Blogging and job searching

I’m in this MSNBC story by Eve Tahmincioglu talking about how cocktail blogging helped me land a job in Portland after my move from DC:

For mixologist Jacob Grier, his blog “Liquidity Preference” helped him land a primo bartender job at the Carlyle Restaurant in Portland, Ore.

Grier started blogging about making unusual cocktails two years ago as an outlet for his love of food and drinks. While working for a bar in Washington, D.C., he decided to move to Portland because of the culinary scene.

Thanks to the blog, he had already connected with two well-known mixologists in Portland. Those contacts ended up taking him to an industry event where Grier met the bar manager at the Carlyle, and the rest is history.

Yes, this is a bit ironic after just getting the news that my bar is closing. Time to start the search all over again, eh?

If you’re coming here from the MSNBC site, click here for cocktail posts. And if you happen to own a craft cocktail bar, let’s talk.


Police abuse, Idaho style

It goes without saying that this guy is from Portland:

An Oregon man is accusing Idaho police officers of destroying the mystical qualities of his Native American medicine bag when they opened it during a drunk driving arrest last summer. […]

The Bonner County Daily Bee reports that police arrested Show, charging him with driving under the influence of alcohol. He had a blood alcohol level of .16, police said.

In the tort claim, Show says the medicine bag had been blessed by a medicine woman and has been sealed since 1995. But he says the bag’s mystical qualities were damaged when opened by officers.

So many questions. Was this a legal search? Was the bag ever meant to be opened? Was it supposed to cure him in his most desperate hour? Could he have inhaled the mystic contents to sober himself up? Is there an Idaho police officer whose gout has suddenly gone away? Alas, we’ll probably never know.

[Via @IcedBorscht.]


Last call at Carlyle


Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of being on the opening crew of several coffee shops and restaurants. Now it’s my turn to be on the closing crew. From Carlyle owner Bruce Goldberg:

Next month is Carlyle’s seventh anniversary. February also marks the end of our current lease. Both milestones are significant in that they factor into my decision to announce that Carlyle will serve it’s last meal on Sunday, February 14th.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the many loyal customers, employees, and friends who have made Carlyle special. Though saddened by the closing, I ’m comforted by wonderful memories, ,and the opportunity to have worked with some very talented people.

I hope that over the next two weeks you’ll make a point of joining us for dinner or a drink. In addition to some recent menu changes, Chef Martin will be presenting a special prix fixe dinner, offered on both February 13th and 14th, to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and to serve as our farewell.

I’m eternally grateful to Bruce and to Neil, who first hired me there, for trusting me with their bar program. It’s been a fun ride and great platform for me as a mixologist. I think we succeeded in turning Carlyle into one of the best places in Portland to have a cocktail. Unfortunately we’ve faced an uphill battle running a destination restaurant in a tough location and a down economy, so this closing is understandable.

If you haven’t been into Carlyle yet, do stop in soon. And if you’re among the many friends I’ve made while working there I hope I’ll see you at least one more time before we close. Last call is Sunday night, February 14. Fernet is on the rail.

[Photo courtesy of the unbeatable Mayor of Carlyle, Ron Dollete.]


Sticking it to the stogies

Following the lead of New York’s David Paterson, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has proposed new taxes on tobacco, candy, and soft drinks. Cigars may be hit especially hard:

It would also increase taxes on smokeless tobacco and cigars, generating $15 million for the state. (Administration officials said a $2 cigar that now costs $2.76 would jump to $4.46.)

As cigarette taxes hit their maximum and states lose revenue to SCHIP, they’re going to turn to other forms of tobacco. This will leave cigars especially vulnerable. They can’t be smoked quickly like cigarettes, making them much harder to consume under smoking bans. Nor do they enjoy the cartel protections of the Master Settlement Agreement.

Note also that Boston is scheduled to force its six remaining cigar bars out of business.

[Via the Stogie Guys.]


The case against menu labeling

I’m in the Washington Examiner today arguing against taking calorie labeling laws national:

Among the many proposals under heated debate between the House and Senate health care bills is one provision both sides will likely support: a national law mandating calorie labels on chain restaurant menus and in vending machines.

Advocates have described the measure as a symbolically important step against obesity and have spun recent research in their favor, but a closer look reveals a weak case for labeling.

