Drinking In… Portland

By Nilina Mason-Campbell

Surrounded by a skyline full of trees, Portland, Oregon is a friendly, welcoming city to visitors, creators and connoisseurs alike. That atmosphere has created a city full of upscale eateries and creative bars that are receiving national acclaim for their unique cocktails. The city fosters creativity as evidenced by its lauded music scene and puts emphasis on supporting the local economy with a strong movement of people who want eat and shop locally. These ethos are represented in the cocktails on tap. As proof, one can take the highly localized cocktails of Wildwood in which the spirits come from as close as a block away to the inspired and varied ingredients of Clyde Common’s mixed drinks. The City of Roses is also well-known for its high amount of breweries and distilleries. Below is a list of bars with cocktail menus that entice you to brave the elements and offer shelter from the rainy weather.

1. Located in NW Portland, Wildwood has a menu that doesn’t just change by the season, but often by the week. The ingredients come from local vendors (some as close as a block away) and many are made in house. For its gin and tonic, bar manager Ryan Csanky makes both the gin and the tonic from scratch, easily setting the common cocktail miles ahead of the pack. Served over a single cube in a tumbler, the drink is extremely flavorful, carrying distinct essences unfounded in the typical gin and tonic. Other highlights include its BLT cocktail. Savory instead of sweet, the concoction is built on tomato water, chive infused vodka and a bacon salted rim. Wildwood’s Petal and Thorn martini is also worthy of sipping, created with gin and locally sourced vermouth from Imbue with a slightly cinnamon taste.

2. SE Portland’s Holocene oozes cool from its white walls to the bands on stage. Doubling as a nationally recognized concert venue, the bar was recently nominated for Paper magazine‘s eighth annual Nightlife Awards and name checked in the title of Bon Iver’s Grammy winning song “Holocene.” But it’s cocktails draw a crowd of their own, especially during the venue’s weekly Apreitivo Happy Hour. Every Friday, the club serves up speciality one-off cocktails and free tasty treats like ginger scallion noodles and pickled vegetables. These are served to the awaiting crowd as a taste making DJ spins tunes. Holocene’s take on alcoholic slushies has also been drawing raves of late. The icy treats — crafted with everything from pear to strawberry puree — are made in small batches and often sell out before the evening is over.

3. Named in reference to The Beatles, Dig a Pony is perhaps the newest and hippest on the scene. Located just off the Morrison Bridge, the spacious joint prides itself on its horseshoe bar that lays at the center of all its bustle. The attractive bar staff is equipped to create just about any request, and its short menu of its seven distinct cocktails seems to serve as simple a guide rather than a mandate. Its Pink Moose cocktail includes spicy tequila and grapefruit as ingredients and is most definitely a must. The hearty drink carries only the essence of grapefruit as the fruit is offset by the lime. It goes from citrus to sweet to spicy in just one sip.

4. Head downtown to Clyde Common for an award-winning cocktail experience. the menu is curated by bar manager Jeffrey Morgenthaler whose nationally recognized talents have brought him to judge at Bärenjäger’s recent bar tending competition in New York. The upscale eatery offers a host of different combinations at its packed bar including bottled cocktails created in house, aged cocktails and a shortlist of other top-notch mixed drinks. A menu standout includes Kavalier and Clay, a mixed drink that includes tequila and the Czech liquor Becherovka. Served in a cocktail glass, the drink is similar to a lemon drop, but heartier with a creamy smoothness to it. Also worth noting? Bourbon Renewal, which marries Maker’s Mark and the mild grape taste of cassis plus bitters. The bar’s menu features every team player’s name at the back and the cocktails on offer are definitely worthy of having one’s name attached to them.

Images by Nilina Mason-Campbell