Cocktails at Kask in Portland, OR

El Diablo- Mark McMinn has week working on perfecting the Diablo cocktail since he first learned how to make it at Patterson House. His latest rendition at KASK calls for Pueblo Viejo Blanco tequila, Combier cassis liqueur, house-made ginger syrup, and a splash of soda.

El Diablo- Mark McMinn has week working on perfecting the Diablo cocktail since he first learned how to make it at Patterson House. His latest rendition at KASK calls for Pueblo Viejo Blanco tequila, Combier cassis liqueur, house-made ginger syrup, and a splash of soda.

This article was originally published in my column on Serious Eats:Drink-Portland. 

At KASK in Portland, the spirits in each drink are not unique for the sake of being unique, nor obscure merely for hipster-cred. The team at KASK is passionate about finding the best quality and creating simple (generally 5 ingredients or less), yet remarkably tasty cocktails that Bar Manager/Beverage Director Tommy "Tweed" Klus says are "approachable, with a hint of geekiness".

 

The Leather Canary- This original cocktail from Nathan Gerdes smooths the transition from cooler weather with bitter, bright and sweet flavors playing in harmony. The cocktail is comprised of Old Overholt Whiskey, Gran Classico, Combier Pamplemousse, Punt E Mes, and a grapefruit twist.

The Leather Canary- This original cocktail from Nathan Gerdes smooths the transition from cooler weather with bitter, bright and sweet flavors playing in harmony. The cocktail is comprised of Old Overholt Whiskey, Gran Classico, Combier Pamplemousse, Punt E Mes, and a grapefruit twist.

Lead Bartender Mark McMinn said his background working as a barista for 10 years led him to pay close attention to detail. "I like introducing people to new spirits; it's fun to watch their minds expand", said McMinn. He used to judge recipes by how he thought they might taste based on the ingredient list, but years of experience have taught him to taste everything before making a judgment call. "Knowing that anything can be made well is one of the most exciting parts of the job", said McMinn, "...but you need to know how everything—good or bad—tastes first."

Bootstrap Buck- Tommy Tweed created this cocktail for the opening menu at KASK. The blend of Cruzan Blackstrap rum, lime, demerara sugar syrup, Fentiman's ginger beer, and freshly grated nutmeg has been a favorite ever since.

Bootstrap Buck- Tommy Tweed created this cocktail for the opening menu at KASK. The blend of Cruzan Blackstrap rum, lime, demerara sugar syrup, Fentiman's ginger beer, and freshly grated nutmeg has been a favorite ever since.

The newest addition to the KASK team is Nathan Gerdes, who previously ran the bar program at H50 Bistro. Gerdes began his bartending journey by mixing up Screwdrivers and White Russians for his high school friends. An unrelenting inquisitiveness (and sweltering kitchen) drove Gerdes, a former pasta chef, out of the kitchen and into the bar to learn and hone his skills, and to do what he loves best—socializing and conversing with others.

 

Moscow Mule- What do these bartenders really want to drink in the summer time? A classic, refreshing Moscow Mule. At KASK, they use locally distilled Medoyeff vodka, lime, house made ginger syrup, and the spicy Fentiman's ginger beer.

Moscow Mule- What do these bartenders really want to drink in the summer time? A classic, refreshing Moscow Mule. At KASK, they use locally distilled Medoyeff vodka, lime, house made ginger syrup, and the spicy Fentiman's ginger beer.

The White Lady cocktail is a classic—a silky, luscious yet crisp cocktail made with Small's gin, lemon, Combier liqueur, and one egg white.

The White Lady cocktail is a classic—a silky, luscious yet crisp cocktail made with Small's gin, lemon, Combier liqueur, and one egg white.

Mark McMinn

Mark McMinn

Tommy Tweed

Tommy Tweed

3 Simple Summer Cocktails

We put up with the rain all year in Portland, but it is well worth it for the spectacular summers filled with blooming flowers, bountiful gardens, back-yard barbecues, and of course- plenty of drinking! While grabbing a twelve pack of microbrew beers is a great route for outdoor entertaining, it's great to be able to offer your guests a boozier option that showcase summer flavors. KATU News, AM Northwest was kind enough to have me on their show to mix up some drinks. You can watch the full video clip at the bottom of the post. 

