Clyde Common's drink list may be inspired by the classics, but don't expect the ordinary at this Portland gastropub. Its bar manager, Jeffrey Morgenthaler, was an early adopter of barrel aging and bottled cocktails, concepts that are now de rigeur in the industry. Below, Morgenthaler tells us his "trifecta" of indispensable cocktail books and what you should be ordering from the Clyde Common menu.
JBF: How would you describe Clyde Common’s mixology style?
JM: We focus on simple and elegant cocktails that are intended to pair well with the beautiful food that comes out of our kitchen. Our drinks are rooted in the classics. We tailor them to fit our style and make them our own.
JBF: You guys do two barrel-aged drinks: the Negroni and the Martinez. What other drinks could be good candidates for this technique?
JM: We always choose drinks that are spirit-driven and contain some wine-based component, whether it’s vermouth, sherry, Madeira, et cetera. We find that the wine helps bring out a lot of flavors in the wood, which a pure spirit on its can’t achieve. We’ve aged Manhattans, Martinis, Chrysanthemums, El Presidentes, and many more.
JBF: Are there any other cool techniques or concepts that you’re tinkering with that you can tell us about?
JM: We’re always tinkering with cool techniques and concepts, but none that I can tell you about yet. My book, The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique, comes out next month. There are lots of fun new tricks and techniques in there.
JBF: What’s your favorite cocktail on the current menu, and why?
JM: It’s got to be the Spelling Bee: reposado tequila, agave syrup, absinthe, bitters, and grapefruit peel, served over ice. It’s such a fantastic food-friendly cocktail and one of the anchors of our new menu.
JBF: What was the first drink that you mastered during your early years as a bartender?
JM: I spent years working on the Sidecar. I’m proud and yet almost ashamed to admit that it took me until just recently to feel like I mastered it. And yes, I’ve been bartending for 18 years. Mastering a drink doesn’t really happen overnight for me.
JBF: Which mixology book or manuals do you find yourself returning to again and again?
JM: Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century by Paul Harrington, The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan, and The Craft of the Cocktail by Dale Degroff are the trifecta of drink information for me. I always recommend those three to new bartenders.
The 2014 James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar Program is presented by Tanqueray No. TEN®.