2011 blog in review

It’s time again for the annual blog review. This year’s stats are slightly complicated by a combination of two freak server accidents happening within a short time of each other, which resulted in the loss of dozens of posts. I was able to recover them from the RSS feed, but it took months for search traffic to catch up to previous levels. Thus overall traffic is down a bit this year, but I suspect it would have beaten 2010 without that incident.

The number of visits tracked on Google Analytics is 91,504 compared to 99,423 in 2010. Measured by SiteMeter, the numbers are 105,669 for this year compared to 116,764. As with last year, my frequency of posting has declined with more content going instead to social media, including Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

Google is of course the number one source of traffic. 62% of traffic came from search referrals, up from 53% last year. Referrals from other sites dropped from 31% to 21%. Direct traffic stayed about the same at 17% compared to 15%.

Camel crickets, miracle fruit, and the stapler’s secret continue to dominate the top four spots for most viewed posts. Approximately one fifth of my total site traffic is related to camel crickets. I also find it hilarious that the silly stapler post is still so popular. Only three of the year’s most viewed posts were written in 2011: the April Fool’s Day post about homeopathic cocktails, a qualified defense of Ayn Rand accepting Medicare, and some notes on rum and trademark law. No posts about tobacco policy made the list.

Top Posts of 2011
1. Camel crickets invade DC
2. How to get rid of camel crickets
3. Miracle fruit — I’m a believer!
4. The stapler’s secret
5. Homeopathic cocktails: Blessing or curse?
6. A qualified defense of Ayn Rand on Medicare
7. Finally, sampling miracle fruit tablets
8. Made in Oregon, stolen by Portland
9. Rum and trademarks
10. Everybody loves an Irish Car Bomb

A few posts that I liked, but that didn’t make the top ten:
Two years later, no heart miracle in Oregon
Literature-inspired food carts in Portland, Ore., that did not stay in business for very long
Signs of Occupy Portland
Crystal Caipirinha and Cleared for Departure
In memory of Don Younger

I didn’t think t was possible, but this year’s list of top ten search phrases is even more dominated by crickets than 2010’s. Once again my name is technically on the list, but I’ve removed it because I find it hard to believe that that’s not partially due to a bookmarking glitch.

Top search referrals of 2011
1. camel cricket
2. camel crickets
3. spider cricket
4. spider crickets
5. Ayn Rand Medicare
6. weird fish
7. how to get rid of camel crickets
8. crickets
9. allspice dram
10. miracle fruit party

There are no surprises in the geography of the site’s readership. The top ten countries are almost exactly the same as last year, with Spain replacing Malaysia in the tenth spot. Portland, New York, and Washington are again the top three cities.

Top visitor countries from 2011
1. United States
2. United Kingdom
3. Canada
4. Australia
5. Philippines
6. Germany
7. India
8. France
9. Netherlands
10. Spain

Top visitor cities for 2011
1. Portland
2. New York
3. Washington
4. Chicago
5. Seattle
6. Los Angeles
7. San Francisco
8. Philadelphia
9. London
10. Houston

Last year Radley Balko’s site The Agitator was my top referrer and I was recently able to follow through on my promise to buy him drinks. This year his site doesn’t even make the top ten, so next time drinks are on him! I only recently became a contributor to Gojee, so it’s great to see that site doing so well. Behold the power of the cords at #9. I have no idea what the Etiquette Hell referral is about.

Top non-search referrers for 2011
1. Facebook
2. Liqurious
3. Reddit
4. StumbleUpon
5. Twitter
6. Gojee
7. Kids Prefer Cheese
8. Velvet Glove, Iron Fist
9. Corduroy Appreciation Club
10. Etiquette Hell

Thanks to everyone for reading. If all goes according to plan, I’ll have a redesigned site and more content coming this spring. Here’s to 2012!


Miscellaneous year end list

Best dish: Giant platter of meat, but especially the brisket, at Black’s in Lockhart, TX.

Runner-up best dish: Knuckle Sandwich (stew of oxtail, tendon, and other bits, served with amazing bread) at A-Frame in Los Angeles. NB: Alcohol was involved.

Best drinking experience: Kopstootjes at De Drie Fleschjes, a tasting room operating in Amsterdam since 1650.

Best bartending experience: State Policy Network speakeasy party at Naga in Bellevue, WA. 200 libertarians, one punch bowl, and a whole lot of classic cocktails.

Go-to cigar: Berger and Argenti Entubar Quad Maduro. Perfect for my palate and has a striking appearance to highlight its unique rolling method.

Best reading experience: Infinite Jest. No it didn’t come out in 2011, but reading it in the spring reignited my interest in fiction.

Best new music: Decemberists, The King is Dead. I loved it on the first listen and it hasn’t suffered from repetition.

