Bar Institute Portland

The day to day of being in the bar industry is hard work. Long hours on your feet, constant pressure to be social and peppy, and making the same drinks over and over again. Bar Institute provided a three day oasis, surrounded by extremely passionate people, to restore your lust for liquids. Balancing classes, events, and logistics can't be easy for the production team, I wanna take a minute to thank them for putting on such a marvelous event!

This year's Bar Institute, formerly Portland Cocktail Week, was produced by Lush Life Productions, whose founder and CEO Lindsey Johnson was recently featured in Wine Enthusiast's TOP 40 UNDER 40 Tastemakers. The most involved educators I experienced were Proprietors LLC of Death & Co. Alex Day, David Kaplan, and Devon Tarby.

Here is a chronological order of events as I experienced them, I didn't attend every event, but definitely enjoyed every bit of what I experienced! The best part of it all was running into industry friends from PDX, San Francisco, and Seattle. I also got to make so many new friends!

DAY 1 - House Spirits + The Bon Vivants Swig & Swine (Pig and Punch)

Registration for B.I. started at House Spirits Distillery, where attendees were met with the cutest bottled Southside cocktails featuring Aviation Gin. Tasty sliders and malted chips were enjoyed and tours of the distillery were circulating through the facility. Hopped on a limo bus to the next event- The Bon Vivants Swig & Swine fundraiser benefiting a local Charter school. Barrels full of Goonies-themed cocktails lined up in the shade, while some of Portland's top chefs delivered excellent porcine fare. Some memorable nibbles: Thinly sliced lardo, luxardo spiked gelato, pulled pork on wonder bread, and juicy brisket.


After the swig and swine event, I ubered over to Tournant for the pop-up farm-to-table dinner event. Each course was expertly presented to contrast how raw and cooked versions of the same vegetable change in flavor profiles. Also with each course, guests were served with a "base" cocktail" that was modified using the mise en place on the tables. Saline drops, lemon and orange peels, as well as amaro and vermouth, were dashed and splashed to customize the cocktails as we pleased, taking notes of the building of flavors with each variation.

Party bus arrives to Tournant to whisk us away to the Woodford Reserve tasting, which had food and whiskey stations. Woodford paired with salmon tartare, Woodford Double Oaked paired with chocolate, and the ping pong table was a really fun addition to the event!

Transportation was provided to the mash-ups, which included Multnomah Whiskey Library, Kask, Hamlet, and Clyde Common.


For those who survived the mash-ups, classes began at 10am Monday (which is early by bartender standards). Between classes, there were Americanized tacos, cinnamon churros, Red Bull, and liquor to keep everyone fueled for the day.

Following classes, Herradura Tequila hosted an event at Leftbank Annex, where we used headphones for a tasting of 3 types of Herradura. Giant metallic agave plants adorned the room, which reminded me of the Walking Dead security spikes. Don't trip and fall, or you might impale yourself. Ha.

Late night we made our way to Bithouse Saloon for the Jagermeister Dinner. Each room had a different course paired with a cocktail. My favorite plates: Ceviche, fried chicken with molasses, and pork belly blinis. The tastiest cocktail for me was the frozen mocha cocktail served from a slushy machine which felt like a dessert. 


By day 3 a lot of people were worn out! I saw people sleeping in class, bags under the eyes forming, but go big or go home! Day 3 included one of my favorite classes of the week, Cocktail Development, and Progressive Bar Business Models. In the Cocktail Development Workshop (which coincidentally couldn't have alcohol in the room because of good ole OLCC regulations) we tasted the differences between lemon juice and citric acid in grapefruit, and talked about the balance of drinks with proof. So useful!

For dinner, we were shuttled to Taqueria Nueve for tacos and Elote (corn) and mezcal.... so much mezcal! 

