Every once in a while you get to go on a trip that lasts longer than 3 nights and you get to have a feel for a city. That was something I recently got the pleasure of experiencing in Portland, Oregon. While on a work-related trip (taking a Village Building Design Course that encompasses the philosophy of ‘Placemaking’, I found myself with the opportunity to indulge myself in a few of my favourite things; and Portland seems to be the place to do that.
Whether it was cycling its most incredible bicycling infrastructure, roaming through Powell’s Used Book Store (a must-do), sipping back craft IPAs (Portland being the undoubted leader in that vein), or seeing Owl culture everywhere (like I said, everything I like!), you are always able to do something you enjoy. And, of course, no trip to Portland would not be complete without a few stops in some of the best cocktail lounges in North America.
My cocktail experiences began in the Hawthorne District, which was near to where I was studying. The three lounges I sampled were McMenamin’s, in the old Bagdad Hotel, Cha!Cha!Cha! Taqueira, and Gold Dust Meridian. McMenamin’s and Gold Dust Meridien had an decently stocked bar and a good menu. At McMenamin’s, I was able to enjoy a Poor Farm Negroni – a strong pairing of Edgefield’s Penney’s Gin, Campari, and Dolin Sweet Vermouth.
Cha!Cha!Cha! was certainly more about its food than its cocktails, but I was happy to sample both their Caipirinha (on the left) and their Tamarindo (on the right). Both drinks were quite refreshing. I had never had a Caipirinha before, and am certain I am going to need to try another one. The Cachaca was nice, but I think the ingredients were less than fresh. The Tamarindo was refreshing, but made with Jarritos Tamarind juice; while it is a good juice, it lacks the flavour strength of a Tamarind infused simple syrup. Just sayin’
|the author with a tamarindo; photo: wendy meeres|
At Gold Dust Meridien, I was treated to the craft cocktails of some very fine bartending. Below, are four of the five cocktails I was able to sample (the fifth was their Old Granddad Fashioned, with Old Granddad Bourbon. Delicious!)
On the top left is the Marionberry Margarita -El Jimador Reposado Tequila, Harlequin, Marionberry Nectar, Orange
- (Mexico City 1934)
On the top right is the Portland Perestroika – a fine use of Lovejoy Vodka, Cucumber, Pear and Lime (Portland, 1999). Both of these cocktails were ordered by my colleague, Wendy.
The drink to the left is the Rosie Lee – an amazing use of Hendrick’s Gin, Rose Petal Syrup, Lychee Nectar, Lemon and Bitters (London, 2007). It was garnished with a locally made candied Hibiscus flower,
While the Hawthorne District definitely had its highlights, it only really whet my appetite for one of the most exciting reasons for being in Portland and having cocktails: The Pearl District. In the Pearl District are two incredible lounges that I recommend you all make your way to if you find yourself in Portland. The bartenders are exceptionally knowledgeable, friendly, and professional. They truly know their stuff. My first stop was the Teardrop Cocktail Lounge. Here I was treated to two excellent cocktails – the first being a Bonded Old Fashioned, made with Laird’s Applejack, Twisted Truth Bitters, and orange. Also, it came with an amazing piece of ice – a large brick of drink-cooling perfection.
My colleague enjoyed the Shaddock Rose, mixed with El Tesoro Reposado Tequila, Small Hands Grapefruit Cordial, Peychaud’s and Orange Bitters,
|Bonded Old Fashioned|
The other cocktail I enjoyed at the Teardrop was the Custer – Rittenhouse Rye, Cynar, Galiano Originale, and Rhubarb and Celery Bitters. That drink was truly remarkable.
I was able chat up the bartender, Sean, about The Volstead Act Craft Cocktail Service, and what we were trying to do. He was supported, and excited that we were making our own ingredients. I told him about our intention to make tonic water, and he let me sample some of theirs. He was also kind enough to let me sample the three types of Dolin Vermouth (from France)
|Dolin Sweet Vermouth, Dolin Blanco Vermouth, Dolin Dry Vermouth|
The last place I got to was what I had been thinking about for so long - Clyde Common. Home to the renowned Jeffrey Morgenthaler, it lived up to all expectations. Morgenthaler has been working on barrel-aged cocktails, and I just had to have one. Sadly, I did not get a picture of it, but the cocktail I had he calls: Remember the Maine. This drink makes use of Rye Whiskey (not sure which one), Dolin Sweet Vermouth, Cherry Heering, and Absinthe. This cocktail was aged in a Truthilltown Charred whiskey barrel for two months and packs a lot of flavour. Served in a perfectly chilled Coupe glass, it brought a huge smile to my face. For my second drink, I decided to go with an unaged version of the same. He seemed to appreciate that I was going for the side-by-side tasting. He had to double check the recipe from his little notebook (which, no doubt, was filled with creative gems yet to be born), and this drink did not disappoint. While it tasted the same, it is quite certain that the barrel-aged cocktail carries a much fuller flavour.
When all was said and done, Portland’s cocktail experience was on par with excellence. And, to top it off, Jeffrey Morgenthaler and his bartending partner were kind enough to pose with Sophia’s stuffed dog!
|Jeffrey Morgenthaler, his mixing partner for the evening, and Buddy, the stuffed dog|