From “Game of Thrones”-themed drinks in New York to fire-lit libations in Barcelona, Spain, specialty cocktails are trending, and Bend is no exception.
“I think with cocktails you can get really creative. We have a lot of creative people in this area, and we have a lot of fun things to work with that are inspiring,” said Sophia Berry, Crater Lake Spirits tasting room assistant manager.
On a sunny, hot August day, what better way to relax and unwind than with a fruity, alcohol-laden concoction? Before Labor Day weekend brings vacation season to a close, consider setting aside a happy hour or two for trying a few local one-of-a-kind cocktails. The drinks range from spicy-sweet to cigar-infused and all are designed to tempt you to tip a glass. Each one is crafted using seasonal ingredients and is original to the restaurant, bar or distillery.
“Just as wine can enhance or complement the flavors of food, so too can cocktails,” said Phoebe Pedersen, co-owner of The Dogwood Cocktail Cabin. “With the abundance of spices, herbs, fruits and vegetables — locally and from all over the world — you can design a cocktail specifically for certain dishes.”
The 900 shrub
A signature cocktail at 900 Wall is the 900 shrub, a rotating drink. “Its sweet, citrus-y and has some nice notes of earthy bitter elements as well,” said bar manager Rafael Gonzales.
Shrubbing is a method used to preserve a fruit, vegetable or an herb with sugar and vinegar. Like bitters or purees are used, the addition of shrubs gives the drink its primary flavor. The taste and ingredients of a cocktail change depending on the seasonal ingredients used to make the shrubs.
Past shrub flavors include, huckleberry, rhubarb and grapefruit.
The restaurant’s current 900 shrub is a strawberry and black pepper shrub, Walter Collective gin, lemon, Angostura bitters and cava.
“We always keep the gin in there,” Gonzales said. The flavors in the gin are “thyme, juniper and grapefruit and it just works really well with that drink.”
The bar staff at 900 Wall work together to create the drinks menu. The cocktail ingredients that are made in-house include most of the shrubs and bitters, in addition to the bloody mary seasoning and the ginger puree for Moscow mules.
The seasonal smash is a popular drink at The Barrel Thief Lounge. Like the 900 shrub, its ingredients change with the season, but it always has a J. Becher rye whiskey base.
Shelly Hopson, food and beverage manager at The Barrel Thief changes the type of fruit or vegetable used in the cocktail depending on her trips to farmers markets. Currently, the drink features dark red cherries from local farms. “The cherries add a sweetness in there, plus a little bit of tartness. Rye is a very spicy whiskey, so it has a nice spice to it, and then the mint adds freshness,” Hopson said. The drink also includes club soda, lemon juice and Angostura bitters.
With its neon green coloring, Barrio’s pisco cooler is a hard drink to miss when wait staff carry it by your table. “The pisco cooler is really interesting. A lot of places around here don’t have pisco. It’s a Peruvian brandy made from Muscat grapes,” said Brooks Bailey, Barrio’s bar manager. To make this drink, the pisco is combined with cucumber syrup, lime and bittersweet vermouth. Barrio is a Latin restaurant, and the drinks on the menu were created to complement and sometimes mimic the flavor profiles in the food, such as mole, spices and peppers. “We often share a lot of the same ingredients for food and drinks,” Bailey said. So, it’s no surprise that many of the drinks on the menu have a kick of spice.
Barrio’s syrups, purees and margarita mixes are all made at the restaurant. Alcohols are also infused in-house. The mezcal (an agave liquor) in the grilled pineapple mezcal drink, for example, sits in a large jar filled with alcohol and grilled pineapple until the mezcal soaks up all the pineapple’s flavors.
Bailey also creates cigar-infused Angostura bitters for one of Barrio’s signature drinks. The bitters are made by soaking a Camacho Triple Maduro cigar in grain alcohol and letting the mixture sit for about a week. “After that you have a very concentrated tincture that in even small doses will give you a nicotine buzz, but has a delicious and intriguing smoky, earthiness to it,” Bailey said.
He mixes the flavored Angostura bitters with tequila, mezcal and sweet vermouth to make the barrel-aged cocktail. The result is a hot, smoky drink that lends a warming effect. “Anybody who likes Manhattans and loves agave immediately goes for this cocktail,” he said. The drink is an acquired taste for customers, “but people who like it, love it.”
“I love working with sake. It provides the umami flavor and also lightens the alcohol load, which makes it a nice addition to summer daytime cocktails,” said Pedersen, referring to The Dogwood Cocktail Cabin’s shiso fabulous drink. Shiso is a pungent, grassy herb with a flavors of spearmint, basil, anise and cinnamon. The cocktail is made from London dry gin, sake, muddled Japanese shiso leaves, lime and simple syrup. The frothy, pale green drink is served with a shiso leaf and a pickled edamame bean on top. The drink is savory, light and refreshing with the flavors from the shiso leaf complementing the herbal flavors in the gin. The shiso fabulous and vera aloysius are two of the cocktail lounge’s most popular drinks in the summertime.
With a menu of at least 35 specialty cocktails, The Dogwood Cocktail Cabin has a wide variety of unusual drinks to offer its patrons, including the Romeo Y Julieta, a tobacco-infused white rum drink, or the Herban Cowboy, a barrel aged black pepper-infused bourbon mixed with pomegranate, molasses and black licorice.
The piña picante, made using Crater Lake Spirits hatch green chili vodka, is a drink for spice lovers. Green chilies from Hatch, New Mexico, are harvested at the spiciest time of the season and shipped to Oregon. The chilies are fire roasted and used to infuse the vodka for 30 days. The piña picante combines the chili-infused vodka with pineapple juice and lime. It’s shaken and served in a martini glass garnished with a slice of lime. “It’s a really nice combination of sweet and spicy, nice and tropical, very light and refreshing,” Crater Lake Spirits’ Berry said. “The pineapple is frothy (from being shaken), which makes it like a blended drink without actually using a blender.” The chilies provide a constant heat that lingers on the tongue. The heat is balanced by the tang of the pineapple juice.
Berry noted that while specialty cocktails are popular, she’s also seeing traditional cocktails make a comeback, with a new twist.
“I think people are experimenting with classic drinks, and trying to recreate them to really make them their own,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of Moscow mules on the menus, Kentucky mules — which is a Moscow mule except made with whiskey — I think Old-Fashioneds are coming back.”
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