Cocktails 101 with House Spirits Distillery
House Spirits is now offering monthly cocktail classes! Here's my recap.
You guys! Every year I say to myself, “This year, I am going to make a gift guide, and it’s going to be so great.” And every year I don’t. WELL GUESS WHAT!
Welcome to the first-ever PDXfoodlove Holiday Gift Guide, starring my main obsession of 2014, the home bar. And it is great, if I do say so myself. I’ve picked six (plus one bonus) great examples of the coolest cocktail collateral that I’ve found this year. The most expensive one is $50, so I’m not suggesting you go out and buy Pappy Van Winkle or anything (unless you want to). But I did work hard to find unusual items that would be a great addition to a home bar and wouldn’t just gather dust on a shelf. And most of them are from right here in Portland. Check it out:
For the beginning enthusiast:
I’m going to assume they already have a shaker. So besides that, these are the most important tools of the trade (not pictured: a jigger):
Your friend or family member can get started at home with just a standard 16 oz glass tumbler and some ice if you have a bar spoon and a cocktail strainer. Alright, maybe you can get along without the bar spoon. But do you want to? It’s a pretty fun thing to own. And the strainer is pretty non-negotiable. I’m throwing some fun sparkly straws, too, because at $3 in the Target Irresistible Bargain Section they are an excellent stocking stuffer.
For the entertainer:
Jacobsen Salt is already on every plate of food you eat in Portland (and we like it that way!). Why not add it to our drink repertoires as well? Many storied bars in town already have.
You can either go with the single pure sea salt ($12) or the gift pack of all three ($35), but with either one you won’t be going wrong. I loved using this to mix up a big pitcher of margaritas this summer. Plus – it’s Jacobsen Salt! You can rest assured that you are giving the very best item in its class.
For the bitters enthusiast:
Let’s be honest, they probably want some more bitters!
Local PDX artisan Cindy Capparelli makes beautiful aromatic bitters ($15) that I love using in an icy cold (STIRRED, thankyouverymuch) gin martini or an old fashioned. They’re aromatic (the same descriptor used to describe Angostura bitters) but they are a totally new flavor. They’re fragrant, herby and a totally new twist for your home bar. They lack a certain medicinal quality that is found in a lot of the old standbys like Angostura and Peychaud’s, and honestly, I love that it’s such a departure. They are different from any other bitter I’ve tried. And I bet you’ll surprise the bitters enthusiast in your life with a totally cool pick that they don’t have yet.
For the person who is ready to level up:
How cool is this caipirinha kit ($40) from Novo Fogo? By the way, note the hand-numbering on the bottle and the USDA Organic certification!
I’ve long loved a good caipirinha, but never been sure where to buy cachaça or if I wanted to spend a lot of money on it. Fast forward a couple of years, and it turns out that cachaça is a lot easier to import/find and significantly less expensive than I remembered – at $30 for the bottle, it actually falls solidly in the middle price range of my personal cocktail arsenal. The revolution is coming.
This handy kit includes a full-sized bottle of Novo Fogo’s silver cachaça, a wooden muddler and two custom-branded Mason jars to shake up your drinks. It comes in a slick and oh-so-easily-wrappable branded package complete with a tear-off caipirinha recipe card on the side. Plus, you get the pleasure of impressing your friend/family member who already has a handle on the home bar basics with a spirit that is aromatic, has a wide range of mixing potential and is fun to get creative with.
For the person who won’t splurge on themselves:
I know I am not the only food blogger and also not the only beverage enthusiast who has picked up julep cups in the store, turned them over to see that they are $20 a pop and put them right back down on the shelf.
Well, it’s Christmas – if there was ever a time to spend $40 on two glasses, it’s now. Another great option is another cup with the same story: moscow mule mugs.
For the person who has everything:
A recipe 10 years in the making, Clear Creek Distilling’s Doug Fir Eau de Vie is based on a traditional Alsatian spirit, but this one is distinctly Oregonian. When I visited their distillery, their team told me about going out to Mount Hood to clip the baby neon green Doug Fir tips off the trees to bring back to create this totally unique spirit. I love that it’s so deeply rooted in Oregon, and I love using it drinks at home.
One more thing: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. You can never, ever go wrong with giving the gift of Fernet. Especially around the holidays, when big meals abound. And I think it makes a great host/ess gift! Disclaimer: the FTC requires that I tell you that for most of these products, I received a free sample for consideration of including them in this post, but otherwise was not compensated in any way.
What do you think? What do you wish someone would get for your home bar? 🙂