Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cocktail Cartopia

This week marks a momentous occasion for the food and beverage scene in Portland, Oregon, as the Oregon Bartenders Guild opens the first cocktail cart in the "Cartopia" cart pod on 12th and Hawthorne.

With the help of the food cart co-op the OBG has put together a free standing cocktail bar amidst the bustling marketplace of food carts. Surrounded by the iconic Potato Champion, Perierra Creperie, Pyro Pizza, and Bubba Bernie's the cocktail cart features an ever changing variety of cocktails curated by some of the most talented bartenders in town. The initial run is sponsored by Pernod Ricard, who contributed some of their fantastic lineup of spirits including Beefeater gin, Absolut vodka, Avion tequila, Jameson Irish whiskey, just to name a few.

We're not talking about cheapo 'well' gin and tonics here, we're talking fancy cocktails with top shelf booze. Drinking on a budget? No worries, beer and cocktails are priced at $3 and $5 respectively. If you really want to get your cart on in style, play a little stump the bartender with a "Dealer's Choice" for 8 bucks or less. Proceeds go straight to the OBG, a chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild, and will allow for their educational and fundraising efforts to continue to grow.

For the past few years food cart owners have sought to acquire liquor licenses, and in the last year or so have been successful in gaining license for beer carts. None have been allowed to sell liquor, though. Concerns about noise and monitoring of minors have been amongst the cheif obstacles for cart oweners to date, but the Oregon Bar Guild's track record of responsible service have opened the minds of the OLCC to give it a shot. The cart operates on a short term event license, allowing for 7 days of operation within the calander month for each application.

The first month is dedicated to promoting Portland Cocktail Week, a series of events and tastings throughout the city showcasing the city's prominant role in the global cocktail community. Over 100 of the best bartenders in the world will arrive in PDX during the week of October 20-24th to share their love of all things boozy. The events coincide with the 8th annual Great American Distillers Festival and will share space with Portland Cocktail Week festivities at the Left Bank Annex. Events include a "Robots vs. Bartenders" showdown at the Jupter Hotel, legendary New York cocktail bar PDT @ PDXCW at Beaker and Flask, and a dynamic lineup of tastings and seminars at the Left Bank Annex.

The cocktail cart runs on donation, both in terms of product and revenues, and is staffed solely by volunteers. Tips are appreciated, of course, as these folks have taken a valuable night away from their paying jobs to check IDs, mix libations, and closely monitor the thirsty masses. Plans to upgrade the cart itself are underway with the revenues being funneled directly into acquiring a more permanant structure,which will allow for a more functional setup leading to more creative drinks and a more efficient work space.

Look for some of the most talented bar stars behind the stick from some of the swankiest bars in town, and expect to see guest bartenders from San Francisco and New York slinging drinks in the coming weeks. They're looking for volunteers, so if you want to be a part of the latest cocktail trend don't hesitate to contact to help out.

The Oregon Bartenders Guild cocktail cart is open from 6pm to midnight, Fridays and Saturdays through Portland Cocktail Week October 20th-23rd. Enjoy a crepe, a cocktail, and the roaring fire pit at the hottest food cart pod in town on Se 12th and Hawthorne.

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