Twitter lists and fake following

Twitter is rolling out the option to make lists of people you follow. So far most of the lists I’ve seen have been about categorizing people: booze, irl, libertariat, coffee, and rock-solid-peckerwoods (yes!) are a few I find myself in. This is useful and, since most lists are public, a potentially great way to find new people worth following.

So far I’m just using the feature to deal with the massive flow of tweets, creating a separate list of the people I care most about following. I can check this short list when I’ve been offline for a while without being inundated by posts, dipping into the main Twitter stream whenever I have more time. This is basically the feature I hoped for back in April:

A simpler approach would be to offer people binary levels of contacts on Twitter: One A-List they never want to miss and a larger stream they follow only as time allows. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s an easy solution. It could be implemented completely within a browser if Twitter decided to make this happen. Yet as far as I know, this option doesn’t exist anywhere.

And now we have it. Thanks, Twitter!

Using lists like this reduces the costs of following new people since one no longer has to worry that they’ll distract attention from more relevant content. But there’s a downside to this: It basically enables the “fake following” feature of FriendFeed. When users have to compete for attention, the decision to follow someone signals some level of commitment and engagement (unless one is the type of user who follows everyone indiscriminately). Now there’s no way to tell if someone is really following you or just politely fake following you, which I think might reduce some of the live conversation aspects of Twitter that make it such a cool platform.

Twitter has become too big to not have a feature like this. In the past few months I’ve been reluctant to follow new people simply because I don’t want to miss updates from my close friends in the flood of tweets from acquaintances. So yes, it’s probably worth paying the costs of having lists, but I’m going to miss the transparent simplicity of the old system.


NovemBEER cocktails for charity

Hot on the heels of the GADF, the next Oregon cocktail event takes place this Sunday at Cassidy’s. Our theme this time is beer cocktails and proceeds will once again benefit Schoolhouse Supplies, a local charity that buys school supplies for children. We’ll have five mixologists — Elizabeth Markham, Christian Rouillier, Lee Watson, Chris Churilla, and Jabriel Donohue — serving up original creations using spirits and beer. They have some crazy drinks planned and I’m looking forward to finally tasting them drinks in person.

Tickets are available at the door and at Clyde Common, Cassidy’s, and Carlyle. The event runs from 5:00 to 8:00 and $30 gets you five cocktails and the warm, satisfied glow of having helped the children (or maybe that’s just from the alcohol). Be there!

Update 10/30/09: Alas, Elizabeth can no longer make the event, but for a good reason: She’s starting a new job behind the bar at one of my favorite restaurants, Laurelhurst Market. I’ll be stepping in to take her place. Two days to make an original beer and gin cocktail? Yeah, I can do that.

Belgian beer cocktails
Defusing the car bomb


Finally, real life application for magic skills

billiard_ballsMany years ago when I was a wee lad just getting into magic one of the first sleight-of-hand tricks I taught myself was the Multiplying Billiard Balls. Given the size of my hands and the cheap, smooth-finished balls I was using, it was a difficult task, but I kept practicing and eventually I could control them all in the standard grip seen at left. Little did I know that this forgotten skill would find practical application in the drinking of whiskey:


The only difference is that in the Multiplying Billiard Balls the objects appear one after the other, while in the Disappearing Shots of Whiskey they vanish in rapid succession. This is usually followed by my most famous trick, the legendary Drunk Magician Fails Spectacularly to Find Your Selected Card.

[Thanks to Tim for the photo!]


Links for 10/27/09

Complexity of state laws halts’s wine experiment; TN grocers fight for right to sell wine

French cigarette censors

Vain search for Australian heart miracles

Ethiopia may once again welcome direct trade

The boy who harnessed the wind

The Motorhome Diaries crew comes to Carlyle

“He claimed to have had eight girlfriends last year. He said the relationships were brief as several of them were long-distance.”

365 days of Danboard


Rye Boulevardier


It’s Mixology Monday! Er, Tuesday in my case. But it’s still Monday one time zone over, which is close enough for bartender time. Vidiot at Cocktailians hosts this month, choosing the theme of vermouth:

[…] if your sole experience is of vermouth from dusty, warm half-empty bottles that have moldered away on a back bar since the Carter Administration, you aren’t going to like vermouth very much. One can even buy ridiculous products to atomize it in your drink. But that’s not necessary, and if you go down that road, you’re missing out on a great ingredient. […]

So: your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to present a delectable vermouth cocktail for us all to drool over. Sweet/Italian or dry/French vermouth are fair game of course, as are quinquina, aperitif wines like Pineau des Charentes, or for that matter any fortified, aromatized wine such as Lillet (red or white), or Dubonnet (ditto.) Have fun, and leave the link in the comments to this post by midnight PDT (no, not this PDT) (3am EDT) Tuesday, October 27th. In other words, you have a little over a week to get it done, and as long as you submit it sometime by Monday, you’ll get in under the wire. I look forward to the results!

