Eugene on the Rocks: Party Downtown Lives Up to Its Name

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A Manhattan from Oregon

Eugene on the Rocks

There are situations that sometimes catch us off-guard.  Some good, some bad.  This reviewer just encountered one such situation, and it was very, very good.  The plan was to review Stein’s Straight Rye Whiskey and then enjoy a cocktail made by James West, bar manager at Party Downtown. Cocktails were made and Stein’s Straight Rye Whiskey was imbibed, but there was more to it – something special is happening at the little bar tucked neatly in the back of Party Downtown.

Party Downtown door
Party Downtown Entrance | photo: Party Downtown Facebook page

Eastern Oregon’s first micro-distillery, Stein Distillery, is located in Joseph, Oregon.  Their Straight Rye Whiskey has a nose that will send the drinker straight in for a sip.  Strong scents of vanilla and oak hint at the tasty, yet simple, rye whiskey to come.  As this light caramel colored spirit approaches, it gives the drinker a clear warning of what is sure to be a hot (high alcohol content) whiskey.  Scents can be deceiving though.  It is incredibly smooth as it rolls around the palate with traces of the aforementioned vanilla and oak, as well as a heat common in younger whiskeys.  The finish is warm and clean without much lingering on the palate.  Overall, this is a perfectly pleasant rye whiskey with some definite character.  Stein Distillery makes truly hand crafted spirits, even growing the grains they use for fermentation.  To find out where Stein’s Straight Rye Whiskey is sold, along with other spirits, check out oregonliquorsearch.com.

Here come the cocktails! Yes, plural.  A Manhattan with Stein’s Straight Rye and Hammer & Tongs Vermouth (more on that later), an as of yet unnamed nettle infused cocktail, a Bank Note blended scotch drink with green walnut…this is bliss, folks!  James’ knowledge of spirits, absolute attention to detail, and creativity are apparent in every sip.  Just watch him make a cocktail and it all becomes clear.  He has a wall full of barman’s tools, glassware that is fragile and as elegant as the cocktail it contains, and he demands perfection from each drink.  Both drinks were so unique they could each have their very own articles.  Rather than wondering what a scotch and green walnut drink might taste like, run (do not walk) to Party Downtown and get one.

A Manhattan from Oregon
A Manhattan from Oregon

The Manhattan is yet another pre-prohibition classic that is seeing a resurgence in craft bars.  Never lost, but certainly taken out of the spotlight, the Manhattan has benefited from the gaining popularity of rye whiskeys.  Once the standard, now the trendy – never mind what anyone else is doing, though.  The Manhattan at Party Downtown is unique, largely because of the Hammer & Tongs Vermouth.  Hammer & Tongs is made in Portland and it is dangerously tasty.  Details on the botanical ingredients are scarce, but a little mystery is always fun.  The drink itself has incredibly deep earth tones at the forefront.  It then finishes with the slightest hint of sweet, and a tang of hibiscus.  It is a full bodied beauty of a drink.  The fine folks at Hammer & Tongs take vermouth seriously, the founder and owner spent fifteen years as a wine maker before setting his sights on vermouth. Their website is really cool and well worth exploring, visit htvermouth.com.

Just as the name indicates, Party Downtown is the place to be.  The bar is serving drinks that will make even the most dedicated craft drinker blush with surprise, and the kitchen embraces the same creativity.  Belly up to the Party bar and get comfortable… you won’t want to leave.

 

 

 

Growing up in the Napa Valley meant that Ben was surrounded by food and wine culture from a very young age. It began a life long love of food, and all of the wonderful libations that go along with the perfect meal.
Ben attended the Napa Valley Cooking School, in St. Helena, California. Under the tutelage of Chef Barbara Alexander, and other renowned chefs such as Master Chef Dieter Doppelfeld, Ben honed his skills in the kitchen. He was fortunate enough to spend time in some of the best restaurants in the country, including a stage at The French Laundry.
After working his way through the kitchen ranks, Ben decided it was time to try a new challenge. That is when the opportunity to become a partner at Hard Times Distillery was seized, and the rest of the story remains to be seen.
Being an owner of a distillery has helped him bring together the love of food, and drink. Since one is never complete without the other, it only makes sense to write about them both.
Ben lives in Eugene with his partner, Dr. Beth Washak, and two year old son, Jaxson. When they are not busy working and chasing a baby, they enjoy nothing more than relaxing with a local brew and friends.

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