Event Review: PROOF Washington

Guest post by Juli Crompe.

For someone who admittedly likes cocktails, PROOF was unexpectedly a whole new world. While I like to think I know something about spirits (having studied them a bit in college for an elective course), PROOF was proof to me (haha!) that the world of spirits and distilleries is growing much faster and is much more innovative than just a few short years ago.

I never cared much for gin, or dark spirits, and find most liquor by itself to be more of a nuisance than a pleasure, but PROOF changed that for me in a big way. I decided "When in Rome..." and chose not to limit myself at this event based on what I've previously enjoyed, and opened myself up to the possibility of new liqueurs, spirits and flavors.


One of two large rooms with booth after booth after booth of food and liquor!
My day started at noon, so I eased into things a bit. Luckily the first booth I came across was Rain City Spirits, all hand farmed and organic. I walked up and asked what they were most proud of, and they immediately noted their coffee infused liqueur because it had recently won an award. I'm not a big fan of coffee, so they mentioned a new apple liqueur coming out in two weeks. I stuck out my shot glass to be filled and proceeded to take a sip. It was delicious! I learned Rain City focuses on a quality product, taking their time to produce and using only the best spring water available. I am so thankful this started my day because the next four hours were filled with learning and trying as many new things as I could!

The Liquor:
Rain City Spirits Apple Liqueur will be released next week. Definitely check them out!
Skip Rock Distillers out of Snohomish has a wide
variety of  liquors and liqueurs, including
Raspberry,  Blackberry (right) and even Walnut,
as well as vodka, gin, bourbon and whiskey!
Skip Rock Blackberry Liqueur was so good!
Brandy based, it was smooth, creamy, & jam like,
delicious on its own or mixed in a cocktail.
Recipe: Kir Royale, 1/2 oz. Blackbery Liqueur with
3 oz. Bubbly, garnished with blackberries! 


Aviation Gin is out of Portland, OR. A really smooth, delicious gin with a whole host of flavors including lavender, cardamon and Indian sarsaparilla. One of the first ventures between a distiller and bartender, Aviation is unique from the production to bottle. I'm a big fan on this gin!
Recipe: Bees Knees: 2 oz. Aviation Gin, 1 oz. fresh lemon juice, 1 oz. Clover Honey (1 part honey, 1 part water)
Shake with ice and pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon.




Next time you're in Seattle wine country (Woodinville, WA), check out Project V Distillery. With Single Silo vodka, including a 160 proof (yikes!), they offer a wide variety of vodkas with whiskey being released in the somewhat near future. They also have sausage available in their tasting room! My favorite was the chai vodka, really well balanced flavors and super easy to sip or mix in a cocktail.
Bluewater Organic Distilling makes 100% organic vodka and gin from Everett, WA, I really enjoyed the Halycyon Organic Gin, more of a London dry style, crisp and great for sipping!
Letterpress Distilling currently only makes a vodka
and limoncello, with an amaro coming soon! Their vodka
is crafted from 100% Washington-grown soft
white winter wheat and two-row barley. 
Strong lemon flavors, with slightly sweet notes of honey balance this limoncello well. I really enjoyed
this straight, but think it would be great in a cocktail. Made from their own vodka and real lemon juice with no artificial coloring, this is the real deal!
Recipe: La Vespa (the wasp) 2 oz. limoncello, 1 oz. gin, .5 oz. lemon juice,
shake with ice and pour into a cocktail glass.
Gold Medal winning Cherry Bomb Cherry Whiskey from Eastside Distilling in Portland was really great for someone like me who doesn't tend to enjoy whiskey. It had rich flavor and was not overwhelming or syrupy.
2bar Spirits located in SODO just south of Safeco Field offers a vodka and a moonshine. The vodka was on the sweeter side, something I could sip or mix. A plus for someone who doesn't like straight liquor!
I also like their logo, creatively displayed on these sugar cookies from a local bakery; yummy! 
If you haven't heard of Oola Distillery at this point, you likely will in the very near future. Quickly becoming a local favorite among craft bartenders and cocktail bars, Oola has figured out how to do liquor well. With flavors like rosemary, chili pepper and citrus vodka as well as gin and bourbon whiskey, this micro distillery in the Capital Hill neighborhood is featured on menus all over the city.
My personal favorite was the rosemary because it was unique and not overwhelming in flavor. I think this would go really well in a Bloody Mary!
Alright wine lovers, Triple Distillery is for you! Both their vodka and gin are made from grapes or wine that they've purchased from Washington wineries who were unable to use/sell it. They call their gin "soft" because it is a subtle gin which is a great starting point into the world of bigger, bolder gins.
Aria Dry Gin from Portland, OR contains all of the 10 flavors shown in the photo, creating a highly complex  flavor profile, full of juniper, citrus, earthy and spicy notes. A blend between London and Plymouth style gins, this is unique and worth a try!
Chambers Bay from Port Steilacoom Distillery crafts a really great vodka. Smooth and simple with notes of honey, I really enjoyed one.
Food:
PROOF was also full of 15 food vendors and restaurants, showing off some delicious bites!