My drink for this month is no great shakes for originality, but it’s a tasty little number adapted from the classic Boulevardier as described in Ted Haigh’s indispensable Vintage Cocktails and Forgotten Spirits:

1.5 oz rye
1 oz Campari
1 oz sweet vermouth, preferably Carpano Antica

Stir over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. The drink is traditionally made with bourbon. I prefer the added spiciness of rye in this drink, so that’s how we serve it at Carlyle. Here it’s garnished with a rye-soaked cherry, a jar of which I set aside while they were in season this summer.

One nice thing about this drink is that the ingredients are totally accessible. Not every bar will have them, and not every bar will be taking care of its vermouth, but in an above average place the bartender should be able to make a Boulevardier with no problem. If you like Negronis and like whiskey, I recommend giving this one a try.


GADF competition cocktail

Quick story: A few years ago I made the transition from barista to bartender. The place where I worked was great for learning the basics, but it wasn’t at the level of craft cocktail bars and mixology had yet to really take off in DC. Unenamored with bartending, I went back to working in a think tank. To celebrate my new job I booked a trip to San Francisco, where I visited Bourbon and Branch and a few other places that opened my eyes to how good craft bartending can be: precise measures, freshly squeezed juices, seasonal ingredients, etc. That experience is what set me on my current path of cocktail blogging and abandoning the East Coast for the Pacific Northwest.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that though I didn’t make it to the finals in this weekend’s cocktail competition at the Great American Distiller’s Festival, I can’t complain about who I lost out to: Ali Tahsini from Bourbon and Branch. The guy’s a fun, talented bartender and went on to take second, a solid feat given that he had to come up with an on-the-spot cocktail using ouzo. Fellow Portlander and DC escapee Evan Zimmerman won first.

I was happy with the way my cocktail turned out and it got a great reception both at the competition and at Carlyle. It’s a tasty fall drink combining whiskey, apples, spice, and smoke:

2 oz Stranahan’s Colorado whiskey
.75 oz spiced apple cider gastrique
1 Tbsp smoked apple purée
1 dash Angostura bitters
pickled crab apple garnish

Shake over ice and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass; garnish with slice of crab apple on skewer.

This is another drink that benefited immensely from collaboration with the chef at Carlyle. It was his idea to smoke the apples and they really made the drink. The apples were poached Jonagolds which were then smoked over applewood chips. We puréed these along with a little smoked butter for extra depth and smoothness. It came out deliciously and if I wasn’t saving it for drinks I would have eaten it as is.

The gastrique was made with apple juice, apple cider vinegar, cinnamon, and sugar. The spiced, pickled crab apple is from Robert Lambert and made the perfect garnish, along with saving me the trouble of poaching my own apples that probably wouldn’t have been nearly as good anyway.

The cocktail is essentially an update to the Stone Fence, the drink Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain boys supposedly consumed before storming Fort Ticonderoga. I admire anyone who drinks hard and attacks the government, so I named it after him.


A brilliant transit idea

The Oregonian on the streetcar plan:

This eastside route poses a much different transportation and economic development challenge than the existing streetcar that links Northwest Portland, the Pearl District, Portland State University and the South Waterfront. The first line ran through a route that was, for the most part, already developed, including the dense housing in Northwest, the vibrant Pearl District and the condos and apartments west of PSU.

Much of the eastside line, in contrast, will travel parts of the city — the Rose Quarter, the Lloyd District, the Central Eastside — where few people live and where commercial development has struggled. This won’t be a streetcar coming to the people, but, the city hopes, people and development coming to the streetcar.

Again, that’s going to require patience. The slow emptying out of the Rose Quarter neighborhood took decades, and it will take time — and more than vague ideas about developing Memorial Coliseum — to bring people and development back. It will take time, creativity and money, too, to mold the Lloyd District and the Central Eastside into strong, inviting and walkable 24-hour neighborhoods. The shelved plans for a convention center hotel pose another serious challenge.

Believe it or not that’s from an editorial in support of the expansion! And have I mentioned that my neighborhood is already served by multiple bus routes and an existing light rail line?