Read the whole thing here.


Iron Bartender Krogstad aquavit cocktails


Thursday night’s Iron Bartender competition was a great success and a ton of fun. I’m not sure how many people came out, but it was well over 200 and possibly closer to 300. The support for the Children’s Relief Nursery was phenomenal. And the fact that everyone got to contribute so much while drinking delicious cocktails made it even better; big thanks to House Spirits for making that possible.

Since this was all for charity, it doesn’t really matter who won. The important thing is that we all had fun and came together as a team… OK, OK, it was Evan Zimmerman. He kicked all our asses once again. The guy’s unstoppable. He’s one of the best bartenders in town and if you haven’t been to see him at Laurelhurst Market you’ve been missing out.

This post wouldn’t be complete without a cocktail recipe. It would be even better with two. The first is the one I served in the initial stage of the event, during which we all made drinks with Krogstad aquavit. The second is one I’d hoped to serve but couldn’t make work in this context.

First, the Scandinavian Sour:

2 oz Krogstad aquavit
.75 oz Swedish punsch*
.5 oz Zirbenz pine liqueur
.5 oz lemon
.25 oz Zwack

Technically Zirbenz and Zwack aren’t Scandinavian, but they’re from European and sometimes cold countries so I think that’s close enough! Shake all of the above over ice and strain into a cocktail glass for a complex, refreshing drink.

The next drink is an aquavit hot toddy. It’s a rather nice cocktail, but with no hot water at our venue it would have been very difficult to serve. It will find it’s way onto the Carlyle menu in a few days:

1.5 oz Krogstad aquavit
.75 oz Swedish punsch*
.5 oz lemon
3-4 oz hot water

Pour all ingredients into a preheated snifter and garnish with a star anise. Guaranteed to warm you up after a long day of going Viking.

*Click for my Swedish punsch recipe, made extra smoky by the addition of lapsang souchong tea.

[Photo by Nicole Ishida courtesy of Children’s Relief Nursery. From l to r: Elizabeth Markham, Evan Zimmerman, myself, Neil Kopplin.]


Secrets of the Patty Mills

patty_mills 007

My friend David’s method for creating a new cocktail:

1. Come into Carlyle and pick a drink on the menu that includes lemon juice.

2. Order that drink without lemon juice.

3. If the drink is served up, order it on the rocks.

4. Name the new drink after a Blazer.

5. Enjoy.

This method isn’t foolproof. Sometimes the results are, as one fellow drinker put it, “horribly unbalanced.” But sometimes it works. And one of those times is perfect for this week’s Mixology Monday, which is all about tea and hosted by Cocktail Slut:

Tea has played a historical role in cocktails for centuries. Perhaps the best documented early example was its inclusion in punches as part of the spice role to round out the spirit, sugar, water, and citrus line up. Later, teas appear in many recipes such as Boston Grog, English Cobbler, and a variety of Hot Toddies. And present day mixologists are utilizing tea flavors with great success including Audrey Saunder’s Earl Grey MarTEAni and LUPEC Boston’s Flapper Jane. Now it’s our turn to honor this glorious cocktail ingredient!

For a while our menu at Carlyle included an updated version of one of the first cocktails I came up with, a Pegu Club variation made with Earl Grey tea-infused gin. Putting this through David’s drink algorithm produces the Patty Mills:

2 oz Earl Grey-infused Bombay gin
.75 oz Cointreau
1 dash Regan’s orange bitters

Serve on the rocks with an orange zest. It’s a secret off-the-menu drink at Carlyle. But would Patty Mills himself approve? Only time will tell.


Now they come for the pipe smokers

This was only a matter of time:

On January 13, 2010, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and co-sponsor Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) introduced bill H.R. 4439 to congress to raise the federal pipe tobacco tax from $2.8311US per pound to $24.78US per pound and “To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to impose the same rate of tax on pipe tobacco as is imposed on roll-your-own tobacco.”[…]

If this bill passes, the average increase to your favorite blends will be about:
$2.43US per 50gr
$2.74US per 2oz
$4.86US per 100gr
$10.98US per 8oz
$21.95US per 16oz
$24.15US per 500gr
These prices would be added onto the price you are currently paying for those amounts of pipe tobacco. So with the average price of 100gr tin McClelland Frog Morton being about $13.20US, the new price would be $18.06US! That is outrageous!

