the imbiber awakening the next morning feeling like he’s been worked over by a gang of droogs.

1 1/2 oz rye whiskey (Wild Turkey 101)
1/4 oz rich demerara syrup (2:1)
1/4 oz lime juice
4-5 oz porter or stout
nutmeg, for garnish

Pour the whiskey, lime juice, and demerara syrup into a collins glass and stir to combine. Add ice and top with the beer. Stir gently and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

Cocktails on Tap goes on sale everywhere on March 24. I’ll be doing a signing at Powell’s tonight, March 23, at 7:30 pm, followed by a party at the Multonomah Whiskey Library. Both events are open to the public.

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Cocktails on Tap release parties in Portland

My beer cocktail book, Cocktails on Tap, is now just a couple weeks away from publication. We’ve arranged a couple of fun events in Portland as we approach the official release.

March 17 — Is there a better holiday to celebrate a book of beer cocktails than St. Patrick’s? On March 17th, my friends at the Bull in China bar shop are hosting an informal toast to the book. We’ll be serving complimentary glasses of Abbey Street Punch, a recipe contributed by Erick Castro of Polite Provisions in San Diego. We’ll also have a very limited number of books available for pre-release sale, and Bull in China is offering special deals on their fantastic new mixing glasses too. Check out their recommendations in the new issue of Portland Monthly.

Featured in the punch will be Teeling Irish Whiskey and Deschutes Black Butte Porter, complemented by a blend of Jamaican rums, lemon juice, sugar, allspice dram, soda, and nutmeg. It’s a great punch, and a favorite of friends who tested the recipe at parties. We’ll also have Teeling an Deschutes on hand for when the punch bowl runs dry.

March 23 — On March 23 we’ll be hosting our big release party at two of my favorite places in Portland. The evening will begin at the iconic Powell’s bookstore on Burnside, where we’ll be hosting a signing starting at 7:30 pm. Then at 9 pm we’ll walk over to the Multnomah Whiskey Library, where they’re generously opening the doors and offering a special menu of beer cocktails and punches from the book.

I look forward to seeing readers at all three events. For those of you not in Portland, stay tuned for book signings and cocktail parties in additional cities and pre-order your copy now.

[Photo of the Abbey Street Punch courtesy of David L. Reamer.]

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Vaping in the Oregonian

In today’s Oregonian, I look back at a column I wrote in 2008 and say, “I told you so.”

When the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Day 2009, Oregon ushered in its statewide smoking ban in bars and restaurants. I was at the Horse Brass Pub, one of Portland’s most notoriously smoky drinking dens, enjoying one last cigar with a bunch of other patrons who were none too happy about the new rules.

The ban, we were told, was necessary to protect employees and customers alike from secondhand smoke. Health researchers had conducted dozens of studies attempting to show that exposure endangered nonsmokers. Some of the results were medically implausible, but ban advocates at least made the effort of demonstrating actual harm to actual humans.

Many of us doubted that the evidence really mattered. As I wrote in The Oregonian/OregonLive at the time, “Protecting workers is simply the polite fiction by which nonsmokers have imposed their will on an increasingly unpopular minority.”

We suspected this, but how could we prove it? What if there were a device that looked like a cigarette and mimicked the effects of smoking, yet emitted a mostly harmless vapor instead of tobacco smoke? If authorities tried to ban that too, without bothering to establish that it endangered anyone, then our suspicions would be vindicated.

That device exists. It’s called an e-cigarette. And sure enough, the Multnomah Board of County Commissioners is voting on whether to ban its use indoors. The Legislature, too, may expand the state’s smoking ban to cover vaping.

Read the whole thing.

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The Second-Best Amaretto Sour in the World

Aquavit Week is over, but the aquavit cocktail blogging continues!

When planning the menu for our Nordic Night dinner at Fenrir, I had one spot left to fill in which I knew I wanted to feature the Krogstad Gamle aquavit. I tried out a bunch of ideas, but none of them were coming together quite right. Worse yet, I was running out of aquavit. I needed an idea soon!

As I often do in such situations, I turned to The Flavor Bible, an indispensable guide to flavor pairings that work. Reading the pairings for the strong anise note in Krogstad, nutty flavors kept coming up. That got me thinking about amaretto, which got me thinking about The Best Amaretto Sour in the World™.

That drink comes from my fellow Portland bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler, who combines amaretto with cask-proof bourbon. It’s an awesome cocktail. With a few adjustments, could it work with a barrel aged aquavit? The answer was yes, the drink worked on the first try, and I didn’t have to devote any more of the non-existent Aquavit Week budget to yet another purchase. In a nod to Jeff, our Nordic Night humbly offered The Second-Best Amaretto Sour in the World.

1 oz Krogstad Gamle aquavit
1 oz amaretto liqueur
1 oz lemon juice
1 teaspoon rich simple syrup
1/2 oz egg white
lemon twist, cherry, or star anise for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and give it a dry shake to aerate. Add ice and shake again. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass and garnish.

Below is the full menu from our Nordic Night, and here is a review from Portland Mercury restaurant critic Andrea Damewood, who happened to be in attendance that evening.