Kickin' Boot in Ballard served pulled pork sliders. Very smokey with simple flavors, it was a great way to get some bread and meat in your stomach to soak up some of the booze!
Fresh Bistro served up a pork filet mignon, beautifully decorated with edible flowers, pancetta bits and served with a really creamy, delicious cauliflower puree and sweet glaze.
Always a favorite for me, Kokos Coconut Cheese is just simply delicious. If you haven't tried this, make sure to get your hands on some if you're a coconut lover. It is really good! They also make some other great cheeses, perfect for a cheese platter!
Surprisingly my favorite food item of the event was this simple Mt. Townsend Creamery fromage blanc on a thin cracker and topped with a spiced strawberry balsamic reduction/jam. Absolutely amazing! So creamy, with incredible flavor. I think I ate about 12 of these!
Manhattan, formerly Manhattan Drugs, served up a creamy, cheesy grits dish with shrimp and pork belly. The grits were so smooth, and delicately balanced with the rest of the flavors. A winner for me!
Zaccagni's, a sandwich shop in Pike Place Market was on hand with their famous braised beef, carmelized onion and garlic aoili fixings, served open faced on crostini vs. in sandwich form. Amazing flavor and wonderfully delicious, I also ate a few of these!

Dessert:
What is an event without chocolate? This was my first time discovering Intrigue but it was delicious! A wonderful, creamy chocolate base is enhanced with a variety of unusual flavors including hops, Scotch Whiskey and cloves. My favorite? Basil. Subtle enough not to overpower the chocolate but bursting with flavor and so good!
Always a crowd favorite, Theo was in the house. I hadn't ever had their hazelnut crunch (or not that I could remember) so I had to give it a shoutout. Always fair trade, certified organic, this is a new favorite for me! So good, I asked for a second piece!

Last but not least, I put this in the dessert section because I discovered a DELICIOUS new apple juice. Only about 7-8 months old, 'tude is a new company bottling Washington varietal apple juice. With four apples (skins and all!) guaranteed in every bottle, they offer Pink Lady, Fuji, Granny Smith and Gala, with Honeycrisp in the fall. Everyone around me seemed to have a favorite, but I am a sucker for fuji and gala apples, so I naturally gravitated towards those. In the end, Gala was my favorite. I took home a bottle and am so excited to drink it...I just can't figure out if I want to enjoy it straight, or mixed in a cocktail. Decisions, decisions...
Above was only a small portion of the incredible amount of flavors, styles, and types of liquors that were available at PROOF. This was only the first annual, but based on the success and incredible strength of the distillery industry, I know this event is here to stay. I highly recommend checking it out next year, but buy your tickets early...they sold out a few days in advance this year. I now look forward to sipping my way through the growth of the NW distillery market for years to come! 

Cheers!

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