FOR SUCH A TIMELESS and time-consuming pursuit, drinking has a shocking number of fluctuations in fashion, method, and flavor. Be they the rise of house-made bitters, mixing beer and wine with higher-proof spirits, or savory-inspired syrups, trends come and go. We thrive on the novel, so when we see a cocktail featuring house-made rhubarb "shrub," we want to know what the hell that might be, and we want it to come with an oversized, spherical, zero-Kelvin ice cube. But we also know less than the pros about booze. For the integrity of our time capsule, therefore, we asked a few local craft cocktail makers about their favorite and least favorite trends in the business—what's worth barrel-aging and what, in their opinion, should be poured down the drain.
A return to basics seems to be the most beloved trend among the drink-makers themselves. Emily Mistell of Rum Club says, "The Old Fashioned is basically the new Cosmo, which I'm okay with because it means people are steering away from vodka and toward more interesting spirit-forward cocktails."
And while some favor the generous servings of such drinks, the opposite approach is also coming back into style. Aperitifs, classically European drinks that are traditionally consumed before dinner, are making a welcome comeback, and with them a fresh wave of low-alcohol drinks that gently appease the appetite for alcohol rather than suckerpunch you in the liver. Says Mark Macminn, bar manager of downtown's Kask, "Many folks are now asking for delicious drinks that will not leave them with a buzz. While sometimes this seems like an odd request at a bar, I totally understand it. Sometimes you want a drink, but you don't want to be drunk, not even by accident. I'm happy to oblige." It's a comforting sentiment for those who do hope to occasionally leave a bar without stumbling.
Dave Shenaut of Southwest's Raven & Rose echoes this enthusiasm for low-proof classics, citing both the Chrysanthemum (dry vermouth and Bénédictine with an absinthe rinse) and the Bamboo (featuring sherry and dry vermouth) as cocktail favorites in the genre.
Bartenders are quick to call out the shortcuts and crutches of their peers. Eric Nelson of Laurelhurst Market asks, "Can we just stop cocktails on draft before it actually becomes a trend? Have we become so lazy and 'creative' we won't even stir or shake anymore? Don't even get me started on Fernet on draft." This is an understandable craze for the mere efficiency it could grant a busy bar, as it's simple enough to add an extra tap. Certain ingredients can become easy answers as well. Rum Club's Mistell describes the ever-popular elderflower liqueur St. Germain as "bartenders' ketchup: you can put it in anything and it makes it taste good." It's a trend that doesn't look to disappear anytime soon—as she said, it makes everything taste good. Like, really good.
The Bone Luge
The bone luge—a relatively new ritual, but already nationally recognized—involves pouring sherry, tequila, or another high-spirits shot down a marrow bone (post-marrow consumption) into a patron's waiting mouth. Though native to Portland and appropriate to our sensibilities in many ways, the jury is still out on whether this extravagant cousin of the everyday "layback" is worth preserving—people either love it or they hate it. In step with Portland's love of animal parts in any element of dining, it's an understandable method of simultaneously keeping Portland weird and keeping Portland paying for high-end appetizers to match their drink tabs (I speculate it's the main reason it thrives in restaurants, despite the sticky drops of liquor it leaves on nice shirts and under tables).
This polarizing spectacle does not sit so well with the bar at which it reportedly originated, however. Laurelhurst Market's Nelson so strongly opposes the procedure that we've censored his opinion just a smidge so as not to frighten future lugers: "I [cask-strength expletive] despise the bone luge. Nothing worse than watching some [rascal] take a shot through a hollowed-out femur. It's a barbaric show and I hate it."
Call us crazy, 2113, but only time will tell if a tradition of affluent drinkers sipping their sherry from a well-seasoned bone is a passing fancy or a lasting affair.