Thursday, March 19, 2009

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

Kelly Swenson of Ten 01
1001 NW Couch St, 226-3463,

By Joshua Ryan

Bartending derives from the word attending, as when a servant attends a master. As a modern term, it means to watch over or manage. After meeting Kelley Swenson from Ten 01’s award-winning restaurant and bar, these definitions seem inadequate. Perhaps, the term “bar master” would be more appropriate.

Swenson first learned basic mixology and later began seriously working with classic spirits, visiting distilleries and pouring over books. As bars became more sophisticated, bar masters like Swenson learned the subtle complexities of spirits; when a drink should be shaken or stirred and a myriad of other details that go into crafting an authentic cocktail.

A perfect example of this is the Celeriac, a strange, surprisingly delicious concoction of gin, lemon, pineapple, egg white and celery bitters. It’s rare to see anyone put egg white in a cocktail and shake it to a meringue-like consistency. The concoction is strained twice to eliminate dregs and poured into a martini glass. The drink tastes like celery, which at first seems off-putting because you’ve never tasted anything so, well, celery-ish. But at the same time it is light, cool, refreshing and sublime. This is truly a sophisticated cocktail and you should try one just to say you’ve experienced this revelation.

The Cryptic Memo is another Swenson confection recently lauded by a local publication as “outstanding new cocktail.” Created from a mix of rye whiskey, Ramazzotti Amaro (an Italian bitters created 200 years ago) and campari (orange bitters), the taste is unexpected. It’s spicy from the orange-flavored campari, but that is offset by the Ramazzotti, an orange-based liqueur with darker shades of almost molasses-like cola. When infused with the strong taste of great rye whiskey the result is sophisticated, masculine and altogether amazing.

Ten 01 has put it all together. Award-winning chef Jack Yoss is in the kitchen, sommelier Erica Landon (just named Portland’s best sommelier) anchors the wine cellar, and now Kelley Swenson, bar master extraordinaire, oversees enticing, sophisticated cocktails at the bar. If you’re seeking an all around, superb drinking and dining experience, Ten 01 is ready to impress. (Photo credit: Amaren Colosi)

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