As if a world-renowned restaurant scene weren’t enough, Portland has become one of America’s most vibrant cocktail destinations, drawing top-level mixologists from around the country. The city’s exploding cocktail scene has its roots in the same thinking that has made its food outstanding; Use the highest quality ingredients, prepared with perfect technique and artful presentation.
Clyde Common’s Barrel-aged Negroni
Jeffery Morgenthaler didn’t become the best-known bartender in Portland — landing a James Beard Award nomination in the process — without understanding how exacting technique can elevate simple ingredients. That’s what the Negroni at downtown staple Clyde Common is all about: a classic combination of gin, sweet vermouth and Campari mellowed for two months in bourbon barrels.
Hale Pele’s Volcano Bowl
A good tiki bar embraces over-the-top, sugary kitsch in the décor, but not in the drinks, which is what makes the Volcano Bowl at tropical oasis Hale Pele the perfect tiki cocktail. While you might look a little silly sipping from an enormous flaming group drink with friends (or a cute date), the balanced concoction of grapefruit, lime, aged rum and allspice — adapted from an original recipe by none other than the grandfather of tiki himself, Don the Beachcomber — will ensure you don’t care.
Rum Club’s Rum Club Daiquiri
A bar that advertises a love of rum in its name must serve a daiquiri capable of converting the Caribbean sugarcane liquor’s many skeptics. Fortunately, the Rum Club Daiquiri delivers. A variation on the classic Hemingway daiquiri — twice the booze and less sugar, but with maraschino liqueur — Rum Club’s version ties the drink together with Angostura bitters and a few drops of absinthe.
The Rookery Bar’s Caroline’s Fancy
Rookery Bar director David Shenaut hand-selects single barrels of spirits from around the world to serve as the bases for some of the most thoughtfully composed high-end cocktails in town. This fiery creation might be the best of the bunch, building on a fantastic reposado tequila from Casa Noble with dry curacao, demerara sugar and cardamom bitters.
Expatriate’s No. 8
This bracing tonic has remained on the menu (with good reason) since Naomi Pomeroy and her bartender husband Kyle Webster opened chic cocktail lounge Expatriate across the street from Pomeroy’s Beast in 2013. The strikingly balanced and deeply layered combination of Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac, Dickel Rye, Dolin Génépy des Alpes, Sweet Vermouth and Regan’s No. 6 Orange Bitters is an instant classic.
Huber’s Café’s Spanish Coffee
Downtown establishment Huber’s Cafe is Portland’s oldest restaurant and bar, and ordering the signature Spanish Coffee will afford you some of that old-world flair. Expect a theatrical tableside preparation in which Bacardi 151 and triple sec are set aflame before Kahlua, coffee and cream are added. The drink and its presentation have become so popular that Huber’s website claims they pour more Kahlua than any other independent restaurant in the country.
The Driftwood Room’s Elizabeth Taylor
The wood paneling and mid-century décor at Hotel deLuxe’s old-school bar might seem most appropriate for sipping a martini or a Manhattan, but don’t pass over the specialty champagne cocktails at the Driftwood Room. The most eye-catching on the list is the delicate Elizabeth Taylor, which features Crème de Violette, a deep purple liqueur made with violet flowers.
Bye & Bye’s Bye & Bye
Nothing says “Portland in summer” quite like a mason jar filled to the brim with this Northeast Alberta haunt’s eponymous mixture of peach-flavored bourbon and vodka, cranberry juice, lemon juice and soda. It’s a refreshing cocktail that, like the Bye & Bye, typifies much of Portland’s drinking culture: Fun, affordable and greater than the sum of its parts.
Teardrop’s Bartender’s Choice
With a reputation for launching the careers of the city’s best bartenders and a vast menu covering classic drinks, house creations and recipes borrowed from friends throughout the country, you just can’t get a bad drink at the Pearl District’s Teardrop. Grab a seat at the round bar, leave your fate in the hands of your bartender and take in the show.