Tiki Month, Rioja Cocktails and the Death of Embury

The mayor of Portland has decreed August as Tiki Month, marking the opening of the new Trader Vic’s. No, really. To welcome Vic’s, bars such asPortland Thatch, Teardrop Lounge, El Gaucho, Clyde Common, the Gilt Club and the Original offer cocktails in thanks to the Tiki gods. At Clyde Common, it’s the Kingston Club with Drambuie, pineapple, lime, Fernet and Angostura bitters. From Oct. 20-23, Portland Cocktail Week will return for a second round. The city will host one of the biggest booze-fueled parties of the year with the help of internationally renowned bartenders and industry luminaries “who will unite for the collaborative celebration of craft cocktail culture — a celebration brought to you by bartenders, for bartenders.” Details have yet to firm up, but keep informed online.

That reminds us: The Fifth Annual San Francisco Cocktail Week is still being planned, with details, events and ticket info now available. Mark your calendars for Sept. 19-25, and check out the Website for more info.

John Lermeyer and Adam Del Giudice of Miami, Ivy Mix and Jamie Kilgore of New York, Victoria D’Amato-Moran and Sean Kenyon of San Francisco and Alex Homans and Stephanie Clarkson of Boston are only a few of the 20 semi-finalists named in the Appleton Estate Reserve Remixology Bartender Challenge. Heats in each city start this week to determine finalists who will compete in New York in September for a trip to Jamaica.

Pittsburgh’s best-known cocktail destination and Nightclub & Bar's 2011 Small Wonder Bar of the Year, the Embury, closed unexpectedly in late July. ”What was thought to be a great one-month renovation has turned into a very disappointing closure,” wrote proprietor Spencer Warren of the bar and its sister operation, Firehouse Lounge. Word on the ground in western Pennsylvania is that Warren is looking at space in the town’s Shadyside neighborhood to re-open Embury. (Tip of the bar bat to Jake Mohin for his legwork.)

Here comes the first-ever Rioja Pour Genius Bar Competition, designed to showcase the versatility of Rioja wines as well as immerse competitors in the tradition, history and defining characteristics that make up the Spanish wine. All mixologists, bartenders and restaurant/bar industry professionals can enter. Entry deadline is Oct. 3. Participants must submit photos of their wine list featuring a DOCa Rioja wine and a Rioja-based cocktail. Submission of one high-resolution photo of the Rioja cocktail must be included. Each participant’s cocktail submission must contain at least 1 ounce of DOCa Rioja wine. Find complete details online.

The United States Bartenders’ Guild (USBG) named Debbi Peek of Chicago the winner of the Tales of the Cocktail Piña Colada Competition. Peek now advances to the World Cocktail Competition held in Warsaw, Poland. The cocktail was turned over for recreation to finalists representing USBG chapters from Austin, Chicago, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Denver, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York, North Texas, Northern California, Philadelphia, Phoenix and St. Louis. Peek received a one-of-a-kind trophy, along with a check for $1,500. First place in the People’s Choice went to Matt Meyers from Las Vegas.

Pina Colada winner

David Nepove, president of the United States Bartenders Guild; Debbi Peek, "Judges' Choice" winner at the Pina Colada Competition sponsored by Bacardi at Tales of the Cocktail; Dan Dunn, radio host, magazine columnist and author; Juan Rovira, chief marketing officer, Bacardi U.S.A. Inc. (PRNewsFoto/Bacardi U.S.A. Inc.)

Los Angeles-based 21st Century Spirits is now offering the Gabriel Boudier Mixologist Range, liqueurs featuring “artisanal, contemporary flavors developed for the modern mixologist.” Made at the Gabriel Boudier distillery in Dijon, each expression contains no preservatives. Packaged with the on-premise mixologist in mind, the Gabriel Boudier Mixologist Range of 750 ml bottles feature a slender body and long neck for ease of handling. Eight flavors are now available: Lychee, Apple, Maraschino, Orange, Parfait Amour, Pomegranate, Ginger and Williams Pear.

Also new: Mount Gay Rum has launched a new, higher-proof rum — Mount Gay Rum Eclipse Black — to join the brand’s other marques. “Bold, dark and premium, Mount Gay Rum Eclipse Black appeals to younger consumers seeking intense flavor and bold expression combined with superior quality,” the company says. Crafted from a blend of single and double-distilled rums aged from two to seven years, Mount Gay Rum Eclipse Black is 100-proof.

Round two of the acclaimed Single Oak Project from Buffalo Trace Distillery is out. The release explores three variables affecting the taste of whiskey: recipe, grain size and char level. Some of the bottles contain bourbon made with rye and others with wheat. The barrels were made from different trees, each wood grain varying from fine to very coarse and were charred to #3 or #4 level. All other variables in the experimental project — entry proof, stave seasoning, tree cut and warehouse location — remain constant. The Single Oak Project started in 1999 with the picking of 96 trees with different grains and their division into a top and bottom piece, yielding 192 unique sections. Staves were created from each section and air-dried for six or 12 months, and a single barrel was created from each section, resulting in 192 total barrels filled at 105 or 125 proof. Finally, two completely different warehouses were used, one with wooden ricks and one with concrete floors. In total, seven different variables were employed in Buffalo Trace’s ultimate experiment. Hard to get, but worth checking out.