Tell me something I’ve never heard of and I’m naturally interested in hearing and learning more. Tell me it’s about bacon and booze and my interest level increases 10-fold. That’s what happened a few weeks ago when Pisco Portón asked me to join them for a pairing dinner at ArtBar in Cambridge, MA, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn more about this intriguing new spirit.
For those not familiar with pisco, as I wasn’t, here’s the rundown: pisco is a mixable spirit distilled from grapes. It is named after the Peruvian port of Pisco where the drink was originally exported.
Porton retails for $39.99 for a 750 ml bottle
The brand Portón, owned by the Kallop family, is made from a blend of three grape varietals (Quebranta, Torontel and Albilla). A juice from the first pressing of the grapes is made and then fermented, but not completely in order to retain some natural grape sugars that would otherwise be converted into alcohol. The fermented juice is then distilled to 86 proof in custom made copper pot still and is left to rest for five to eight months before bottling to let the flavors of the pisco develop. Because less sugar is converted to alcohol, 20 pounds of grapes must be used to make one liter of pisco. Portón’s new distillery was built to be environmentally friendly and sustainable, which paired well with ArtBar’s use of local and regional ingredients.
We were lucky enough to have dinner with Portón’s COO, Jean-Francois Bonneté, who also helped us really understand the depth and versatility of the spirit.
Now, onto the food and booze we had Tuesday. The USBG (United States Bartender’s Guild) Boston Chapter invited eight of its members from 8 different restaurant/bars in Boston to create a cocktail that would pair with a particular course the ArtBar was preparing. Yes, that is right, 8 different cocktails and 8 courses. (Below, I included the full menu with the corresponding cocktail.)
What I found really awesome was how truly versatile the spirit is. The first cocktail we had was a welcome cocktail and it was called Grape 3-Ways and I could really see myself serving that as a cocktail at brunch – a great twist on the traditional mimosa. It included Portón, Pinneau de Charantes, Lavender Honey, Fresh Orange Juice, Champagne and Fresh Lavender. Then, stepping into the evening’s courses, we were introduced to a cocktail that was completely different from the welcome cocktail, but equally as awesome and that trend continued with each course.
The bartenders were really invested in each cocktail and it was apparent when each bartender presented the cocktail they created and explained exactly why they used certain ingredients. For example, Elizabeth Powell, Head Bartender at ArtBar, wanted to create a cocktail that really brought the drinkers back to the heart of America and incorporated apple into the flavors of her cocktail to make “Hometown Dream”, which was paired with a sauteed lobster tail in toasted brioche and a lobster corn dog with grain mustard sauce.
To truly get a sense of the flavors resulting in the pairing of the food and the cocktail, I sipped the cocktail before starting on the course, took a bite and then another sip. It really did enhance the flavors in the food.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how drinkable the spirit was no matter how it was prepared. I drink spirits, but not to the point where I usually ask for something by name. Portón would make me think differently the next time I’m interested in a cocktail.
The ArtBar served some amazingly good food, i.e. Bacon Mac-N-Cheese with Bacon Fondue (that was when I knew they were trying to win my love). And it was a real pleasure because through the night the bartenders were able to sit down and eat with us. It was a great opportunity to talk to the bartenders from some of our favorite places in the city. (I have included who created each cocktail in the menu below and what restaurant/bar they are from. You should really check them out.) Portón put on a great event and I look forward to blogging about my home cocktail experiments with Portón.
Find them on Facebook here and @PiscoPorton on Twitter.
Now onto the menu and cocktail pairings…
Welcome Cocktail created by Dave Delaney – bartender at Still and Stir in Worcester and the Citizen Public House in Boston
3/4 oz. Portón
1 oz. Pinneau de Charantes
1/2 oz. Lavender Honey
1/2 oz. Fresh Orange Juice
Top with Champagne and 1 sprig fresh lavender
1st Course – Prosciutto wrapped bean spread with zahtar flavored olives and grilled naan
Cocktail created by Kelly Coggins, wine rep for Hangtime Wholesale and works part-time at Tremont 647
Love Porton #9
3/4 oz. Porton
3/4 oz. Aperol
3/4 oz. Yellow Chartreuse
2 oz. crisp white wine
1 oz. club soda
2nd Course – Maine Lobster
Cocktail created by Elizabeth Powell, Head bartender at ArtBar
2 oz. Porton
large dash extinct acid phosphate
1 oz. green delicious apple shrub
1 oz. Laird’s AppleJack
long spiral green delicious apple peel to garnish
3rd Course – Taco Trio: Pork cheek with pico de gallo and chipotle laced sour cream; charred tuna with nappa slaw and lime aioli; hanger steak with avocado, fried shallots and chimi churri
Cocktail created by Kevin Mabry, Bar Manager at jM Curley
Tip of the Cap
1 1/2 oz. Porton
1/2 oz. Luxardo cherry liquor
1/2 oz. Luxardo Triplum
1/4 oz. lemon juice
2 dashes Texas Pete hot sauce
1 oz. Cava
4th course: Mac & Cheese eggroll with guanciale and smoky fondue
Cocktail created by Sam Karachi, bartender at Russell House Tavern and also works at The Boston Shaker in Davis Square
The Royal Hunt of the Sun
1 oz. Porton
1 oz. Salers Gentiane Liquor
1/2 oz. Amaro Nonino
8 drops Lapsang Souchong Tea bitters
grapefruit twist to garnish
5th course – Georges Bank U-10 sea scallop rolled in applewood bacon with mango puree, red pepper essence and chive oil
Cocktail created by Sam Treadway, bar manager and co-owner of Backbar in Union Square
1 3/4 oz. Porton
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
1/2 oz. maple syrup
1 dash smoked chipotle tabasco
Charred lime wheel to garnish
6th course -Roasted all natural sirloin with Mediterranean coucous, marsala syrup and heirloom cherry tomato salad
Cocktail created by Noon Inthasuwan, beverage director at Moksa Restaurant and Sommelier and Mixologist at OM Restaurant
*Note: I made a comment that I don’t eat read meat and so I was brought another plate without the meat. I love good customer service, even if I wasn’t necessarily a “customer” that night.
La Cosecha (The Harvest)
2 oz. Porton
1 1/2 oz. Orleans Cider Vermouth
1 oz. Masala Syrup
Top with purple corn foam
7th course – Turtle panna cotta with raspberries, caramel sauce and a chocolate tuille
Cocktail created by Troy Clarke, President of the Boston Chapter of the USBG, Director of Food & Beverage at Royal Sonesta Hotel and Owner of TwelveTwentyFour Cocktails
3/4 oz. Porton
3/4 oz. Tonala Anejo Tequila
1/2 oz. Lustau Solera Superior Sherry
Dash of phosphate
Burnt orange peel to garnish
8th course – Cheese: Point Reyes Blue Cheese, Ford Farm Cave Aged Chedder, Vermont Creamery Aged Goat Cheese with lavender honey, spiced almonds and grilled baguettes
Cocktail created by Josh Taylor, bar manager at West Bridge in Kendall Square
1 1/2 oz. Porton
3/4 oz. Barbadilla Oloroso sherry
1/2 oz. Merlet Creme Cassis
1/2 oz. Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot
Dash Peychaud’s bitters