When I was a kid, I used to go off to camp to learn basic life skills—like how to make a fire, swim, or paddle a canoe. Now that I’m a grown up, I went to CocktailCamp to learn valuable new life skills such as the history of rum, how the surface area of ice affects dilution and making cocktails with tea. Valuable lessons indeed.
The first annual CocktailCamp PDX was held at the New Deal Distillery on April 11, 2010 in Portland, Oregon. Being both a speaker and a participant I can say it was a day well spent. I ended up kicking off the day because the first speaker cancelled at the last minute due to some sort of emergency. My presentation, Making Cocktails at Home, was designed as a primer for the aspiring home bartender. I covered topics such as: how to setup your own DIY home bar; the importance of home happy hour; cocktail party basics and a variety of tips.
For those of you who missed it, there’s a great synopsis of the event on the CocktailCamp website and some nice press coverage by our local paper, The Oregonian. There are also some event photos taken by the event volunteers which are posted on Flickr.
As a participant, here are five things I learned at camp:
- The default way to mix a drink is to stir it—not shake. Most of the classic cocktails were stirred to keep the ice fragments and air bubbles out of your drink. But certain drinks should be shaken. Check out my earlier post on Shaking vs. Stirring cocktails for more on this.
- Ice is the most overlooked part of the cocktail making process. The bottom line: the more surface area, the faster the dilution rate. So crushed ice will dilute the fastest, and large flat pieces of ice (or better yet—a Japanese ice ball) will dilute the slowest.
- White grapefruits are sweeter than pink or “ruby red” style grapefruits.
- Rhum Agricole is a lighter style of rum made in the French West Indies from sugar cane (rather than dark molasses). Rhum Agricoles can be consumed neat (especially the Rhum Vieux which is aged 3 years or more) or are commonly used in tropical Tiki style drinks and are paired with molasses-based rum.
- The bartender panel agreed that cocktails don’t generally go out of style—there is a cocktail for everyone depending on their taste. So, good news to all of you lemon drop drinkers out there!
The next event I have in my sights is Tales of The Cocktail in New Orleans in July. Hope to see you there!
The first annual CocktailCamp PDX just sold out today—I’m both terrified and excited because this is my first public speaking gig about cocktails. While I’m an accomplished public speaker on the subject of branding (and even wine), this is my first time talking about my passion—making cocktails. Naturally, I will be focusing on home cocktail culture, taking the home hobbyist perspective. This should be a great event as Portland has a strong mixology, cocktail and small batch distilled spirits community.
For those of you who don’t know, CocktailCamp is an informal, interactive conference for people who enjoy making, drinking, and discussing cocktails. If you have a ticket, make sure you say hello at the event. I’ll be the one sweating profusely from 12:30—1:00pm.
In preparing for this blog, I can't believe how many recipes, articles, magazines, books and stolen cocktail menus I've amassed over the years. Some of these are like I'm reading them for the first time and others are my go-to recipes. I'm looking forward to weeding through this pile of stuff and bringing you what I think are the very best recipes that you can make at home. Unfortunately I've done a poor job of photographing many of the cocktails and parties I've hosted over the years, so I will just have to start throwing a bunch more! I'm sure my friends and family won't mind, except now everything is going to be a photo opp. Eventually it will get annoying.
I'm really excited to be finally doing this. I've been wanting to create this blog for years, but I've always been too busy focusing on my day job. Plus, there are already a ton of really good cocktail and mixology blogs out there, so I really wanted to do something with a slightly different focus. Viva la Cocktail is about home cocktail culture. That means you won't find a list of local watering holes, product reviews, wine, beer, coffee, or anything like that. My audience is the person who wants to enjoy the cocktails they order out at home, but probably doesn't know how to make them or is maybe a little intimidated. The key is to just jump in and have fun experimenting. It's a lot like cooking—the more you do it the more comfortable and better you'll get. You can read more about my philosophy on the about page. So welcome, and Viva la Cocktail!