The Tribune's features staff hits the bars to research hot weather potables
Huckleberries, lemon grass, mint, prawns. There's no telling what ingredients might be pressed into service when it comes to engineering cocktails to combat summer thirsts.
Some potions are cutting edge, enlisting imaginative strategies and material. Others are variations on battle-tested classics.
All were deemed worthy of study by the Tribune, which dispatched a team to various sectors of the city. The mission: See what's new and what's different, but also what's proving effective in resuscitating thirsty cocktail-seeking drinkers.
Here are five drinks, suggested by five bartenders, we think will brighten your summer.
Montage bartender Peter deRosa has noticed the mojito, a Cuban rum drink made with fresh mint and lime, slowly going mainstream. 'In six years of bartending in Portland, the mojito is still mainly bought by Latin women,' says the 30-year-old deRosa, who sports a fashionably shaved head. 'But it's become the sort of drink where people ask their neighbor, 'What's that?' Then they try one and usually have another.'
Mojito, which roughly translates as 'thirst quencher,' traces its roots to the Cuban sugar cane plantations, where it was prepared for the slaves by the masters' staff.
At Montage, 301 S.E. Morrison St., bartenders only make mojitos in summer, when fresh mint is available. This is how the 'nicer establishments' do it, deRosa says, 'places where they squeeze their own juice.'
He uses baker's sugar halfway between granulated sugar and powdered sugar in terms of texture because it isn't as cloying as the latter. 'I don't make it too sweet. I just like to take the edge off the lime and mint,' deRosa says.
As with any rum drink, it's drinker beware! 'You kind of don't feel the alcohol,' deRosa says. 'It's OK to begin and end with one, but probably best to have wine with your meal.'
• 5 or 6 fresh mint leaves
• One fresh lime or an ounce of lime juice
• 1 1/2 ounces of white rum (Bacardi)
• 1 teaspoon of baker's sugar
Making the drink
• Muddle the mint with the lime juice over two ice cubes in a pint glass.
• Fill glass two-thirds of the way with ice.
• Add the rum and shake vigorously in a cocktail shaker.
• Do not strain.
• Pour into a glass.
• Garnish with a mint leaf bearing a touch of sugar.
There's a story told about Ernest Hemingway in Havana in 1941.
An Associated Press reporter recalled hanging out with Hemingway at the Floridita Bar, arguing until late. As he dragged himself to work at 8 a.m. the next morning, the newsman looked in the doorway of the Floridita: Hemingway was still talking.
Chances are Papa was drinking his favorite daiquiri, and the Floridita termed itself the 'cradle of the daiquiri' in a sign over the bar.
At Ca–ita, 503 W. Burnside St., you can share Ernest's delight with a double daiquiri called a Papa Hemingway, courtesy of manager John Connell Maribona.
The Cuban restaurant and bar fits perfectly with the sunny weather, with walls of vivid lime green, purple and plum, lively native paintings and a choice of 30 Cuban cocktails, including the currently hip mojito, Cuba libre, Havana sidecar, periodista, ponche and saoco.
'We used to do 50 classic Cuban cocktails, but that seemed a bit excessive,' Maribona says.
Consistency is the key to cold summer drinks, he says. 'The trick when you frappŽ is not to make it icy like a snow cone.'
• A double shot of Bacardi Carta Blanca rum
• A dash of Maraska maraschino liqueur
• Grapefruit juice and fresh lime juice
Making the drink
• Pour rum into blender, then maraschino liqueur.
• Add two parts grapefruit juice to one part fresh lime juice.
• FrappŽ and serve in a chilled pint glass.
Sometimes getting something right isn't as important as not getting it wrong.
Bartender Pete Thompson said Salty's on the Columbia, 3839 N.E. Marine Drive, changed its Bloody Mary recipe awhile back. Thompson and his colleagues used to concoct the drink with a mixer made from scratch. But the results were inclined to vary, depending on who was wielding the horseradish.
'It tended to be overbearing,' says Thompson, a 13-year employee.
So they junked the old mix and went to a store-bought version. The move, designed to standardize the recipe at the company's three locations, didn't thrill Thompson at the time. Now he says he'll put his Bloody Mary up against anyone's. 'I love 'em,' he says.
