This post is written with mixed feelings of happiness, sadness and hope.
Happiness because there’s a favorite cocktail of the year. Sadness because the place that created it is closing at the end of the year. And hope because the bartender who created the cocktail is almost certain to quickly find a new place and there’s hope this cocktail will be on that list.
Levant restaurant is closing at the end of 2015—so if you have been there, you know to make your reservations quickly, and if you haven’t been there, please make your reservation quickly because you don’t wish to miss out on the experience.
Levant is remarkably good and it championed a cuisine that deserved championing. Just as Kachka celebrates Russian food and Broder highlights Scandinavian cuisine, Levant championed a delightful Levantine cuisine, a mixture of Turkish, Greek, Syrian, Lebanese, Israeli, North African and Mediterranean dishes that were lovingly conceived and beautifully executed.
Levant’s beverage program excelled under the capable guidance of Jopa Corvus, who has been a mainstay behind some of Portland’s best bars over the last few years. There was always something new, exciting, different, compelling at the bar, from wildly creative fizzes (Corvus became enamored of his fizzes, especially for the popular brunches) to exotic boozy cocktails.
The drinks were delicious; several were standouts: The Serpent & Apple, a concoction of applejack brandy, Krupnik Polish Honey Liqueur, Smith & Cross rum, and Mancini vermouth, was rich and flavorful. The Messinian Ruby was a lavish alliance of Peruvian Pisco, allspice, hibiscus, citrus and orange blossom water. Even a Happy Hour drink was special, a lively martini-ish gin, Chartreuse and bitters (and how often does one find Chartreuse in happy hour drinks?)
After sampling several of Corvus’s cocktail creations, I cut to the chase and asked him which of his bespoke cocktails was his favorite. As with all bartenders, he hemmed and hawed a bit (after all, it’s the equivalent of asking “which of your children is your favorite?”) and finally said, “Okay. The Golden Mean.” So I ordered it.
The Golden Mean
How do you choose a “Cocktail of the Year”? You look for two things: first, the absolute perfect balance of all ingredients, nothing to excess, nothing missing, everything working in perfect harmony, a joining of aromas and flavors that allows each one to shine while combining to create an entirely new experience; and second, an almost electric current of excitement of the senses, a quick surge of sheer pleasure in finding this startling new combination of flavors.
The Golden Mean is a brilliant combination of aged Novo Fogo Cachaça from Brazil, the unique and delightful Pierre Ferrand Original Dry Curaçao (for which you should accept no substitutes as there are no other triple secs or curaçaos that can even come close to the spice mélange and cognac base of the Pierre Ferrand), Dolin Dry Vermouth Chambery, citrus, a home-made apricot butter that is somewhere between pure nectar and jam, and the crowning touch of smoke-kissed, pungent del Maguey Vida Mezcal.
It’s velvety smooth but packs a deceptive punch, and the delicious flavors mingle and meld with marvelous complexity that never tires, sip after sip. The golden richness and creamy texture of the apricot slightly dominate the drink, but the rich aged Brazilian rum, spicy curacao liqueur, vermouth and herbal-fruity-smoky del Maguey Vida Mezcal more than manage equilibrium and authority.
There are few drinks that provoke such immediate pleasure as The Golden Mean, or that maintain their intensity throughout each and every sip. Last year it was Angel Teta’s Ciudad Vieja at Ataula Restaurant that captured the spot; it was a boozy showstopper combination of Angel’s Envy bourbon, Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac, Yzaguirre vermut and Benedictine. This year it is The Golden Mean by Jopa Corvus at Levant.
Sadly, you have only a couple of weeks to hurry down to Levant to try this cocktail—you don’t want to take the chance of it failing to reappear somewhere else. Solid tip: try The Golden Mean with a stunning plate of Levant’s Hummus Masabacha, an Israeli-styled combination of hummus, gently cooked spiced garbanzo beans and some of the tastiest fresh-made pita you’re ever going to find in Portland.
You have until the end of the year. Get it before it’s gone for good.