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".
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."
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.