Seems everyone else has made the adjustment, too. Salty's, with its panoramic views and sun-splashed outdoor deck, sells hundreds of Bloody Marys a month, proving the drink's appeal is year-round for crowds that arrive for Sunday brunch. 'People ask what we put in them,' Thompson says. That's when they're not asking for another.
The Bloody Mary is thought to have originated as a hangover remedy. 'It's pretty straightforward,' Thompson says. At Salty's, it starts with an 8-ounce, Z-stem hurricane glass for what Thompson calls 'wow factor.' He rims the glass with blackening spices appropriated from the kitchen and fills it will ice.
• One shot of Absolut Peppar vodka
• Demitri's Bloody Mary mix
Making the drink
• Rim a glass with salt.
• Fill with ice.
• Pour in vodka, then the Bloody Mary mix, and stir.
• Garnish with two spiced 'Blue Lake' beans, an olive and a cooked prawn.
The huckleberry oblito at Colosso just might be the hottest summer drink around, and bartender Josh Beaudrault has the callouses to prove it.
'I got these from the muddler,' says Beaudrault of the wooden pestle that's toughened the palms of his berry-stained hands.
Made from huckleberries picked from the Cascade Range in Southwest Washington, the oblito is one of a kind, says bar owner Julie Colosso.
'I'm pretty proud of the oblito,' Colosso says. 'I like to think that we're the only ones with a drink made from fresh, wild huckleberries.'
Pisco, a Peruvian liquor distilled from grapes, is what kicks the drink into the 'adult beverage' category.
The oblito is in good company at Colosso, 1932 N.E. Broadway. Deliciously creative mixed drinks are a main attraction at the tapas bar.
Beaudrault, who's known for his to-die-for fruit pies, displays equal prowess behind the bar as he concocts an oblito.
• Blackberry liqueur
• Granulated sugar
• Lemon grass
Making the drink
• Rim a chilled martini glass with pink sugar, made by mixing huckleberry juice and blackberry liqueur with granulated sugar. (Beaudrault likes Oregon-based Brandy Peak's liqueur).
• Muddle (mash) 8-10 whole huckleberries with two sugar cubes in a separate glass. Pour into a martini glass.
• Add a shot of pisco to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. (Colosso infuses its pisco with lemon grass. Just allow several leaves to steep in the alcohol for three days before removing them).
• Shake vigorously, then pour the chilled pisco into the glass with the muddled berries.
• Adorn the glass with a wedge of lime.
Pear brandy sidecar
Unofficial-house-drink status emerges stealthily. Word of its wonders travel sip by sip. Such is the case with Park Kitchen's pear brandy sidecar.
'This is definitely our most popular drink right now,' says Kevin Ludwig, bartender at the Park Kitchen, 422 N.W. Eighth Ave.
A classic sidecar calls for brandy or cognac, Triple Sec or Cointreau and lemon juice. This version, however, has a clear pear flavor that sets it apart. The key is this essence of pear, Ludwig explains.
'Brandy runs hot. It has a certain burn when you drink it,' he says. 'The Cointreau's orange-rind flavor balances that and the sweetness of the fruit juices.'
Ludwig tended bar at Wildwood and Paley's Place before he joined forces with the Park Kitchen staff and chef Scott Dolich.
Most of Ludwig's cocktails, such as this one, are built on classics. A chalkboard behind the bar lists a Park Negroni, made with Hendrick's gin; strawberry lemonade, made with Ketel One vodka; and a curiously named drink called the potato dog.
Both the Clear Creek pear brandy and Cointreau are 80 proof, so Ludwig recommends against having more than two. But who's counting?
• One lemon
• 1 1/2 ounces Clear Creek pear brandy
• 1 ounce Cointreau
• One lime
• One orange
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• Simple syrup
Making the drink
• Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
• Wet the rim of a martini glass with lemon.
• Dip glass in a plate of sugar, covering the rim.
• Squeeze the juice of the lime.
• Squeeze the juice of half the orange.
Put the brandy, Cointreau, orange juice, lime juice and sugar in the shaker. If you have it, add a splash of simple syrup. Shake until nice and frothy, strain and pour into martini glass.