I neglected to post my account of cocktailing in Portland in June, and figure I should explain why I am always so excited to go back and/or move there. The cocktail scene is vibrant and thriving, and my favorite detail is that bars are required to serve food (a minimum of 6 hot dishes) by Oregon Liquor Control, so you find innovative and delicious snacks served until late wherever you go for innovative and delicious drinks. I wish I had thought to open a bar in PDX five years ago.
The following are four of my favorite gems in Portland from my first trip:
Teardrop – Although the drinks were superb and the interior is sleek and sexy, my amazing experience at Tearprop was all about the guys behind the bar. The service at this hot spot is above reproach. We were surprising Lindsey for her birthday and they were so supportive and accommodating of us making a ridiculous spectacle and went out of their way to help us out, while still banging out superb cocktails on a busy weekend night. I also witnessed them being so friendly and kind to a couple of beer swilling hipster frat-boy types (is that a contradiction?) that would have annoyed me to the point of throttling them. Oddly enough for a high-end cocktail bar, they are known for their piña colada.
Beaker and Flask – The best drinks I had in Portland (and I was in town specifically to go on cocktail tour) were made by Dave Shenaut at Beaker & Flask. This man is a wizard of cocktail delights. We had a good snack, but I forget what it was. The interior is spacious and well designed, and one friend complained that it felt cold (spiritually, not Fahrenheit), but I dig it. Not every bar has to make you feel all warm and cozy like a womb.
Clyde Common – I was presented some of the most innovative cocktails by Jeff (the owner, famous for his barrel-aged negroni) and Neil (the creator of Imbue Vermouth) at Clyde, and was impressed by both the quality and character of every drink. The food is spectacular too. We tried everything on the menu that even vaguely qualified as a bar snack and they were all exceptional. The restaurant space is open, with lots of big communal tables (apparently a trend in Portland), but I reckon that the best seats in the house are at the bar.
Spints Ale House – The only cocktail I had was the Oatmeal Cookie, made with white dog (unaged whiskey), which you don’t see all that often. Spints has a great craft beer selection, not to mention top-notch food. The dirty pretzel, which changes every Tuesday is not to be missed. The staff were great and bent over backward for us, and the space projects a homey comfort. To get more into detail on the food, the schnitzel was thicker than traditional, and a little salty (everything I had in Portland was a little too salty. What gives?), but still great, and served with house-made chips that were exceptional. The day’s dirty pretzel was lasagna-themed, and heaped with all sorts of flavorful ingredients. The meat and cheese plate included little fried chicken hearts that were fought over at the table and even the bread basket housed a wide array of excellent fresh slices.