The motivation for the tax increase is to stop producers of roll-your-own tobacco (RYO) from repackaging their product as pipe tobacco, which is taxed at a lower rate. The two products are very similar and in the past were taxed at the same rate of $1.10 per pound. SCHIP created a huge disparity by raising the tax on pipe tobacco to $2.81 and the tax on RYO to an astronomical $24.62. RYO producers predictably reclassified their products just to keep their companies alive.

The congressmen introducing this bill are correct that the two types of tobacco should be taxed equally, but the solution is to lower the tax on RYO, not to tax both products at the insane new rate.

[Hat tip to the ever-alert Jan!]

SCHIP tax avoision
Children, say “thank you for smoking”


A victory for food freedom

Some great news yesterday for Michael Schmidt, an Ontario raw milk dairy farmer who risked jail time challenging Canadian regulators. In a remarkable ruling, the court decided that his program by which customers by shares in cow ownership in exchange for the milk they produce is a legitimate enterprise not covered by existing law. In broader context, it seems an encouraging precedent for allowing consumers to opt out of restrictive safety regulations:

Although it is not illegal to consume raw milk in Canada, selling or distributing violates laws that require pasteurization of most commercial milk products.

The Schmidt case, which began when his farm was raided in 2006, has captivated food-rights academics and advocates in Canada, and around the world, who argue the court’s decision will ripple well beyond the raw-milk community. At its crux, they argue, the case is really about the extent to which consumers should be free to buy foods, however rarefied, and whether constitutional rights stretch as far as the grocery basket, farmer’s market and the people who own shares in – but do not live on – food-producing farms.

[Thanks to Kimberly Hartke for the tip. My article on raw milk for Reason is here, and a visit to a Virginia cow share program here.]


Iron Bartending and whiskey drinks in PDX

Gore Vidal once said that he never passes up a chance to have sex or appear on television. Precisely one of these things I’m willing to do with my friend Neil Kopplin and we’re going to be doing it — appearing on TV, that is! — on KOIN’s “Keep it Local” show later today. We’ll be promoting tonight’s Iron Bartender competition at the Jupiter Hotel and having an Old School Carlyle vs New School Carlyle cocktail throwdown. The show airs between 4-5 on Channel 6 and will hopefully be online soon after. (The last time I was on local television the mysterious “David Grier,” who looks suspiciously just like me, got all the credit. This time I’m determined to keep him off the set!)

Also in local press, today’s Portland Mercury is all about my favorite spirit, whiskey. Included in their whiskey feature is a round-up of local whiskey cocktails, including this blog’s Curse of Scotland and drinks from some of the best bartenders in town. Check it out here.


New cigar lounge coming to Alexandria

The Stogie Guys have the scoop on a private cigar club opening soon in Alexandria, VA, in the wake of the state’s smoking ban:

[…] CXIII Rex will have all the amenities of traditional cigar lounges, including a well-stocked walk-in humidor, a selection of top libations and small-batch wines, ample seating, wireless internet, private humidor lockers, and the like. But this club, slated to open in late March, will also feature more luxurious accommodations. Included will be a state-of-the-art air ventilation system, an access-only elevator, an all-female wait staff, and a private cigar blend crafted by none other than Rocky Patel. […]

Individual memberships, as you might expect from a club of this caliber, are not inexpensive. The cost is $5,000 to join CXIII Rex and $100 each month thereafter. Franco and Noe tell me that 200 slots are available, with 160 already claimed for. If, like me, this is above your price range, or if you reside outside the Washington metro area, you still have to appreciate the high attention to detail and passion that’s going in to creating a premier cigar lounge. I haven’t seen anything like it before.

Some of this sounds great, some of it a little gauche. (Is touting an all-female wait staff really necessary? It doesn’t exactly challenge the stereotype of the rich, male, self-important cigar smoker.) But what’s significant is that this business can exist at all. The Virginia smoking ban, as misguided as it is, at least allows for a market response. Dedicated lounges where smokers can congregate without offending others are free to open. This is in stark contrast to states like Oregon where the right to allow smoking in one’s bar is limited only to the favored few who happened to do so when a ban was passed.