- I'm Shawn Thomas, and this is Local Flight. A show where I travel around to some of the best bars in the country, to meet amazing mixologists, and challenge them to make innovative cocktails using unique local ingredients. In this episode, we're transforming local rooftop honey into a delicious melon cocktail with a kick. I'm here in Portland, Oregon, a gem of a city in the Pacific Northwest. Local is a common theme here, and for good reason, as this place is full of amazing craftsmen and makers. I'm excited to check it out. Today, I'm visiting bartender Joshua Merrion at the Doug Fir Lounge. A warm and inviting bar and music venue whose interior is made almost entirely of Doug Fir pine trees. My first clue that using local ingredients in Portland is a top priority. Hey there.
- Hey, how's it going?
- Good. I'm Shawn.
- Hey Shawn, I'm Joshua Merrion. It's good to meet you.
- Good to meet you, man. This is a great space you have here.
- Thank you very much. We appreciate it.
- How long you guys been here?
- We're heading into our 10th anniversary this year.
- That's great, man. And what are you guys doing here, as far as the cocktail program?
- I've tried to design the cocktail program to be as approachable as possible. And because we're such high-volume, what's really important is that we can create the drinks quickly and easily, but still make them very, very delicious. This is such an iconic Portland spot, that when people come here from other cities, and other countries, they've already heard of us. And they come here with the intent to find out about what's going on with the Doug Fir.
- Is there anything that you're excited about, drink-wise, that you'd like to make for me?
- Yeah, sure. It's called a Fremont.
- I actually originally designed this drink for a wedding. The bride wanted me to come up with two drinks. One, was a Cosmo, which is her drink of choice, and the drink turned out to be so good that she gave up on the Cosmopolitan, and just drank these all night long. This is made with gin. Two ounces. A little bit of elderflower liqueur.
- [Voiceover] Sweetening agent.
- Exactly. And this is Stone Pine liqueur, so very easy on that. A little bit of lemon juice.
- [Voiceover] Okay.
- As fresh as you can get it. And some simple syrup to kind of balance it out. Ice.
- [Voiceover] It's a good color. It actually looks like a Cosmo. It's got that slight pink hue to it.
- [Voiceover] A little bit. Voila, sir.
- Thank you very much. Don't mind if I do. Yep, I can see why if she loved Cosmos she would love that. It's dry. Really nice, bright citrus. Not too sweet. Nice work, my friend.
- [Voiceover] Thank you very much.
- Now, Joshua I brought you this. I think this honey is amazing. I think it really captures the terroir of Portland. Damian Magista, owner of Bee Local, took me to one of his rooftop hives in Downtown Portland. For a lesson on urban beekeeping, and to sample what he calls terroir-based neighborhood honey.
- So, we're gonna light the smoker up, and this'll calm the bees down. So they don't just frickin' ahhhh, swarm on you, you know. Yeah.
- [Voiceover] There it is.
- Done and done.
- Let's go.
- All right, lead the way.
- Here are the bees. These are the ladies. I want you to puff across those frames.
- All right.
- [Voiceover] Really gently.
- [Voiceover] Show me the way here.
- [Voiceover] Yeah. So you just wanna give a couple puffs. There you go. Good and good. And so that'll calm them down.
- [Voiceover] Okay.
- So, we take our hive tool. Just kind of break that.
- I notice you had a matching tattoo of a hive tool.
- I do, yeah, yeah. It's like, you know, if you're a carpenter you'd have a hammer.
- I get it, man. You're taking your job seriously.
- [Voiceover] I'm a beekeeper, I have my hive tool.
- [Voiceover] How long have you been keeping bees?
- I've been keeping bees about eight years.
- And how much honey, roughly, can you get off of one hive like this?
- It's safe to say between sometimes 50 to 100 pounds per hive.
- Wow. Let me ask you, a rooftop like this, this isn't their natural habitat. So, how do they know to keep coming back, and how do you get 'em up here in the first place?
- We bring 'em up in a small, half-size hive called a nuc. They can fly within, up to four miles out and back. So, eight miles round trip. Now, an environment like this, they only need to go a mile or so. 'Cause if you look around we have all these plants and flowers. So, there's all sorts of good food for them to find out.
- It's gotta make for a pretty complex honey, as far as the flavor profile goes.
- It has this incredible depth of flavor that's unlike anything else you'll find. They end up creating this amazingly complex honey, and we're gonna get in here and taste some.
- Yeah, I can't wait.
- All right. The trick is to kind of just get in here, and be real purposeful with your movements. There you go. Look at that. That's beautiful. Well, we should taste some of this honey.
- [Voiceover] Yeah, let's do it. Here, why don't you take that frame. Got it?
- [Voiceover] Yeah, I got it.
- [Voiceover] Great.
- Yep, we got it. Let's see here. Go ahead and just jam your finger right in there.
- I feel like Winnie the Pooh. Aw man, that is amazing. It's really light, but complex at the same time.
- Yeah. Each neighborhood, each place that we have hives, will taste completely different. You know, I think in the right drink, and done the right way, it'll be absolutely mind-blowing.
- Yeah, thank you so much.
- You're welcome.
- Bee Local. I love it. This honey is more than local. Damian's bees bring the flavors of Portland to their honey in the most spectacular way. I can't wait to try this in a cocktail. I brought you this honey from a local beekeeper.
- Oh yeah, Bee Local.
- [Voiceover] You know it?
- For sure, yeah. I'm actually working on an infusion with that right now. Basically a habanero honey syrup. It took like three quarters to one ratio of hot water to honey, and I let it simmer. And I took two habaneros, and chopped them up, and put them in there and let them simmer for about 10 minutes.
- [Voiceover] How's the heat on that?
- [Voiceover] It's pretty good, man.
- Whoa, that's great. And the heat is just right, man. It's not too hot.
- You don't want it to over power anything, but you definitely want it to be there, and you also want to feel it.
- Do you have a cocktail that you think this syrup will work in?
- Maybe to do some sort of play off of a mojito? Start off with a little mint here.
- [Voiceover] I can already get the aromatics from here.
- And we'll add a little bit of this habanero-infused Bee Local honey. A new product that I've been using is this Grey Goose Le Melon. A little bit of lemon. Give it a good shake.
- [Voiceover] I can smell it from here.
- [Voiceover] A lot of aroma to it.
- Yeah, the aromatics are crazy. I get the melon and the mint from here.
- [Voiceover] A little bit of soda water.
- Soda's a riff on a mojito.
- [Voiceover] Exactly. These are the habaneros. These beautiful little orange guys.
- I love the garnish. A little fire island there. All right, here goes nothing. Wow, that's great, man. The honey actually really brings out the melon. Not too sweet. Nice effervescence. Aromatics are incredible. I gotta tell you honey, in general, as a sweetener brings so much complexity and depth to a cocktail.
- And I think that anytime that you can use a natural sweetener over going something like granulated sugar and simple syrup, is definitely better.
- You have a name for it?
- How about the Melon Jacket?
- I think the Melon Jacket's great.
- All right.
- It's got a lot of heat on to it.
- [Voiceover] It stings like a bee.
- It stings like a bee. I just wanna thank you for your expertise, your passion, man.
- [Voiceover] Thank you very much.
- I think it's pretty incredible. This place is great.
- Thank you very much for coming in. I appreciate it.
- Really nice to meet you.
- You too.
- All right.
- Take care.
- Cheers, man.
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