Although the main reason for driving and RV across the country was to help my friend with her move, Portland Cocktail Week was my ultimate destination. And I was reminded of this every time our large vehicle encountered grooved pavement and the box of miscellaneous spirits and liqueurs we had on board would rattle. Like the promise of immeasurable wealth jingling in the ears of all those people who made a similar pilgrimage out West for the Gold Rush, the clinking bottles kept me moving forward towards the liquid lode that surely awaited me in Portland.

And like those forty-niners probably did as well, I was sporting some mature-smelling pants towards the end. Mine didn’t smell like horses or Cholera, but they smelled like they’d been hugging the rump of someone who was anxious about driving a 23 foot vehicle and yet managed to do it for five hours every day for a week. Sure, I could have changed my pants– but why? We were drinking cocktails out of pint jars and every morning we sent a tank of our steaming waste through a hose and into a hole in the ground. Clearly, we were roughing it here and I wasn’t about to ruin it with fresh pants.

In addition to its merry jinglings, our bar-in-a-box provided me with the opportunity to play a Survivor-meets-Iron Chef type game (which they tell me is basically the show Chopped). Our full list of ingredients can be found here. As you can see we are still totally roughing it. We had to rough it so roughly that on the last night, at our own PDXCW Recreational and Vehicular pre-party just outside of Reno, I ended up melting Werther’s Original candies over our propane stove for a drink I called Grandpa’s Knee. Muddled apple, Becherovka, Stoli from the jar, and Werther’s syrup. Shake vigorously with ice, and strain into a chilled… jar.

Less than 24 hours later I was whisked to Portland with my pants safely tied up in a plastic bag headed back East. No longer roughing it in a Westin, I treated myself a double-headed shower and shimmied into a lacy little number harkening back to the 20’s with the very best fake pearls Target had. Having met up with Sarah, we cut a deck of business cards for our plucky little publication and headed to Wilf’s restaurant and jazz bar at Union Station.

Inside it was warm and dimly lit, with cocktail stations scattered like beacons around the room. Not having yet learned that drink tickets were somewhat of a formality, we earnestly slid our tickets across a bar that was serving a pretty red drink. It turned out to be a Raspberry Beret and it really hit the spot. All jazzed up like hummingbirds, we made a friend and chatted away about at-home cocktail geekery. It turns out we had both considered bringing our copies of The Craft of the Cocktail for Dale DeGroff, who was in attendance tending bar, to sign but had chickened out.

Later on, somebody told me that I totally should have brought my book because “he’s the nicest person in the world!” I had gotten that same impression at the party when, shortly after making me the perfect dry martini, Dale joined the jazz band to sing “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter.” The man is pure New York. Everybody gathered around to listen and smile, well-dressed, with martini or rocks glasses in hand. Sometimes one in each. I thought about my nasty pants, thousands of miles away, smiled, and sipped my drink. If this party set the standards for what was to follow in the next few days, I had certainly found my El Dorado.

But really nothing beats sitting at the cramped table in an RV trying to flame a grapefruit peel over a 1/8th filled mason jar using a Bic. Sometimes you just need a little flair, you know?