Punch Bowl Social Debuts a New Summer Menu

Punch Bowl Social Debuts a New Summer Menu

Punch Bowl Social is an anomaly in Portland: it’s a mega-bar, with bowling alleys, karaoke rooms, video-games, and three separate full bars; it takes up a floor of a shopping mall; and it’s part of a national chain. At first glance, the atmosphere is sterile and contrived, more like a family-friendly dining chain than a local cocktail bar. The average Portland bar-goer, concerned with local beer, craft cocktails, or just cheap drinks, might be averse to trying Punch Bowl. But they would be remiss, as its veneer belies the truth: Punch Bowl Social is an incredibly fun bar with an excellent cocktail menu, and its aesthetic avoids the pretension that other cocktail bars, and even dive bars, can fall into.

Three full bars, three 4-lane bowling alleys, two karaoke rooms, two ping-pong tables, two balconies overlooking downtown streets, multiple dart boards, video games from all eras, classic pinball, and even a marbles-table, all serve to make Punch Bowl Social a wild time for parties of any size. Any sort of reservation of “corporate bars” quickly melts away in the face of a game of ping-pong or a private karaoke party with friends.

Don’t expect chain-restaurant quality drinks here, either. Punch Bowl prides itself on being a Gastropub, and allows its bar managers and bartenders the freedom to exercise their own creativity, as well as bring in successful drinks from the other branches in Denver, Austin, and Detroit.

Part of the success of the Portland branch is its bar manager; Brent Graham, a Portland native and a true veteran of the industry, brings a humble expertise to the bar, as well as a few personal contributions to the summer drink menu. The menu appropriately focuses on light and refreshing drinks paired with happy hour appetizers, the perfect accompaniment to a summer afternoon.

New to the menu are the Aviation, a classic cocktail made with aplomb, with Plymouth Gin, Maraschino Liqueur, lemon juice, and a touch of Creme de Violet for color and a light floral flavor; El Macho, basically a margarita infused with cardamom and cucumber; the High Fashion, a light summer quaffer with Aperol, sparkling wine, lemon, and housemade grapefruit syrup; and Graham’s own Time and Tide, a blend of rums, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, honey syrup, and Portland Cider Company cider. The drink is served in a wide-mouthed mason jar over heaps of cracked ice, which slowly melts and mellows the drink, allowing its delicate flavors to morph and change.

Finally, it wouldn’t be Punch Bowl Social without punch. PBS serves punch in three sizes—individual, four-person, and eight-person. Parties must contain at least half the amount of people intended for the bowl to be able to order it, so a party of four could order the eight-person punch bowl, but no fewer.

The newest punch for the summer season is The Rio, a vividly pink and fluffy drink made with a Bacardi rum base and a mix of watermelon, pineapple, housemade lemon sour mix, and cream of coconut. It might be a little sweet for some, but it’s definitely a crowd favorite.

In addition the summer cocktails, Punch Bowl continues to serve other classic and original cocktails, milkshakes both alcoholic and otherwise, housemade sodas, a full tap list predictably focused on Oregon beers, and wine. Prices tend to hover around the west-side range, with pints at $6, wine and cocktails around $9-10.

Punch Bowl Social, Pioneer Place, 340 SW Morrison St.; 503-334-0360

Space photo courtesy of Johanna Ladis at Feed Media; Drink photos by Alexander Frane


Tags: Cocktails, Food, Games
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