Most surprising comic book: Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman, and Jeff Huet on “Animal Man.” The art, characterization, and story are all absolutely spot on.

Best magic experience: Performing the Fast and Loose con game at various Portland street festivals.

Newly appreciated product: Sherry. Both on its own or in cocktails, I’m going through more of this than ever before.

Product I wish was in the US: Bols Yogurt Liqueur. Seriously.

Prediction for 2012: Year of the Bone Luge. Seriously.

Most anticipated bar for 2012: Haymerchant, new beer bar in Houston, TX, from the folks behind Anvil.


Links for 12/28/11

Gary Johnson officially declares candidacy for the Libertarian Party nomination. Ron Paul is topping the polls in Iowa. More voters are leaving the major parties to register as independents. Approval of Congress is at an all-time low. Is a libertarian moment on the horizon?

Another libertarian think tank in the pocket of Big Tattoo and Big Fish Pedicure.

Indian magicians seek official recognition of magic as an art form, so that they can receive government support.

Ryan Conklin rounds up some holiday beer cocktails.


Stockholm 75


A few weeks ago David Solmonson of 12 Bottle Bar, one of my favorite cocktail blogs, asked me if I’d like to be a guest contributor for a series of holiday drinks posts. He was lifting their usual twelve bottle restriction for the series, so contributors were free to call for whatever they pleased. For me this seemed the perfect opportunity to post a new sparkling cocktail, the Stockholm 75, made with aquavit, lemon, sugar, sparkling wine, and sriracha bitters for a touch of spice. Click over to 12 Bottle Bar for the recipe, or if you’re in Portland stop into Metrovino to try one for yourself.

Be sure to browse the other recent posts for more guest contributions. It’s a great line-up, with guests including David Wondrich, Camper English, Gary Regan, and more. My thanks to David for inviting me to take part!

[Photo from 12 Bottle Bar.]


Hot Caipi


Everybody knows that the Caipirinha is a fantastic drink for summer. But how about for winter? Surprisingly, it’s a great drink for the cold months too. Just try serving it hot.

The idea struck me as strange when my friend Tobias Heinrich told me about it, but apparently it’s become quite popular in Germany. He remembers seeing the drink show up at German Christmas markets in the early 2000s, sold from booths alongside the traditional Glühwein. Cachaça sells extremely well in Germany; according to this site the country accounts for about one quarter of cachaça exports, with the Caipirinha second only to beer in drink orders. It gets cold there, so apparently some enterprising bartenders adapted the cocktail to turn it into a warming beverage.

The method for this is pretty much the same as for a regular Caipirinha, except that instead of shaking with ice you’re adding hot water. Some recipes also call for mint. Though I like unaged cachaça in a cold Caipirinha, in the hot version the spice notes from a barrel aged cachaça are a nice addition. I served it at an event this week with Novo Fogo Gold and it went over very well.

2 oz Novo Fogo Gold Cachaça
1 oz turbinado syrup (1:1)
1/2 lime, quartered
5-6 oz hot water

Muddle the lime in the bottom of a heated mug. Add remaining ingredients, stir, and serve.

[Photo courtesy of Novo Fogo.]


Recent reading

The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Deception in Human Life, Robert Trivers — This is the most thought-provoking non-fiction book I read this year. (The Great Stagnation is a close second.) Early chapters are grounded in psychology and evolutionary theory, later ones get more speculative about politics, religion, and science. Trivers’ candid style can be off-putting at times but citing personal experience is a plus of the book. It’s fascinating throughout and a powerful corrective for being too sure of one’s beliefs. As I learned last week, the chapter on aviation and space disasters does not make for the best plane reading.

The Theory That Would Not Die: How Bayes’ Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy, Sharon Bertsch McGrayne — I’d been looking for a good, non-technical book about Bayes’ rule and was happy to see one published this year. It’s highly readable and light on math. An appendix applies the rule to mammograms, a demonstration that would have been useful earlier in the book. Applying Bayes to medicine can lead to the counterintuitive result that more testing is not always beneficial, a message that is difficult to deliver.

The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong With America, Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch — I’ve been remiss in not linking to this yet. I don’t think there’s a better contemporary popular defense of libertarianism out there. Grounded in pragmatism rather than ideology, this would make a great gift for the almost libertarian in your life.

America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops, Christine Sismondo — A comprehensive history of drinking houses in America, from the community centers of colonial times to the craft cocktail renaissance of today. Enjoyable and informative.

The American Cocktail: 50 Recipes that Celebrate the Craft of Mixing Drinks from Coast to Coast — Imbibe magazine kicked off at about the same time that I started tending bar, and ever since then I’ve found it an indispensable resource. This is the editors’ first book, a collection of fifty recipes from around the country. The drinks look great, but as with many contemporary books you’ll likely have to shop for or make at least one of the ingredients called for in many of the recipes.

