I was on a World Series high last Thursday night. My beloved Tigers were entrenched in the second game of the finals, battling it out with the San Francisco Giants, when I walked into Red, White, and Booze – the closing event of Portland Cocktail Week. The mitten state had been on my mind all week after a Jameson dinner at Ox brought together five of us former Michiganders, each sharing stories from our earlier years in the Lower Peninsula. With the Tigers in the playoffs, there was a frenzy of excitement, the revered team of our childhood looking at a possible World Series title.
As I flitted about the Red, White, and Booze-filled event, the white-tented space lined with mixers from thirty-four of the country’s best bartenders representing their respective United States Bartenders Guild chapters, I checked in with a fellow Michigan native keeping track of the game on his phone. “Do I want to know the score?” I would ask him periodically. “Nope,” he answered with a sigh. Of all the bars situated around the room, my arch nemesis of the evening – a Northern California bartender cheering for San Francisco – stood out from the crowd. Sporting a jersey of that other team, I felt the need to bring a little smack talk to the table when I saddled up for a drink. Though the cocktails were spot on, and the company was more than enjoyable, alas, a Tigers win was not to be. Thank God the drinks were winners!
After a week’s worth of cocktail events and “Bartender Academy” classroom sessions ranging from demystifying vermouth to making a career out of cocktail writing, the Red, White, and Booze celebration at the Jupiter Hotel brought the party to a proper close, corralling spirits favorites into one fine, cocktail-filled room. The National Anthem was belted out by LA’s Erik Trickett, and each chapter represented accordingly, decorating their bar space in proper city-centric fashion: Los Angeles featured a velvet rope, a team of bouncers, and a casting couch; Tucson brought the ponchos and cacti; Pittsburgh rolled with a steel-working ‘tender, among many spirited others. Guests were treated to Polish sausages with the works from the Bro-Dogs food cart as well as bite-sized sweet pies from Pacific Pie and crepes from Perierra Crêperie, and fun was indeed had by all who attended.
“Every year, Portland Cocktail Week draws people from all over the United States. But, this year, we wanted to take it one step further by pulling in at least one member from every USBG chapter across the country,” noted Portland Cocktail Week founder Lindsey Johnson. “It was a huge undertaking, but being able to showcase each chapter at their own bar gave everyone a chance to experience drinks from New York to New Mexico and everywhere in between.”
Portland Cocktail Week is a spectacular event that happens every October in Portland, Oregon. More intimate than some of the larger national gatherings, I’ve been a big fan of PDXCW since its inception three years ago, and certainly encourage both professional and amateur bartenders, as well as spirits-minded writers, to attend the week of educational seminars and cocktail celebrations.
I’ll be posting more pics from the 2012 Portland Cocktail Week on the Daily Blender Facebook page next week!
Many thanks to Lindsey Johnson, David Shenaut, the Oregon Bartenders Guild, and all the fantastic bartenders, barbacks, and coordinators who helped put this week together. See you all next year!
*Photo credit: Jennifer Heigl / Daily Blender