The holidays are a hectic time of year, especially when looking for that special gift, or an all around favorite anyone will enjoy. Fortunately, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting the perfect item for the cocktail enthusiast. Whether for use in your loved one’s favorite cocktail recipes, sipping neat, or just a gift that says, “you matter,” here are some of our suggestions for the Season of Giving.
Whiskey plays a huge part this holiday, and there’s a fine premium bourbon coming out of Portland right now by none other than our hometown’s first female Master Distiller/Blender, Mel Heim at Eastside Distilling. In commemoration of the distillery’s 10th anniversary, this limited edition bourbon is finished in Oregon Oak that we’d put up against any Southern competitor. Burnside Buckman Reserve Bourbon is 92 proof but transformative with a single ice cube. Burnside Whiskies are in a class of their own and we’re excited for this ultra-premium expression.
Another whiskey worth giving this year is Bull Run Distillery’s Oregon Single Malt, the most complex of their lineup. It’s fast fermentation creates nice fruit notes that are captured in the distillation. New barrel aging adds depth and layers that make this another very special sipper, but don’t be afraid to use it in a cocktail. Pair it with apple (Clear Creek Apple Brandy is a superb choice) lemon, honey, or maple. It’s a remarkable local product, and perfect for a Christmas Eve toast, or a pleasant night cap after the children are off to bed, and the fire slowly fades.
Canadian Whiskey is kinda rare in Portland, however, Rose City Distilling offers Snake River Stampede, a small batch blend of Canadian Whiskeys aged in bourbon barrels and finished in sherry casks for 6 months. Snake River Stampede is our Canadian of choice for classic cocktails, such as the Scofflaw, and regional favorites, like the Washington Apple. Snake River Stampede is sure to satisfy the whiskey lover with an appreciation for quality Canadian Whiskey, as is the Snake River Stampede Anniversary Edition, aged 2 additional years in ex-rye barrels and bottled at 80 proof. Enjoy the smooth finish of the round, sweet, spicy and complex Anniversary Edition neat, or on the rocks.
Readers of The Portland Pour are already familiar with Ransom products, their Old Tom Gin and their vermouths play a large part in our recipes, but they have a wide range of spirits, including the amazing Emerald, Ransom’s interpretation of a traditional whiskey of old Ireland. For those who appreciate farm-to-table, Ransom organically grows a percentage of the barley used in the Emerald on their farm in Sheridan, Oregon, and distills it in their handmade pot still. The Emerald matures in a mix of French and American oak for three years, and is hand bottled when ready. The result is a highly aromatic spirit with the weight, richness and complexity of its forebearers. This is a product best enjoyed neat, or with ice.
Men’s Jounal calls Medoyeff Starka, “a vodka lovers whiskey, and a whiskey lovers vodka,” and who are we to argue? This unique Eastern European spirit, traditionally made from rye mash and aged in oak barrels with linden and apple leaves, is a one-of-a-kind offering from Bull Run Distillery. It starts as Medoyeff Vodka which is aged in Brooks Winery pinot noir barrels, the only spirit from Bull Run that only sees time in French oak, which gives the starka it’s color and a touch of vanilla. In the glass, it’s a chameleon. Enjoy it neat, or on ice, as you would a fine vodka, use it in a Sazerac or Old Fashioned, like a fine whiskey, or pair it with dry vermouth for a twist on a Martini, like a fine gin. In fact, you could even use it in a Dirty Martini or Bloody Mary. No matter how you enjoy it, Medoyeff Starka is a gift for those who enjoy a trip off the beaten path. Get this for the creative spirit in your life.
Speaking of vodka, you can’t go wrong with one of Portland’s oldest craft vodkas. A staple of the local craft cocktail community since 2003, and at just over $16 a bottle, it’s the safest recommendation on our list. Don’t let the price point fool you, this is a smooth, subtly sweet spirit with a clean finish. It’s great when sipped neat or with ice, and works in any cocktail. Try it in a Moscow Mule, or a Vesper, and when you go shopping, buy a few extra bottles for last minute gifts. A quality craft spirit at an affordable price is a perfect emergency gift for that unexpected dinner invitation, last minute cocktail party, or surprise family member who’s come to town for the holidays, and is fond of a great craft cocktail.