Ice Cream Happy Hour: 50 Boozy Treats You Spike, Freeze, and Serve, Valerie Lum and Jenise Addison — I’ve tried two of the ice creams in this book, Guinness and Manhattan, and they were both pretty good. Many of the recipes are on the sweeter, fruitier side, but there is a good variety. It’s a good intro to making alcoholic ice creams and inspired me to dust off my ice cream maker. I’m sure I’ll apply the techniques to new recipes using some of my favorite ingredients; chocolate and Chartreuse perhaps?


Links for 12/17/11

“We are in solidarity with them even if they don’t know it.” An Occupy Portland protest intended to shut down the ports on Monday sent about 200 longshoremen home without pay, also affecting truckers. The protest was supposedly on behalf of the longshoremen, whose union opposed it. The arrogance of the protesters was remarkable.

“A feast of reason and a flow of soul” — Christopher Buckley remembers Hitchens.

There are too many great Hitchens pieces to link to them all. Biased by my own interests, here’s Hitch on the subject of smoking bans.

Andrew Sullivan endorses Ron Paul for the GOP nomination.

There’s a forthcoming book about food from Tyler Cowen. Self-recommending!

Another take on Pisco Sour jelly shots, inspired by mine from earlier in the month.


Brewing Up Cocktails Holiday Edition


It’s that time of year again: Brewing Up Cocktails returns this Saturday, December 10, for our second annual Holiday Edition. This time we’re serving our biggest menu of beer cocktails ever, including three of them served hot to warm you up on a winter night. We’re bringing back a classic wassail, the ever popular and nearly impossible to find Hot Scotchy, and the brand new Hot Choklat made with rum, Galliano Ristretto, and a heated up glass of the incredibly rich Southern Tier Choklat stout. We’ll also feature a couple favorites from bartenders outside of Portland: the Euclidean 75 from Denver’s Ryan Conklin and the Tradewinds Punch from Washington, DC’s Jon Harris. All that and an ugly holiday sweater contest too.

The event is Saturday from 6-9 pm at The Hop and Vine. Don’t miss it!


Señor Brown at Mi Mero Mole


A couple months ago I was contacted by Nick Zukin, local restaurateur and founder of the PortlandFood.org web forum, about a new Mexican place he had in the works. His Mi Mero Mole opened last week selling tacos de guisado, a style of taco less familiar in the US than the grilled meats found at most taquerias. Here’s how he explains it in a Portland Monthly interview:

I was familiar with tacos de guisado—or at least guisados—prior to my trips to Mexico City. Guisados or guisos are Mexican stews and stir-fries. Many large Mexican supermarkets and carnicerias (Mexican butchers and meat markets) will carry some in the United States, and a decent number of taquerias have one or two. One of my favorite places in PDX, Tortilleria y Tienda de Leon out on the edge of Gresham, specializes in them. But it wasn’t until I went to Mexico City that I realized the variety of guisados available or realized how strong a tradition there was for places devoted to them.

Guisados feature more prominently in Mexico City than any other place I’ve been in Mexico. I think it’s because guisados are really home cooking-style dishes. The people in DF, like other very urban cities, probably don’t cook at home as often and so these fondas and puestos serving a variety of home cooking probably sprung up. I rarely have seen a street stand elsewhere, even in large cities like Puebla and Guadalajara, selling tacos de guisados like they do in Mexico City. Some of my favorite stands in DF sell a dozen or more choices. Other than Super Cocina in San Diego, I don’t know of any place in the United States that really offers the type of variety you would see in Mexico City.

One of the things that will set Mi Mero Mole apart, even from really good places like de Leon, will be the variety. I already have several dozen recipes developed and expect to rotate through* 50 to 100 different guisados* in the first year. I’m focusing on dishes that are common in Mexico that you don’t see here enough and interesting dishes that you would really only find in Mexico—and a lot of those dishes are vegetarian and vegan.

This was a new style of taco for me, and having now tried about a dozen of the guisados I am a fan. I’m even ordering some of the vegetarian dishes, which if you know me at all is a pretty solid endorsement.

Mi Mero Mole is all about the tacos, but the place does have a liquor license, which is where I came in. Nick asked me to help select the spirits and create a few cocktails. We were guided by two considerations on this. One was that all of the cocktails would be made with only agave or sugar cane based spirits. The second was that the drinks should all be relatively easy to execute, so that they can be made quickly by multi-tasking staff.

