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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

Beat the heat with Cachaca

I've found nothing cuts through the scorching heat of 90 degree plus days like a caipirinha. This naturally led to further cachaca experiments with most of the inspiration (and recipes themselves) from #cocktailvirgin as well as a nice seasonal variation, and experimentation with different brands (Boca Loca at #clydecommon,Leblon, and Cachacha 51"brazils best-selling cachaca"), resulting in Leblon emerging as the clear favorite. Something about it's grassy, earthy funkiness contributed flavors that made all of the drinks sing. Cachaca is a distilled liquor made with fermented sugar cane that is currently classified as a rum (rhum agricole) though is seeking it's own designation a a separate spirit class (more info can be found here). I make my caipirinha as follows:

3 oz cachaca (Leblon)
1 tsp cane sugar
Half lime



Cut the lime cross-hatched so that the half remains intact but scored. Place 1 tsp cane sugar in lowball. Add lime with pulp side on sugar, skin facing up. Gently muddle, in a circular motion until sugar is mostly dissolved. The muddling helps to bring out the aromatic and pleasantly bitter essential oils in the lime peel in a preferred manner than simply juicing the lime. Cracked ice is preferred due to 3 oz of spirit tasting a bit strong (other recipes may call for less) and in need of proper dilution (the cracked ice accelerates this process), with Leblon as an exception as it is quite drinkable neat.
For those who like simple tinkering, strawberries (though any seasonal berries are well suited) can be added to the muddling mix for a berry variation.


The cocktailvirgin variations can be found here Maison Leblon and Grand Elixir.They are both exceptional. There are a number of other excellent recipes using cachaca that I will soon post, and I hope that we start seeing this spirit offered at more locations as well as receiving it's proper designation.

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