A Proper Mixer

Saké Sangria featuring Pinot Gris. Photo by Mark Stock.

By Mark Stock

In addition to being irresistible, one of the best stories about the birth of the cocktail casts wine as a main character. Debatable as it may be, the tale is too good to skip.

During the Revolutionary War, while America was forging its own independence, the French and Americans were sharing the same forts and trenches. In between choppy conversations and short-lived poker matches, the two allies would exchange drinks, mixing fine European wines with homegrown booze in a show of true camaraderie.

And while the troops blended Burgundy with bourbon, a few soldiers ran off and stole feathers from a chicken, adorning each drink with a decorative and fateful quill. Hence the name “cocktail” and the subsequent coupling of sprits and wine.

Without a doubt, most bartenders look back on the mid-19th century with several parts envy.  The heyday of the cocktail took place before the dark days of Prohibition, back when liquor and medicine were nearly indistinguishable. Patrons entered bars looking for a relatively natural cure; one that involved herbs, syrups, bitters and a touch of alcohol.

Modern mixologists are drawing from contemporary trends and ideas, but more than anything, they seem to be pulling out age-old tricks from the past. Simple pairings like Jack and Coke have given way to nuanced relationships between Pinot Gris and saké, Pinot Noir and Becherovka, and sparkling wine and elderflower. The result is a heightened sensitivity toward flavor — so powerful it has overthrown the norms of recent barkeeping and created an entirely new system, one grounded in outside-of-the-box “Revolutionary” ideas.

Modern Stance

Taking a seat at Portland’s Teardrop Lounge, located in the Pearl District, I’m not sure what to look at. A dapper barkeep is shaking a drink under a glass shelf of rare whiskeys and aged bourbons. A few miniature oak barrels rest above the doorway and the bar itself is lined with vial after vial of homemade extracts.

This is the belly of the Portland cocktail beast. The drinks aren’t cheap, and they shouldn’t be. They involve ingredients like orange blossom water, hellfire bitters, jalapeño syrup, fig-balsamic gastrique, winter apricot liqueu r and an assortment of wines.

In its fourth year, Teardrop has earned all kinds of local praise. The bartenders sport vests, ties and suspenders and scoff at nothing. When mentioning the recent resurgence of regular wines in cocktails, mixologist and downright doctor of drinks Daniel Shoemaker tells me about a chef he knows who ended up eating his own words when trying to describe how food and drink are separate entities. “It’s totally the same animal,” he said.

Teardrop is one of a few rare stages for the cocktail pairing menu. And while these specially prepared multi-course meals happen only occasionally, they speak to the bar’s greater mission: Stretch the palate.

The scene during my visit explains Teardrop’s philosophy. While white-collared business types sip colorful cocktails, a couple unloads fresh produce from a pickup marked Dancing Roots Farm. The Troutdale farm provides seasonal ingredients for the lounge. In keeping with the gastronomic movement of eliminating the barrier between food and drink, Teardrop uses these local fruits, herbs and vegetables in both dishes and drinks.

Of particular note is their House Saké Sangria made with Viridian Farms berries out of Dayton and Bridgeview Pinot Gris from Southern Oregon. Blueberries and raspberries make for patriotic colors, while the Pinot Gris provides just enough acid to bridge fresh fruit with brandy. The drink is served with chopsticks for snatching every last bit of boozy fruit.


At the Driftwood Inn in Southwest Portland, nostalgia reigns. The old-school bar is set in the lobby of the Hotel deLuxe, where old photos of Hollywood starlets are projected on to cream-colored walls.

The bar features an impressive Champagne cocktail list, an homage to the go-to beverages of the Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman generation. Two of the more original concoctions are the Rita Moreno (a blend of tequila, triple sec, sweet and sour, and bubbly) and the Portland ’85 (Clear Creak pear brandy, Clear Creak pear liqueur and bubbly). These drinks are easy on the eye and completely refreshing.

Such cocktails come from the same school of thought that brought you classics like the French ’75, Prince of Whales and Mimosa. Perhaps it was the triumphant mood of post-Prohibition that caused so many drinks in this vein to become popular in the 1930s. Having been held without so much as a drop for several years, it’s really no wonder that experimentalists started blending wines, whiskeys, and even Worcestershire sauce, as soon as the law allowed it.


When Shoemaker mentions wine syrups, I can’t help but think about Pok Pok. The newest Portland institution utilizes drinking vinegars in many of their cocktails. In fact, the Som drinking vinegars have become so poplar that the restaurant bottles them for sale nationally. Flavors like tamarind, pomegranate and honey provide bold accents and have been a big part of Southeast Asian mixology for thousands of years.

Back home, folks are concentrating Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris by boiling them down and adding some sugar. The product is a potent, flavorful addition to the next great cocktail. Better still, it’s a great way to use wines that have been opened for several days and are starting to turn.

Chatting with Shoemaker at Teardrop, I ask if he’s experimented with Oregon Pinot Noir. He has, and is looking forward to fall when those types of flavors show best. He mentions pears, anise and other autumnal fare that beg for Pinot.

“My favorite people to make drinks for are wine drinkers,” Shoemaker admitted, citing their attention to details and the natural separation between those, say, who like Barbera and those who prefer Chianti.

I look past Shoemaker to the mini wine barrels above the door as the farmers haul in fresh berries and conclude: This makes perfect sense, it’s all one animal.

Mark Stock, a Gonzaga grad, is a Portland-based freelance writer and photographer with a knack for all things Oregon.


By Any Other Name

Recipe by Daniel Shoemaker {Teardrop Lounge, Portland}


1½ ounces Hendrick’s gin

¾ ounces Rose Petal Liqueur (recipe follows)

* dash of Peychaud’s bitters

2 ounces sparkling rosé


1. Stir the first three ingredients well. Add the sparkling rosé, stirring quickly to incorporate. 2. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a candied rose petal.


Vicomte de Mauduit Rose Petal Liqueur 

Recipe from Charles Baker’s “Gentleman’s Companion: Around the World with Jigger, Beaker & Flask” 


8 red roses, petals only

1 quart Cognac


1. Prepare the petals of eight fragrant red roses by snipping off any yellow or white regions and discarding any inferior ones. Combine in a jar with 1 quart Cognac; agitate gently. 2. Over the next month, agitate the jar once a week. 3. After a month of this scented bath, you are ready to make the syrup component.


3 cups sugar

2 cups distilled water

12 red roses, petals only

* powdered sugar


1. Combine 3 cups sugar and 2 cups distilled water in a saucepan and boil 20 minutes, skimming off any scum. 2. Add the petals of a dozen roses (prepared as in Step 1) that have been tossed with powdered sugar. Return to a boil and simmer 1 hour, covered. 3. Strain the rose petal-brandy infusion through filter paper and into a sterile bottle. 4. Filter the syrup through a thick cloth, pressing on solids as necessary. Add the filtered syrup to the bottle and combine. Let stand for 12 hours, lightly covered. Cork and seal with wax. Note: If further sediment is produced after two weeks, re-filter.


Saké Sangria

Recipe by Daniel Shoemaker {Teardrop Lounge, Portland}


2 liters Hakutsuru saké (or SakéOne)

1 bottle Bridgeview Pinot Gris (750 ml)

½ cup each orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice

1 cup sugar

1 bottle brandy (375 ml)

2 cups each blueberries, raspberries, blackberries

1 spice bag (containing 1 cinnamon stick, crushed; 3 star anise; ¼ cup juniper berries; ¼ cup allspice berries; 1 vanilla bean, split)


1. Mix all ingredients. Let steep 3 hours.

2. Remove spice bag.

Serve chilled.

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