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Lavender Lemonade:

1.5 oz Vodka (Crater Lake) or Gin (Corsair)

1 oz. Lavender Simple Syrup* 

1-1.5 oz. Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice

Cucumber slice (optional)

Mint Sprig (optional)

Soda Water

Add first four ingredients to old-fashioned glass filled with ice. Top with soda water. Gently stir. Garnish with lavender sprig. 

Lavender Simple Syrup: Add 1 cup sugar to 1 cup water. Add zest of 1 lemon. Gently heat until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add 1 cup lavender blossoms. Let steep overnight, and strain into food-safe glass jar for storage.

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Caipirhina:

2 oz Cachaca (Novo Fogo) 

1/2 lime 

1.25 tbsp sugar

Remove the white pith from the lime and discard it. Cut the remaining lime in slices; toss them into the glass. Muddle them with sugar in the glass. Fill the glass with ice. Add cachaça and pour everything into a shaker. Give it a go; pour everything (including the ice) back into the same glass.

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Cucumber Cooler:

1 1/2 oz. Gin (Corsair) or Vodka (Crater Lake

3/4 oz St. Germain

3/4 oz lime or lemon juice

2 slices cucumber

2 sprigs mint

soda water

Add first three ingredients and 1 sprig of mint and 1 cucumber slice to cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake and double-strain into old-fashioned glass filled with ice. Garnish with cucumber slice and mint sprig. Top with soda water if desired.

(If you're reading this on a mobile device you can watch the video here.)

June Apple

Photo: Gregory Harned

June Apple:

1.5 oz. Apple Brandy (Laird's) 
2 dash Angostura Bitters 
.25 oz gum syrup 
1 tsp lemon juice

Shake all ingredients over ice. Strain into glass filled with ice. Top with Dry Juniper Berry soda. Wipe rim of glass with lemon slice.

One of my favorite recipe reference guides is The Flavor Bibleby by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. The book encourages creativity as flavors are broken down and reassembled in intersting pairing reccomendations from tried and true combinations to unexpected new favorite

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Honey Som Fizz

Honey Som Fizz:

1.5 oz Bourbon (Bulleit) 
.5 oz Som (Pok Pok Honey) 
.75 oz lemon juice 
.25 oz gum syrup (Small Hand Foods)

Shake all ingredients with ice. Pour into old fashioned glass on rocks and top with soda water.

We have been loving our iSi soda siphon, and making all kinds of cocktails, with an emphasis on accessible, less-alcoholic cocktails for easy drinking lazy afternoons. Pok Pok is one of our favorite Portland restaurants and offers some of, if not the best Vietnamese food in the area. One of the specialties that owner Andy Ricker brought from his many travels searching for authentic ingredients is drinking vinegar, previously only available at the restaurant in SE Portland (and now Whiskey Soda Lounge across the street, Ping in NE, and the soon to open Noi), but is now available for retail purchase in a variety of seasonal flavors for around $15 a bottle, branded as Som. Pok Pok, Whiskey Soda Lounge, and Ping all serve the drinking vinegars topped with soda water, as well as finding some very creative uses for Som in their craft cocktails. We found great success utilizing the honey Som in our tribute hot toddy cocktail, the Pok Toddy, and worked to highlight bourbon and honey's natural affinity in a cold fizz cocktail. The gum syrup is added for balance and mouthfeel, but could be swapped for simple syrup or even add extra Som, as it's quite sweet. However, we found the best balance adding a 1/2 oz. Som as the honey flavor is strong, and we didn't want it to overpower the bourbon. We are looking forward to trying this cocktail again with Bulleit's newest release, a 95% rye whiskey.

For non-locals who are the DIY type, you can make your own drinking vinegars with ingredients that should not be too hard to track down. The trickiest is most likely coconut vinegar, which can be found at most good Asian grocery stores. We made a satsuma drinking vinegar that turned out great by juicing 7-8 satsumas, reducing the juice over a low heat, adding palm sugar, (also available at Asian/Indian grocery stores, though cane sugar could be substituted), and finishing with the vinegar. we have been drinking the satsuma vinegar (3/4 to 1 oz.) topped with soda water during the day, for a delicious non-alcoholic housemade citrus soda (with health benefits), as well as the Darb Cocktail. You don't want the vinegar flavor to be too strong, though it should be noticeable. Start with less vinegar and experiment with amounts for your personal preference. The flavors are limited only by your imagination, and the quality only limited by the seasonality of the ingredients. Do you have a favorite drinking vinegar or Pok Pok cocktail?