As far back as I can remember (which admittedly isn’t all that far), Portland Cocktail Week was an annual fixture of the city’s food and beverage calendar: a weeklong celebration that came every fall as sort of a boozy digestif after the festivities of Feast. Bartenders and industry professionals traveled from across the country to attend Cocktail Week, spending their days attending classes on mixology and bar management put on by The Bar Institute and their evenings mixing it up with local industry counterparts and “cocktail enthusiasts” at a seemingly endless stream of cocktail parties and events.
It was grand fun. But there was always a sense that it wasn’t an entirely sustainable model. There were routinely far more applicants for The Bar Institute then there were spaces in the program (in 2015, they had over 1500 applicants for just 400 slots). The evening events were invariably at capacity. And while getting a “Cocktail Enthusiast” pass wasn’t exactly difficult, there was always some lingering confusion as to who exactly should apply for one.
So it didn’t exactly come as a surprise last year when they announced that a change in format was in the works. In place of one week-long event in Portland, The Bar Institute is now spread across five regions, each with their own three-day event. In lieu of a slightly nebulous (albeit free) application process, would-be attendees can simply register to attend for a set fee of $25.
For the cocktail enthusiasts out there (who no doubt make up the bulk of this blog’s readership), although the schedule is condensed, there’s still a robust evening calendar to complement The Bar Institute’s educational offerings. On Sunday, The Bon Vivants will hold their annual Swig N’ Swine fundraiser at White Owl Social Club (NB: separate admission), followed later in the evening by mashups at Kask, Clyde Common, Hamlet and Multnomah Whiskey Library. On Monday, Bit House Saloon will host a dinner with Jägermeister (it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but last year’s Jäger party was one of the best events of the week), and on Tuesday, BHS will also help wrap up festivities with the International Cocktail Karaoke Championship, sponsored by Roca Patron.