Are you, perhaps, looking for a gift set for your cocktail enthusiast? Fear not, The Bitter Housewife has you covered. The Old Fashioned kit packages RAFT Essentials Demerara Rich Syrup with The Bitter Housewife Old Fashioned Aromatic Bitters. This is as classic as it gets, and the perfect cocktail gift for the home bartender who already has a whiskey collection, and is looking for new or different ways to enjoy craft cocktails.
If the classic Old Fashioned Kit isn’t new or different enough, the Smokey Old Fashioned Kit is sure to hit the spot. This kit features RAFT Botanicals Smoked Tea Vanilla Syrup and The Bitter Housewife Bull Run Barrel Aged Bitters to take your Old Fashioned cocktail to the next level. As it implies, the bitters are aged in Bull Run whiskey barrels for a seriously interesting take on aromatic bitters. We recommend, for the true craft cocktail statement gift, giving the Smokey Old Fashioned Kit with a bottle of Bull Run Whiskey for a complete bundle.
What says Oregon more than pinot noir? Pinot Noir Finished American Whiskey is a local craft whiskey aged in barrels once used in the making of Oregon’s signature red varietal. Of course, the taste is something else. We feel safe in saying, there’s nothing else like this on the market. It’s a whiskey with vanilla and slight tobacco notes that finishes like a dry red wine. This whiskey is dryer than most, so serve it with a few drops of water or a single large cube, or try it in a Manhattan, New York Sour or with other fortified wines and wine based liqueurs.
Speaking of bundles, Pinot Noir Finished American Whiskey is both a fine gift by itself, or as a partner to Dapper & Wise Coffee. What happens if you take pinot noir barrels, use them to make Pinot Noir Finished American Whiskey, then, after the whiskey is done, use the barrels to age coffee beans? You get Dapper & Wise Tortoiseshell blend. Coffee aged in whiskey barrels that were once pinot noir barrels. How Portland is that? It’s the perfect bundle, and you can get the coffee from either Dapper & Wise, or Bull Run Distillery. Order your coffee beans online, and pick up a bottle of the matching whiskey at the Bull Run Distillery tasting room for a gift bundle that will both relax your cocktail enthusiast at night, and pick them back up in the morning.
Once you’ve made your craft cocktail gift selections, we advise picking up some stocking stuffers. Mini bottles are a great way to try new craft cocktail recipes, sample new local craft spirits, and New Deal Distillery’s regular product line is available in mini bottles at their tasting room. Pick up a handful for party favors, cocktail prizes, cocktail tastings or samplings, and office gifts. Minis are also great secret Santa gifts for those colleagues who enjoy local craft spirits.
What about the DIY craft cocktail enthusiast? Maybe your loved one is into home brewing and wants to learn how to make whiskey, or is just curious. We’re huge supporters of making any craft cocktail ingredients you can at home, and long time readers will know we’ve written about everything from homemade syrups to cordials to how to make your own aquavit. Whiskey, on the other hand, is not an easy thing for the home mixologist, which is why we highly recommend attending a whiskey making class at New Deal Distillery. Even if your home craft cocktail enthusiast never uses the knowledge, it will certainly inspire a new found appreciation for what’s in their glass.
Finally, we recommend what we feel is the best gift anyone can ever give a bartender or cocktail enthusiast. Of course we’re suggesting a framed print or custom creation from The Portland Pour. You know our work already, so why not hang it on your wall? All of our pictures are available as prints, printed by us in our studio and framed by local framer, Mel’s Frame Shop, and would look great on the wall of anyone’s home bar. Professional bartenders, do you have a signature drink? Let us turn it into art! Contact The Portland Pour for details.