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!