A later paragraph explains why this is such a good idea for Oregon:

This is a small but important start for Portland and for streetcar development nationally. More than 80 cities have plans to build streetcar lines and a few have begun construction. All these rail projects could have critical ties back to Oregon, where United Streetcar, a unit of Clackamas-based Oregon Iron Works Inc., is poised to be the domestic manufacturer of streetcars for cities all over the nation.

See, by wasting $150 million on this streetcar Portland can set a shining example for other cities who will follow our lead in wasting their own millions on streetcars that we sell to them. In the long run it’s a brilliant, devious plan.


Thanks for the ride

I’d like to thank all my readers living outside of Portland for buying me a streetcar:

Peter Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, today signed a contract dedicating $75 million in federal money for the Portland Streetcar eastside loop extension and promised similar federal efforts across the nation.

The contract guarantees the money Portland-area agencies have been anticipating for the project, which started construction during the summer. As The Oregonian has reported, the money was delayed for years by the Bush administration, which funded bus rapid transit projects but blocked streetcars. […]

[U.S. Rep. Earl] Blumenauer praised the eastside loop project, which will extend from the Pearl District, across the Broadway Bridge to the Lloyd Center Mall, and south along Grand Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

They’re not paying for it but local politicians are quick to claim credit:

“It’s an important down payment on our future in Portland, creating over 1,300 high wage jobs, spurring development and helping jump start the economy for the entire state,” Blumenauer said.

And to hand out contracts to favored constituents:

United Streetcar, a unit of Clackamas-based Oregon Iron Works, Inc., has a contract to build the streetcars needed for the new line.

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, a Springfield Democrat, wrote legislation that made it nearly impossible for anyone but United Streetcar to bid on the work.

DeFazio and the Obama administration see domestic production of streetcars as a way to shore up the nation’s heavy manufacturing employment while creating more walkable, mixed use neighborhoods.

This street car line would run right by my current apartment, though by the time it’s built I hope to live somewhere else. Will it be an efficient use of resources? Possibly, but given the political incentives at work it would be a huge leap for me to believe so. Streetcars are grand, sexy projects. They give politicians a great deal to take credit for. Buses aren’t sexy. However they are cheap and adaptable to changing traffic patterns. If Oregonians paid for their own transit we might be funding those. But since the rest of you are paying, sure, let’s build a streetcar!

Transit contrarian Randal O’Toole takes on this sort of thing in his Cato paper “A Desire Named Streetcar.” His analysis seems apt for the current situation.

I’ve had only two experiences with the Portland streetcar. When I first moved here I enjoyed a gin-company sponsored ride around town with Pegus in hand. Last week I almost wrecked my bike slipping a wheel into its rails. Aesthetics aside, I don’t know what purpose the streetcar fulfills that couldn’t be served equally well by buses driving the same route.


I are serious bartender

Willamette Week’s 2009 restaurant guide also came out today, with Carlyle making the list of “Five Restaurants with Great Bars.” The drinks get a mention in the main review too:

Both the wine and cocktails are worthy of the food (except for maybe the “Obligatory Pink Vodka Drink” — see? They have a sense of humor, too.)

Purists will be glad to know the OPVD didn’t make the cut on our new, trimmer cocktail menu. We’re super serious now.

Restaurant of the Year went to Beaker and Flask. It’s a totally deserved honor and it couldn’t have gone to a nicer bunch of people. Congrats, guys!


Sorry, vodka

I make a cameo appearance in today’s Willamette Week as the enemy of vodka:

Sorry Grey Goose fans: In the spirits and cocktail world, you’re kind of a joke. You’re being pretentious about a clear, flavorless spirit—the alcoholic equivalent of boasting about the kind of water you use in your soup. “As craft bartenders, we tend to steer people away from vodka,” says Carlyle bar manager Jacob Grier. “Generally, it’s fairly boring.”

The article is more about distilling than mixology. I talked with the author for about half-an-hour about a variety of topics, but if a quote about steering people away from vodka and towards other distilled spirits is what made print, well, I’m OK with that. Read the entire piece about Oregon’s craft distilling scene here.

For the record I’m not totally opposed to vodkas, especially ones that retain some flavor when served on the rocks. In general though I hate devoting precious ounces in a cocktail to an essentially flavorless spirit. If a customer tells me he likes cocktails with a vodka base, what is that supposed to mean?

I previously mixed with vodka for Mixology Monday with the Package Notice cocktail. For something a little more complex, see the Portland-based Krogstad aquavit featured in the Horatio.