As anybody who has spend some time in front of Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s bar at Clyde Common (or, more recently, downstairs at Pepe Le Moko) can tell you: dude is exacting.
The local godfather of barrel-aged and bottled café cocktails has major opinions on everything from gum syrups to how to properly hold a jigger. All that booze geekiness finds a home in The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique, his stylish new manual with local cooking maven Martha Holmberg.
A guide to making good drinks all the better through careful procedures and house-made juices, infusions, and garnishes, it’s a useful and charming read, balanced by Alanna Hale’s crisp, “how to” style photography.
The book debuts June 3, but locals can pick it up early at the duo's Powell’s event Wednesday, May 28.
Here’s three quick, geeky things we learned from our first flip through the compact tome.
P. 36. The man is straight up obsessed with citrus and other juices. He devotes two whole pages to choosing the best juicer (hand, mechanical, and electric), and includes wonky charts detailing the optimal age at which to use fresh squeezed grapefruit juice (4 to 12 hours later) and whether rolling and refrigerating lemons impacts juice yield. It makes for oddly compelling reading for a cross-section of America's Test Kitchen subscribers, bar aficionados, and O.C.D. sufferers. Bonus: Morgenthaler even jury-rigged a special juice squeezing technique for pulpy fruit like apples and pineapples out of a piece of cheesecloth and a salad spinner. He calls it the MacGyver Centrifuge Method (see photo, above).
P. 123. Respect the strawberry margarita. Or, to be specific, infuse your nice reposado tequila with Oregon strawberries once they start popping up around the farmers markets next month in order to make the “best strawberry margarita you ever tried.” Nothing is considered too lowbrow or highbrow for Morgenthaler and Holmberg. For every reference to Murray Stenson and recipe for DIY bitters and tonic there’s a love note to a properly made daiquiri or a defense of the blender, which should please both well G&T guzzlers and people who own a bottle of Cynar.
P. 171. It’s possible to devote an entire chapter of a book to ice (Chapter 8) and not end up sounding annoying. Most of us don’t know our cloudy freezer burned clinkers from an artisan Clinebell cube, but the author endeavors to explain why bartenders around town give you dirty looks when you fail to properly appreciate their large format frozen water (it involves dilution rates). It’s not all Portlandia bluster: Essentially, “ice is to the bartender as fire is to the chef,” the bartender explains. From detailing how to properly freeze ice and break down block ice to crafting Bundt pan ice molds and crushing ice for perfect Mint Juleps, this is pretty much the ebullient Frozen of cocktail reading. Cheers.
MAKE IT: PEPE LE MOKO’S GRASSHOPPER
“One of the kinda cool things, I think, about The Bar Book is that we talk about how to properly use a blender,” says Pepe le Moko barman and author Jeffrey Morgenthaler. “There aren’t a lot of bartending books out there that dare to mention blenders, much less show you how to use them.”
PEPE LE MOKO GRASSHOPPER
1 1/2 oz green crème de menthe
1 1/2 oz white crème de cacao
1 oz half-and-half
1 tsp Fernet-Branca
Pinch of sea salt
8 oz crushed ice
4 oz vanilla ice cream
Combine ingredients in a blender, and blend on high speed until smooth. Serve in a tall, frozen glass, and garnish with a mint sprig.
The Bar Book debuts at local bookstores June 3. Pre-order on Powells.com. Jeffrey Morgenthaler and Martha Holmberg appear for a book event at Powell’s, 7:30 pm Wednesday, May 28.
And look for PoMo’s Q&A with the barman in our upcoming June issue.