There is no end to the craft bartending in Portland these days. Everywhere you turn there are exciting new cocktails, delightful twists on traditional favorites, and dynamic new bartenders exploding on the scene.
Go to the Raven & Rose restaurant, that gorgeously restored millionaire’s folly on Broadway that looks like a mansion but was actually once the carriage house to the real mansion. By all means, enjoy the restaurant, then go upstairs into the loft space to the Rookery Bar, a spacious and inviting room with a stellar bar studded with exotic spirits, comfortable lounging areas, stand-up tables, a fireplace roaring in winter, and a top-notch crew of drink makers under the critical eye of one of Portland’s finest, David Shenaut, once the flashy wunderkind with dazzling flair and now the mature sage who oversees the beverage program (and still knows how to bus a room with brisk authority).
Mr. Shenaut, who is excellent both at drawing talent to his bar and recognizing it when he sees it, is proud of his protégé, Estanislado Orona—Stanis to his friends and colleagues—a lean, muscular guy with a quick friendly smile and charming manner who started as a barback and worked up to Bar Manager.
Stanis recently created a drink he was quite proud of. Trouble is, he had to talk Shenaut into putting it on the list. “Gin in a hot toddy?” said Shenaut. “I don’t think so.” But Stanis won him over with the simple expedient of making one up. One taste and Shenaut was sold; it went on the list.
Introducing The Rose’s Embrace.
A lot of thought and I expect an awful lot of studious experimentation went into this cocktail. Its apparent simplicity is a disguise; there are several ingredients, all carefully selected and precisely used to create a rounded and balanced drink that manages to provide a bit of a surprise.
Stanis Orona, Rookery, Raven and Rose
In the middle of a crowded house, Stanis graciously agreed to whip up his new toddy cocktail.
Stanis selected the Dingle Gin, from the eponymous Peninsula in southwest Ireland which juts out into the stormswept Atlantic, for its particular botanical expression and its rather aggressive nature.
Dingle Gin and Combier
The Dingle Distillery is a small, “essentially artisan” distillery that takes an interesting slant on gin, attempting to give both a particular style and a sense of terroir. First they “double up” on extracting the botanicals, once by macerating the botanicals in the spirit, then again by directing the distilling vapors through a gin head containing the same botanicals.
They also select their largely secret botanicals to be unique to Southwest Ireland, explaining that they favor “…amongst other botanicals, rowan berry from the mountain ash trees, fuchsia, bog myrtle, hawthorn and heather for a taste of the Kerry landscape. It’s a formula unknown elsewhere and is calculated, amongst other things, to create some sense of place and provenance, what winemakers might call the gout de terroir…” (As an American-Irishman who has spent plenty of time in Kerry and Dingle, I rather like to think they achieved their goal; on the other hand, my Irish heritage responds more to romantic notions and stories than the reality at times, so you’ll have to try the Dingle Gin for yourself. Suffice it to say it is very good gin.)
In perfect counterpoint to the Dingle Gin Stanis then added the lovely and eternally useful Combier Rosé from the Loire Valley.
Scrappy’s Cardamom Bitters
Then Stanis gets subtle and tricksy, much to a drinker’s delight, by adding a dash of Scrappy’s Cardamom Bitters, a sly touch when you realize that cardamom provides a grapefruity perfume that echoes the Combier. This reinforces and deepens the complexity. Bartenders know that cardamom can give floral notes with a distinct touch of grapefruit. But we’re not through yet: he also adds some lemon for brightness and zing, and finishes it out, not with hot water, but with a locally made chamomile and cardamom hot tea. Before serving, he garnishes the pale green drink with gorgeous, wildly colorful, flower petals, again a fragrant echo of what’s in the glass.
The Jasmine Pearl Tea Company
The Rookery at the Raven & Rose uses The Jasmine Pearl exclusively as their local, artisanal loose-leaf tea supplier. The Feel Better Blend is a lovely mingling of chamomile, ginger, lemon myrtle, eucalyptus and peppermint. It both reinforces the flavors of the ingredients in the hot toddy and expands it into new dimensions.
The Rose/s Embrace
The Rose’s Embrace is a stunning drink with depth and complexity and harmony, made even more so by the inherent spreading warmth of the toddy, beginning with the gin and lemon, hitting the cardamom and citrus, and finishing with the fruity but surprisingly full-bodied tea.
Although you really should go to the Rookery to enjoy the toddy from the hands of the creator, here’s the recipe, courtesy of Stanis.
The Rose’s Embrace
Dingle Gin (1.5oz)
Combier Rose (.50oz)
Lemon Juice (.75oz)
Bee Local Honey Syrup 2:1 (.50oz)
Scrappy’s Cardamom Bitters (2 dashes)
Jasmine Pearl’s Feel Better Tea (1.5oz)