Thursday, March 19, 2009

MIX MASTERS: Portland's Top Bartenders Share Their Signature Style

Lance Mayhew
of 50 Plates
333 NW 13th Ave, 228-5050

By M. Clarissa Fong

When your low-carb beer or craft brew routine gets tired, refresh the senses by going vintage. At 50 Plates, the bar menu boasts a variety of pre-prohibition and modern cocktail combinations that are developed to perfectly complement their all-American grub. After a brief career as a chef, Lance Mayhew was more than happy to get away from the line and start serving up drinks. His calling took him around the West Coast before he eventually settled at Meriwether’s.

When 50 Plates was looking for a new bartender, Mayhew finally found his permanent home at the chic Pearl joint. Since then, he has already left his unique mark with an original approach to creating cocktails that are anything but run-of-the-mill.

“Sometimes, I’ll see something I like while walking down the street, and I’ll try to recreate that feeling in a cocktail,” says Mayhew. The result: The Swafford Cocktail. Named after Tom Swafford, owner and manager of 50 Plates, this subtly scrumptious classic is served up with rye whiskey, Applejack, Chartreuse green, Maraschino liquor and orange bitters. Once strained into a Martini glass with Kold-Draft ice cubes, the concoction is garnished with an orange twist that adds a kick of autumn flavor to the mix.

If you’re looking to try something a tad more familiar, look no further than the house Mint Julep. “Good bartenders will tell you what they can or can’t make with the resources that they have,” adds Mayhew, a veteran of more than 15 years. “50 Plates is the only place in Portland that can make a real Mint Julep.” Instead of mint-flavored whiskey or julep mixes, fresh leaves are ground and sprinkled into the bottom of a silver cup, which is then filled halfway with crushed ice. A dash of simple sugar is added to release the natural oils in the mint, a shot of bourbon marinates the ice and another scoop of ice tops the cup before the last shot of bourbon is pulled. The julep is simply adorned with a few sprigs of mint and presented with a short straw to allow customers to get up close and personal. But be forewarned, this drink packs a serious punch. (Photo credit: Amaren Colosi)

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