Recent reading

Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You with the Bill), David Cay Johnston — A good book from 2007 about how government and wealthy elites collude to enrich themselves at taxpayer expense, even more relevant now than when it was written. Johnston writes from a somewhat progressive perspective but it reads just as well through a Public Choice lens. This paragraph for example:

Regulation by detailed rules has not worked. A century ago the reformers of the Gilded Age believed that if we just got the rules right, a just society would follow. Instead, the rules became ever more finely diced, creating unintended opportunities for mischief and often creating loopholes and favors for those whose conduct the rules were supposed to constrain.

The book stretches on a bit too long in my opinion, but it’s a good reminder that advocacy for free markets is often the complete opposite of advocacy for big business.

Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals About Our Everyday Deceptions, Stephen L. Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde — Two neuroscientists explain how the brain works in the context of magicians’ sneaky methods. As the authors say, magicians having been doing amateur neuroscience for centuries, making this a surprisingly useful approach. It’s a good primer and engagingly written.

Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human, Grant Morrison — Everything you’d want from a Grant Morrison history of superheroes, up to and including his own recent work and his inspirational spiritual journey in Kathmandu. Morrison manages to bring out the best in every era of superheroes.

Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, Brad Thomas Parsons — I like that we’re seeing more cocktail books that are focused on specific topics rather than being generic compilations of recipes. In this one bitters get their due. When I started tending bar a few years ago it was a struggle just to find orange bitters; now artisan bitters have flooded the market and craft cocktail bars make unheard of varieties their own. Parsons’ book provides a brief history of bitters and then provides fifteen recipes for making them at home, concluding with a well-selected mix of cocktail recipes. I haven’t tried making any of the bitters yet but I have enjoyed making some of the drinks. Highly recommended.

Portland’s 100 Best Places to Stuff Your Faces, Jen Stevenson — This is a very fun self-published guide to Portland restaurants from local food writer Jen Stevenson. The production values are high and the recommendations are spot-on. I eat out a lot and I’ve only been to sixty of the spots she suggests, so I have some new places to visit. I’d give this to anyone looking to explore the local food scene.


Beer cocktails at Portland Cocktail Week!

We’re just a few days away from the booziest week in Oregon, Portland Cocktail Week. Bartenders and drinks enthusiasts from all over the country are descending on the city for several days of parties, seminars, competitions, and the Great American Distillers Festival. Get all the details here.

For the opening seminar on Saturday I’m teaming up with bartender Ryan Conklin from Euclid Hall in Denver, Colorado. Denver is another great beer city and Ryan has been leading the way on beer cocktails there. We’re going to give an hour-long presentation about mixing with beer. Attendees will enjoy four cocktails made with Averna, Damrak Gin, Galliano, Novo Fogo Cachaca, Upright Four, Rogue Ales, and a surprise beer that Ryan’s bringing up from Denver. Tickets are available for $15.

The Oregonian offered a preview of Cocktail Week, including this interview with nine local bartenders. I’m in good company there discussing Portland cocktail culture with some of the city’s top talent.


Fresh hopped picks

One of the fun things about living in the Pacific Northwest is fresh hop season, the time of year when breweries can brew beers with hops picked fresh from the vine. Last night I was invited to a preview of the Portland Fresh Hop Tastival where about 40 different fresh hop beers are on tap. I couldn’t taste anywhere close to all of them but here are some standouts from the ones I had:

Deschutes Fresh Hop Mirror Pond — A tasty, fresh hop take on Mirror Pond. Mirror Pond is ubiquitous in Portland but this version is worth seeking out.

Double Mountain Killer Green — A good, hoppy IPA with plenty of aromatics.

Logsdon Fresh Hop Sezoen — I couldn’t actually tell that this was fresh hopped, but the banana aroma on this Belgian style ale is huge. A great change of pace amongst all the pales and IPAs.

The festival is today. Details here.


Beer and cocktails, sittin’ in a tree


The latest issue of MIX Magazine has a great story about the various ways the beer and cocktail communities in Portland are drawing inspiration from one another. Our Brewing Up Cocktails events, the Kopstootje Biere collaboration between Bols Genever and Upright Brewing, and the cocktail beers created by Ben Edmunds at Breakside Brewing are all featured. I got to try Ben’s Sazerac beer a few months ago and it was delicious. Read the whole thing here.

One of our cocktails at Metrovino, the Averna Stout Flip, was also mentioned in article about beer cocktails in this month’s Beverage Media magazine. It’s here in PDF.

[Photo of Ben Edmunds from MIX Magazine.]


Links for 10/1/11

Christopher Snowdon has new book coming out, The Art of Suppression: Pleasure, Panic, and Prohibition Since 1800. His Velvet Glove, Iron Fist is fantastic, so I’m definitely ordering this.

One more vestige of Prohibition falls in California: Bartenders can now infuse their own spirits without fear of being fined by regulators. And in Oregon, the OLCC has given the green light to a temporary cocktail cart.

A dubious first: Denmark becomes the first country to impose a “fat tax” on foods high in saturated fat.

Every libertarian in the country has linked to this GQ profile of Gary Johnson, but just in case you missed it…

The US has now assassinated one of its own citizens without due process; why Obama is a disaster for civil liberties.

A nice write-up of the Transatlantic Mai Tai at Food Shed.