What is in this article?:
- Portland Penny Diner infuses cocktails with diverse flavors
- Spoon Drinks and innovative cocktails
Brandon Wise makes innovative cocktails by putting a fresh spin on old favorites.
Brandon Wise, bar manager of Portland Penny Diner.
Spoon Drinks and innovative cocktails
Going “gangbusters” at the diner, Wise said, are Spoon Drinks, which are build-your-own Old Fashioneds. Guests choose a base spirit, like rye whiskey or rum, which is served on the rocks with a demitasse spoon in the glass. Alongside is a tray of two dozen flavorings in eyedropper bottles that they can stir in, everything from cardamom-lime bitters to vanilla tincture. The potential flavor combinations are myriad.
“This is a way to put the spices in the hands of the guests,” said Wise. “It is 100-percent personal about what they create.”
The diner is also known for nuanced cocktails like the popular Trailblazer. Wise said it captures the “special feeling” of Portland he discovered on his first visit a few years ago. It is a tweaked gin sour with a backbone of locally distilled Old Tom gin, a style that is fuller-bodied than the more familiar London dry gin and exhibits cardamom and juniper notes as well as earth tones. It is combined with Austrian stone pine liqueur, lemon, egg white and housemade sage-peppercorn syrup. The stone pine liqueur adds a crisp, herbaceous tone, while the sage-peppercorn syrup gives sweetness, depth and a multi-dimensional palate impression. Because guests are familiar with pepper as a seasoning for food, they also enjoy it in a cocktail, where it helps to amplify, modify or balance flavors, Wise said.
The drink is first dry-shaken, or shaken without ice, to aerate and emulsify the egg white and other ingredients. After a second shaking with ice, it is strained into a coupe glass and served.
“There you have a really pretty sour, super balanced and nuanced and pretty satisfying,” said Wise.
Other special effects come into play in the New Money, a bourbon Manhattan on tap with a couple of new wrinkles. It sports a tinge of smoked vermouth, made by placing an open pan of Italian vermouth in a kitchen smoker over smoldering hickory and pinot noir-barrel wood chips. Rounding it out is Nardini Amaro, another of the Italian bitters in Wise’s tool kit, which adds a hint of spice.
“Every amaro tells its own story,” said Wise. “They have all kinds of fun, little flavors that poke their heads out in their own way when you incorporate them in a cocktail.”