On a recent trip to Portland I stopped in at Ración for some food and cocktails. Ración occupies a beautiful space in the west end of downtown and showcases an amazing open kitchen and bar. In addition to the bar being alluring, it is also fully stocked with beautiful and inventive cocktails. On this visit I discovered and imbibed on Portland’s ultimate cocktail, the Pine Oil Heaven. I was lucky enough to sit down and chat with bar manager Justin Siemer and ask him some questions about the cocktails offered at Ración. Not only did he share his inspirations for his amazing cocktail menu at Ración, but also gave me an inside look at the Portland cocktail scene. So, pull up a seat at the bar and let’s meet Justin.
WTEG: Tell me a little about Portland’s Cocktail Scene:
Justin:The Portland cocktail scene is remarkable! The city and surrounding areas give bartenders a bounty of local produce, spirits, vermouths, wine and beer to work with and the level of creativity and sense of comradery among the bartending community is amazing. There are so many fantastic bartenders, especially for a city of this size. The best bartenders all know each other, visit one another's bars, and are influenced and inspired by the creations and knowledge of our peers. I'm very proud and lucky to be a part of such a vibrant community!
WTEG: Where do you draw inspiration from when creating a cocktail?
Justin: Inspiration for me can come from any number of places. A single ingredient, a trip to the farmer's market, a hike through the woods, a late night bike ride, a song, a book, another cocktail I'm having at a friend's bar and so on. Creativity is sort of a magical thing, you're never sure exactly when or where that spark is going to come from, but it will come as long as you stay open to it.
WTEG: Do you have a favorite spirit?
Justin:Do I have to choose just one? If I was going on a desert island right now, I'd have to say rum or rhum and not just because it's the most idyllic thing to drink on a desert island. The variety, depth of flavor, and versatility of rum from the grassy, savory, vegetal notes of an unaged rhum agricole on one end to the caramel, vanilla, roasted coconut and banana notes of an oak aged cane honey and molasses rum on the other end of the spectrum is hard to match in any other spirit category. That being said, my favorite spirit changes with my mood and the season.
WTEG: Where did the inspiration come from when creating Pine Oil Heaven?
Justin: Our sous chef at Ración, Tony Wilkie, had been using a Douglas Fir-infused olive oil in a dish that I thought would be cool to include in a cocktail. While I was out on a hike in Forest Park one day, I started pulling needles and leaves from evergreen trees and tasting them and took a few different species home to play with. I fell in love with the coconut, mango and citrus flavors I was getting from what I eventually identified as Alaska Cedar (it's actually a false cedar so it's considered a pine). I made an oil out of it using a more neutral grape seed oil and decided to incorporate it into an egg white cocktail in order to emulsify it so that it didn't leave an oil slick on top of the cocktail. I paired it with tequila and coriander simple syrup to accent the tropical notes of the cedar and Cocchi Americano and lemon to bring out the piney flavors. The name comes from a quote from Denzel Washington's character in the movie Training Day.
Next time you are in Portland you have to stop at Ración for amazing food and cocktail! Justin is ready to make you Portland’s ultimate cocktail: Pine Oil Heaven. Cheers!