New Seasonal Drinks From Jeffrey MorganthalerMar 11, 2019
Jeffrey Morganthaler is one hell of a guy. He’s an award-winning bartender, culinary icon, and manager of the famed Pepe Le Moko and the six-time James Beard Award-nominated bar program at Clyde Common. Every cocktail experience with him is memorable, whether it’s from the perfect drink he scoots towards you, or from the sly comment he pairs it with. He cultivates the kind of environment in his bars where everyone feels comfortable and welcome, and he always has something to humbly teach (maybe it has something to do with him being Tales of the Cocktail’s 2016 American Bartender of the Year and also the author of The Bar Book & Drinking Distilled). You’d be remiss to not stop by his well and bend his ear next time you come to town.
This year, we wanted to do something a little different with our seasonal beverages in our cafes. Both Clyde Common & our fourth Stumptown cafe are housed inside the Ace Hotel in downtown Portland, so we’ve served Jeffrey a cafe au lait every morning for the last decade. Between shifts we’ve been lucky enough to hit him up for advice when formulating the perfect Cold Brew slushie or one-off inconceivable drink reserved for secret shin-digs with the coffee Illuminati. Naturally, we turned to Jeffrey to work his magic on a drink menu that would take us through the changing seasons of 2019. His career is built around crafting the most complex, sophisticated beverages, so in his words, our official union is a perfect storm. When crafting our new beverage menu, he looked at our coffee as a “base spirit” in the place of traditional liquor; bouncing off the complex aromatics and balanced sweetness of our brew, he created veritable no-proof beverages that play off of his vast brain of cocktail recipes.
Stumptown: Jeffrey! We are so excited to have your drinks on our menu. Can you tell us a little bit about your cocktail story? You've been an authority in the industry for so long -- what got you into it and keeps you coming back?
JM: I know, I've been tending bar for 23 years now. That's as long as some of my bartenders have been alive. How crazy is that? Anyway, my staff is one of the big things that keeps me in it. I love the people I work with, love being around them, love helping them where I can. Outside of that, I just love everything about this business. I love the hours, the flexibility, the travel, the colleagues, all of it. It's crazy, I couldn't ever see myself doing anything else.
Stumptown: Your writing has been pivotal in so many people’s understanding of spirits and technique. Honestly no matter what side of the bar you’re on, working in coffee or in the cocktail world, it’s such an incredible resource. Are you working on any new writing projects?
JM: I have what I think is a pretty good idea for my third book, but I'm taking some time to reflect on it and just kind of chill on the writing. I’m currently on hiatus with Playboy after writing for them over the past 6 years, so it’s nice to have time to work on new projects.
Stumptown: You’ve been a friend of Stumptown’s for at least a decade, working in the building that also houses our cafe at the Ace Hotel. Do you have any coffee rituals, or favorite ways to enjoy a cup?
JM: Yeah, I've made a lot of friends over there. I've had a cup of Stumptown coffee nearly every day for the past ten years. I love it. My go-to in the morning is a cafe au lait. And then from there it's just coffee all day long. But the first cup is always an au lait. Must be my Francophile tendencies.
Stumptown: What was your thought process when creating these drinks for us? They’re brilliant - tell us what happened in your brain when you thought these up.
JM: (laughs) I don't know, I just kind of let my mind wander and when something sounded good I wrote it down and then messed around until I figured it out. I've never really had writer's block for drink ideas, my mind runs a mile a minute. I think a lot of bartenders are the same way, but I've never had that fear of failure, so I just make it work. I think a lot of people get kinda nervous and never try something for fear of crashing, but I just don't have that voice. Of course, what's the very worst thing that can happen in my line of work? I try a drink idea in my kitchen, and if I can't make it work I just scrap it and move on to the next idea. Doesn't sound all that scary to me. The first two drinks are meant to be reflective of the season: sitting between cold and hot, riding the line between austerity and richness, kinda hanging on to the remnants of winter while remaining hopeful for spring. So, you know, March.
The first drink, the Citrus Cold Brew Shrub, is something to take the edge off. It's got a lot of apple cider vinegar and lemon set up against that dense and rich Stumptown Cold Brew. It's really about balancing those flavors and playing with contrast. It's meant to be unexpected.
The second drink is called the Honey Peppercorn Latte. It’s just playful and light and fun. It's meant to shake things up a little bit, as all of these drinks are going to do. Fresh black pepper cracked on top of a latte is really unexpected and then it works and you're kind of left thinking about it.
Find the Citrus Cold Brew Shrub and Honey Peppercorn Latte in all of our cafes now. Look forward to more of Jeffrey’s drinks on our menu coming in late spring.
Photography by Melaney Schmidt of Public Provisions