Among the drinks we came up with are the Maldonado Punch, a refreshing mixture of tequila, hibiscus, grapefruit, and other ingredients; El Chingroni, our take on the Negroni with tequila, Aperol, and sweet vermouth; and the Plantain Margarita, which substitutes spiced plantain syrup for the orange liqueur. However my favorite drink on the menu is a last-minute addition we came up with, the Señor Brown:

1 1/2 oz Del Maguey Mezcal Vida
Sidral Mundet sour apple soda

Build in an ice-filled pint glass, stir gently, and serve. Sidral Mundet makes a really tasty sour apple soda that mixes well with the smoky mezcal. The assertiveness of the spirit and the sweetness of the soda balance each other nicely. Plus you have to like a bright green cocktail that actually tastes good.

Mi Mero Mole is at 5026 SE Division in Portland, Ore. It’s open Tuesday-Thursday from 5-9, Friday-Saturday 5-10. Go check it out.

[Photo courtesy of Allison Jones, who writes up a full opening report at Portland Monthly and makes the Señor Brown look ten times better than I could have done with my own camera.]


Links for 12/5/11

Happy Repeal Day, everyone! Today is the anniversary of the ratification of the Twenty-First Amendment, which repealed Prohibition. I wrote about the holiday for the American Spectator on its 75th anniversary in 2008.

The Occupy evictions have brought welcome attention to excessive force by police officers, but as Radley Balko writes, the militarization of American police forces has been going on for a long time.

I imagine that very few students, right or left, would benefit from missing out on economics classes taught by Greg Mankiw.


Jelly shots go upscale


First Mad Dog 20/20 cocktails, now jelly shots? It’s true. Local writer Jen Stevenson (author of the excellent restaurant guide Portland’s 100 Best Places to Stuff Your Faces) reviews Jelly Shot Test Kitchen in the latest issue of MIX, and as part of her write-up she challenged me and Tommy Klus to come up with a few fancy gelatinized cocktails of our own. Click through to see my recipe for Pisco Sour jelly shots made with Encanto Pisco and Amargo Chuncho bitters whipped cream.

I had a chance to flip through a copy of the book and it takes the jelly shot to new heights. Order it on Amazon or browse the recipes on the Jelly Shot Test Kitchen weblog.

[Photo by Ross William Hamilton.]


Links for 12/2/11

A nice follow-up on the Occupy movement and democracy from Will Wilkinson.

As a minority within a minority, finding community as a black atheist can be difficult.

Will the FDA getting into the business of mandatory salt reductions?

Boston bans the use of e-cigarettes in bars and restaurants, despite the fact that they contain no tobacco.

Portland is home to some of the best Thai food in the country, but in many of the top restaurants one of the dishes you won’t find is pad Thai. That said, the pad Thai on the late night menu at Whiskey Soda Lounge is so good that’s it hardly worth going anywhere else for it.

Articles about “what your drink says about you” are usually pretty dumb, but David Wondrich’s contribution to the genre is an exception.

This 1943 cigar ad feels like it was designed by Ayn Rand.

Miracle fruit makes an appearance in the news again.


Give the gift of blue drinks

It’s December 1, which means Christmas is coming up and Sinterklaas and Repeal Day are right around the corner. If you need a gift for the cocktail lover in your life, my recipe guide from 2010 is selling for about six bucks with shipping on Amazon right now and is perfectly sized for stuffing into stockings.


“A bartender would be hard-pressed to use this as his reference at a bar where the average age of the clientèle was under 40. Missing are the Sex on the Beach, the Red-Headed Slut, the Orgasm and the Washington Apple, just to name the first few that come to mind.” — A satisfied Amazon reviewer.

The Cocktail Collective includes more than 200 recipes grouped into chapters by spirit: brandy, gin, rum, tequila, vodka, whiskey, and assorted spirits like aquavit, genever, and amari. There are also introductory notes to each chapter, along with advice for mixing drinks and stocking a home bar. The emphasis is on spirits that are widely available and fresh ingredients that are easy to buy or make, and the spiral binding allows the book to lay flat while in use. (Oh, and there aren’t any actual blue drinks in the book. Sorry.)

Most of the recipes are classics, but there are also a few from me and a bunch from a stellar list of guest contributors:

Anu Apte, Stephen Beaumont, David Buehrer, Frank Cisneros, Ryan Csanky, John Deragon, Michael Dietsch, Ron Dollete, Jabriel Donohue, Meagan Dorman, Camper English, Andrew Finkelman, Ricky Gomez, Peter Gugni, Jenn Hegstrom, Neil Kopplin, Mindy Kucan, Tom Lindstedt, Kevin Ludwig, Elizabeth Markham, Lance Mayhew, Jim Meehan, Jeffrey Morgenthaler, Blair Reynolds, Adam Robinson, Matt Robold, Jim Romdall, Stephen Shellenberger, David Shenaut, Chris Stave, Kelley Swenson, Jeremy James Thompson, Keith Waldbauer, Stephen Warner, Allison Webber, Neyah White, Rocky Yeh

Pick it up here to ensure your friends and loved ones don’t have a blue Christmas.