Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Local Flavor, Pt. I: Clear Creek Distillery

As some of you may know, Portland has been at the forefront of the craft distilling movement. They tend to take cues from the craft brewing movement of the last few decades, emphasizing quality and sourcing local ingredients.

One of the oldest craft distilleries in Oregon, perhaps in the country, is Clear Creek Distillery. A few years back I was fortunate enough to take a tour of their facilities in NW Portland. Back in their cavernous warehouse space are a row of gleaming copper stills, surrounded by their fermenting tanks, bottling lines and other sundry items. Further back is a room devoted to their aging spirits, which literally has a heady atmosphere from the "angel's share" of evaporating alcohol.

I recently purchased a bottle of Clear Creek's 2 year-old apple brandy. The work and dedication to quality that Clear Creek is known for are abundantly clear. The brandy smells exactly like where is came from, dry hard apple cider made from high-quality local ingredients. The alcohol smell is surprisingly subdued for something that was only aged two years, but it's young age also means that the apple flavor hasn't been lost amid oak.

The obvious choice for a cocktail was the Sidecar:

1.5 oz apple brandy
0.25 oz orange-tangerine-kumquat liqueur
0.75 oz lemon juice
0.4 oz simple syrup

Combine all ingredients, shake with ice and strain into a chilled glass.

The apple brandy played exceptionally well with the sweetness of the liqueur and was nicely balanced by the tartness of the lemon juice. The liqueur also has just enough spice flavor to fit with the impending change in season. This is definitely a drink I'd like to have again when the weather cools down.

This should be the first in a series of posts I'm planning to write about local distilleries in Portland and the greater NW. It's a growing industry around here and a great time to be interested in spirits.

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