Finally at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Auchentoshan Single Malt Scotch hosted an interactive event with Postcard making and silk-screening. What fun to have DIY made souvenirs and swag. We also got to taste an array of products and cocktails using Auchentoshan. Blue Star donuts paired with scotch ain't half bad!

I missed out on the Patron Karaoke contest afterwards, but as you could imagine after 3 days of eating and drinking, my bed sounded pretty damn good.

Feast Brunch Village presented by Whole Foods Market

This year, bon appétit presents Feast Portland was a massive success. Great events and fun times to be had by festival-goers delving into a weekend filled with food and drink. Eating and drinking all weekend sounds like a great idea to me anytime, but indulging for a cause is even better. In the last 4 years, almost a quarter of a million dollars were raised to stop childhood hunger through Feast. Partnering this year with Hunger-Free Oregon, they aim to increase access to breakfast for students in public schools. To learn more check out Why We Feast.

This year I volunteered to bartend for the DIY Bloody Mary Bar by Urban Farmer and 365 by Whole Foods Market. Built on Prairie Organic Vodka, the tomato based mix was prepared by Urban Farmer. Toppings galore adorned the tables providing Brunch Villagers with an over-the-top selection. Mozzarella balls plunked, bacon and Olympia Provisions sausages were skewered, and condiments were splashed, dashed, and sprinkled to taste. 

May I say, it is a fantastic idea for your next event, party, or brunch with friends.

For the full lineup of Chefs, wineries, distilleries, and sponsors, you can check out the Feast Brunch Village Site here

Ransom Distillery Cuts Camp

This experience is a two part equation: Ransom Spirits and Ransom Wines. Both of which are notably delicious and if you haven't put any down your gullet yet, you are missing out. Ransom distillery is located in Sheridan, Oregon. Also located in Sheridan is a Federal Prison and Church of Scientology's Delphian School. That's a lot going on for 2 square miles of city limits.

Back to the booze- I first heard about Ransom because of their Old Tom Gin. Not many Gins are made in the style, and I think this one is causing a revival.

What makes Old Tom Gin special?

1. It can be aged in barrels (or not)
2. It can be made from malted grain, or neutral spirit
3. It can have sugar added (or not)
4. Must contain Juniper (like all gins)

What do you mean, or not? Well, the facts are muddled since there are no clear rules for the category. There are no age statements on bottles, nor is there a legal requirement to age gin to be called "Old Tom". It is a rather forgiving labeling compared to other spirits. Some Old Tom Gins are distilled from honey base, or stevia is added... but I digress.

Back to Cuts Camp!

Cuts Camp was an incredible opportunity for industry professionals to attend an overnight outing at Ransom Distillery. We spent the day milling grain, making wash, and cleaning and transferring product to different tanks. After a hard day of work we enjoyed an amazing meal among the wine barrels and continued imbibing on Ransom's delights. We even had the pleasure to taste some Italian olive oil while we dined with its maker.

Day 2 we awoke, nestled between a barley field and rows of Albariño grapes. We watched the Old Tom flow from the stills and experienced the minute changes from the phenol plasticky heads to the sweet lemony and herbaceous hearts. 

Bridging that gap between product and producer is what it's all about.

Special Thanks to Tad Seestedt, Art Tierce, and the entire Ransom Spirits team for making this event so educational, and fun! Thanks to Oregon Bartenders Guild for providing the opportunity to attend. I can't wait until the next Cuts Camp! For the latest from OBG check out their Facebook

According to the Ransom Spirits Website:

"Ransom Spirits was started by Tad Seestedt in 1997 with a small life savings and a fistful of credit cards. The name was chosen to represent the debt incurred to start the business - Tad was paying his own ransom to realize his dream. Initially, the distillery made small amounts of grappa, eau de vie and brandy. Ransom began the production of a number of small-batch fine wines in 1999. In 2007, we took up the craft of grain-based spirits, adding gin, whiskey and vodka to the lineup. In 2010, we combined our crafts of winemaking and distilling to create our first Dry Vermouth."