Last month, I followed seven other bartenders into the Teardrop Lounge on a cold December afternoon in Portland, Oregon. The eight of us had previously spent a lot of time talking online about our common interest in craft bartending, advanced techniques, housemade ingredients and specialty spirits, but this was going to be a different sort of conversation.
We sat around a table and worked out the details of a unique concept in this country: a standalone bartender’s guild, the Oregon Bartenders Guild. Our mission is focused and simple:
- To establish a collaborative community of bartenders within the state of Oregon.
- Increase the overall knowledge of beer, wine, spirits and cocktail production for the betterment of their craft.
- To promote awareness of the craft within the public community, through both a developed relationship with the media and an educational platform to the general populace.
- To secure a congenial relationship with the OLCC, its agents and liquor companies to advance the procurement of more specialized and artisanal spirits in their portfolios.
- To promote a wider, i.e., national and international recognition of Oregon’s premier mixology.
The other item on our agenda was the organization of our first event: Gin Class. And so on Sunday, January 27th, against all odds (such as a group of bartenders being able to organize anything whatsoever), we presented our first in what will become a regular series of events.
We started with a blind tasting of the four gins we were going to be working with.
First, Lee Medoff of House Spirits Distillery introduced the crowd to Oregon’s own beautiful Aviation Gin, and provided some valuable information about the process they take to produce the product. Then the Guild presented Kevin Ludwig, who talked about the history of gin and the use of gin in cocktails, while Kelley Swenson mixed up a batch of early-recipe Martinis with Plymouth gin, Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth, Regan’s Orange Bitters and Luxardo maraschino liqueur. Everyone sipped while Bend Distillery talked about the very unique process that defines their gins.
Next up was newcomer Twelve Bridges gin, presenting a unique Oregon product in that they infuse cucumber into the vapor stream during distillation (not unlike Hendricks gin out of Scotland). The gin smacks you across with face with a strong cucumber/melon nose, with a big, creamy mouthfeel to match. Dave Shenaut cranked out a big batch of Paul Harrington’s Jasmine cocktail while the crowd socialized.
To bring it all home, we brought out heavy-hitter Kevin Ludwig to present an original gin creation, the OBG #1, featuring Aviation gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, and Kevin’s own green walnut nocino, which was rich and oily, with heavy cardamom and cumin notes.