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Aquavit Week 2014

My favorite week of the year, Aquavit Week, begins today. What do we have in store for 2014? An opening party tonight at The Hop and Vine, a cocktail pairing dinner at Racion, a “Nordic Night” and Fenrir, and more than twenty Portland restaurants featuring aquavit cocktails. It’s also been a good year for aquavit, with the number of aquavits available in the US also surpassing twenty this year. Get all the information at the Aquavit Week website, and hopefully I’ll see you at one of our events around Portland.

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GMO labeling in Oregon

My latest makes the case against the Oregon ballot measure to require labeling of food made with GMOs:

Whole Foods would like to sell you on the virtues of the Rio Star organic grapefruit. “For juicing, Rio Star is the stand alone grapefruit” and is “widely viewed as the best” grapefruit grown in Texas, home to “some of the sweetest grapefruit in the world.” And despite originating from a breeding program that blasted grapefruits with radiation to scramble their DNA, eating them probably won’t kill you.

Read the whole thing.

Unsurprisingly, my views haven’t changed since this same debate came up in Washington last year.

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12 Bottle Bar comes to Portland

David and Lesley Jacobs Solmonson, authors of the 12 Bottle Bar weblog, have long been two of my favorite cocktail writers. After knowing them online for several years, we finally met in person at the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference in Chicago last March, where we presented a panel together on the history of beer cocktails. And now they’ve turned their blog into a full-length book, The 12 Bottle Bar from Workman Publishing.

The premise of the book is simple: If you’re making drinks at home, you may not want to be like me and have an entire corner of your living room taken up with booze bottles, a kitchen counter covered in bitters, and a refrigerator so full of vermouth and other aperitifs that there’s barely any room for food. You may only want, say, twelve bottles.

The 12 Bottle Bar is their take on which dozen bottles those should be along with creative, engagingly written recipes for cocktails you can make with them. The picks aren’t all obvious. Genever makes the cut but tequila doesn’t. Lesley literally wrote the book on gin and genever a few years ago, and of course I’m glad to see genever getting more appreciation, but that choice will surely drive some conversation. The drinks include contributions from many of their friends in the industry, including a few from me (but don’t let that call their good taste into question).

David and Lesley will be in Portland this Thursday (September 18) to promote the book. At 7:30 they’ll be doing a signing at Powell’s on Hawthorne Avenue. Then around 9:00 we’ll all head down the street to Bazi Bierbrasserie for a few cocktails from the book featuring El Dorado rum and Bols genever. Come buy a copy and join us for a round.

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Multnomah County misleads bar owners

As a follow-up to my article in yesterday’s Oregonian about the failed attempt to include e-cigarettes in the state’s smoking ban, today I’m posting a memo Multnomah County officials have sent to local bars and restaurants. In it, they mislead business owners about the dangers of e-cigarettes, telling them:

State law does not currently prevent the use of e-cigs; however business owners are encouraged to include e-cigs in no-smoking policies. E-cigs pose serious health risks and challenges to enforcement of the Smokefree Workplace Law as it appears people are smoking indoors.

The letter then recommends that businesses include e-cigarettes in their no-smoking policies, adopt completely smokefree outdoor dining areas, and adopt a completely tobacco-free policy for their entire properties. (Here’s a PDF of the memo.)

There are valid reasons why a bar or restaurants might ban the use of e-cigs, such as the fact that some guests find them annoying. But county officials’ claim that the devices pose “serious health risks” is completely unsubstantiated. There’s not even much evidence that e-cigarettes are dangerous for users, much less for bystanders exposed to vapor secondhand.

There have been two recent studies on exposure to e-cigarettes in realistic indoor conditions. They are summarized here and here. Conclusion of the first:

… the quality and quantity of chemicals released in the environment [by vaping] are by far less harmful for the human health compared to regular tobacco cigarettes. Evaporation instead of burning, absence of several harmful chemicals from the liquids and absence of sidestream smoking from the use of the e-CIG are probable reasons for the difference in results.

And the second:

The study showed that e-cigarettes are a source of secondhand exposure to nicotine but not to combustion toxicants… Using an e-cigarette in indoor environments may involuntarily expose nonusers to nicotine but not to toxic tobacco-specific combustion products.

Even in the case of nicotine, exposure from real cigarettes was ten times higher than that from e-cigarettes.

Those are studies of indoor use. Multnomah County’s advice is to ban them outdoors too. The idea that indoor e-cigarette use could be harmful to bystanders is at least worthy of investigation, although the evidence so far is that it’s nothing to worry about. The idea that outdoor use presents serious health risks is wildly implausible.

This is yet another example of how the crusade against e-cigarettes is driven by unscientific alarmism rather than any empirical evidence of danger. County officials have shown that they have no credibility on the issue by misleading local business owners about the alleged risks.

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Oregon’s war on vaping

The Oregon legislature recently failed to pass completely sensible restrictions on selling e-cigarettes to minor, an effort undermined by more extreme anti-smokers who were more intent on banning vaping in workplaces, bars, and restaurants. In today’s Oregonian, I write about lawmakers’ misguided attempt to include e-cigarettes in the smoking ban and their next proposal to impose new taxes on them. An excerpt:

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually getting nostalgic for the original smoking ban debate. Advocates exaggerated the dangers of secondhand smoke, but at least they made an effort to ground their views in science and demonstrate that non-smokers were being harmed.

The same cannot be said for those seeking to extend current bans to cover vaping. They’ll be the first to tell you that more study of e-cigarettes is needed. But why wait for results? They’re ready to ban first and ask questions later.

Read the whole thing here.

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