Tuesday night’s Portland Cocktail Week (PDXCW) bash was “An Evening with Cripple Creek” at the Star Theater in Portland, which was billed as a “live multi-sensory cocktail experience”. While a key component of PDXCW is Bartender Education, and the well-attended classes show how important that is, a cocktail week would not be a cocktail week without a shaker-full of parties, too.
The event is a total cocktail experience, with loud music, rock-star bartenders, cocktails with coordinated scents, paired lighting and DJ'd music by Michael O'Rourke, and a turned on audience. While Aaron Polsky of Amor y Amargo, Damon W. Boelte of Prime Meats, and Mayur Subbarao of Bittermens Spirits and Dram cavorted and mixed cocktails on stage, PDXCW volunteers waited to dash along roped-off access routes to get cocktails to every member of the audience almost instantly.
The size of the audience dictated that glassware not be used, so while a large batch of cocktail was being mixed by the rockers on stage, six or eight large trays full of one-ounce plastic glasses were ferried in and placed on tables at the front of the stage, ready for the pour. These might be empty, or contain ice, or perhaps a garnish. When the theatrically mixed concoction was ready, it would be carefully (LOL) poured into the mini-glasses and then run up to the crowd by the volunteers. Audience members were encouraged to drink as many of the mini-cocktails as they wanted. All things considered, most were fairly good and only a couple were so-so (out of around eight); not bad, actually.
The process seems to poke a little fun at molecular mixology and rock-star bartenders, with dry ice, fog, grated truffles, drops of liqueur dribbled or mists of scent broadcast into each of the one-ounce cups (and there were a lot of them!). At the same time it showed what you could do with these tools. Cripple Creek seemed to combine known cocktails with some originals (or original ingredients) to create a fun, multi-sensory evening.