Portland's Best Summertime Cocktails

by Alexander Frane on Aug 8, 2017 in Roundups

After the snowiest winter in memory, and a short lived, wet spring, we’ve jumped full on into summer, complete with record breaking heat. Thankfully, along with the punishing weather, comes a bevy of delicious summer cocktails. We’ve rounded up nineteen of our favorite estival drinks for 2017, with plenty of pineapple, watermelon, tequila, rum, and gin to help you fight the sun’s wrath. Let us know where your favorites are on our Facebook or Twitter.

Stacked Sandwich Shop
While it’s primarily a lunch spot with great sandwiches, Stacked is open until 8 PM, with Jeanette Conner whipping up cocktail bar quality drinks all evening. This summer, stop in for a Rhubi-Tuuti ($12), a tiki style sherry cobbler with fino sherry, cachaça, rhubarb, lime, housemade grenadine, and coconut milk. It’s fruity, with earthy rhubarb and tart citrus balancing the sweetness, and the sherry offering a bright backbone to the creamy coconut—it’s good at any hour of the day. (1643 SE 3rd Ave.; 971-279-2731)

Kayla Goul at Biwa (briefly known as Parasol Bar) has a creative, garden focused approach to many of her drinks, like the Cherrytomato93 ($11). Bartenders tend to treat the tomato more like a vegetable than the fruit that it is, but not Goul. The drink is essentially a mezcal margarita, with the tomato noticeable on the nose but subtle on the palate, adding just a bit of sweetness and acidity to the earth and smoke of mezcal. It summons the essence of a shaded, sun dappled garden in the afternoon. (215 SE 9th Ave.; 239-8830)
The Big Spender ($11), from Brandy Feit at Headwaters, could convince the most ardent of gin haters to embrace the spirit. Black-lemon bitters and a housemade lime cordial add complexity and depth to Hendrick’s, highlighting the cucumber and floral qualities of the gin. The salt in the cordial further enhances the flavors while keeping it from being too sweet, and the drink is topped with sparkling water for a refreshing, citrusy highball, perfect on a hot summer day. (1001 SW Broadway; 503-790-7752)
Bit House Saloon
Chris Churilla at Bit House Saloon grew up eating watermelon salads with mint and a bit of salt, and that sort of summer treat is exactly what he evokes with the Pale Rider ($10). Tequila, watermelon, and falernum are sweet and crisp, and the salted thai basil adds a botanical element like a fresh melon salad. The sesame boba pearls are the watermelon seeds you won’t want to spit out. It’s an intoxicating and nostalgia inducing journey. (727 SE Grand Ave.; 503-954-3913)
Aalto Lounge
Aalto keeps a fairly small menu that isn’t subject to constant change, so it’s always fun when they add something new to the menu. This summer, try The Last Caress ($10) with Espolon, reposado, Cynar, hibiscus syrup, and lemon. This vivid pink drink may look intensely sweet, but it’s actually bright and herbaceous, with the earthy qualities of tequila and the bitter notes of Cynar marrying beautifully with the floral hibiscus and tart lemon. (3356 SE Belmont St.; 503-235-6041)
Raven & Rose
Floral on the nose and herbaceous on the finish, the Bonnie Wee Lass ($12) at Raven & Rose is a delicate and graceful sipper. It conjures the ephemeral floral aspect of summer, with rose water and rhubarb syrup elevating the botanicals in Hendricks gin. It is representative of R&Rs style of seemingly simple drinks that are complex beyond the sum of their parts. It’s also a looker of a drink. (1331 SW Broadway; 503-222-7673)
Vegetarian Thai restaurant Kati sports an underappreciated cocktail menu, helmed by José Gutierrez. This summer he’s crafted the descriptively named Citrus, Heat, and Smoke ($12),  with mezcal, habañero infused tequila, house pineapple syrup, and lime. It strikes a great balance between sweet, tart, smoky, and spicy, and while it contains richness and depth, it goes down almost too easy. Try it with any of the great Thai dishes served here, or just on its own. (2932 SE Division St; 503-477-6059)
Like the food at Aviary, the cocktail program is ambitious and creative, and bar manager Justin Garcidiez has  the talent and experience to carry it. The Melon Brando ($13) has an array of unorthodox ingredients, combining aquavit, Pernod, Banane du Bresil, and even Midori, whose sweetness is balanced out with bitter melon. A touch of chili tincture spices it up for a unique, melon forward cocktail with plenty of herbs and spices. (1733 NE Alberta St.; 503-287-2400) Photo credit: Jules Davies
A shandy meets a tom collins in Lindsay Baker’s Road Soda ($10) at Imperial. Made with navy strength gin, Aperol, lemon, grapefruit, and honey, then topped with Gigantic Brewing’s Axis of Evil Pale Ale, it’s bright, tart, and juicy. The navy strength gin is present and assertive but not overbearing, while the pale ale and Aperol play well with the citrus and honey. This is a definite patio pounder, and a little too easy to finish. (410 SW Broadway; 503-228-7222)
The Crown
Vitaly Paley’s newest venture, attached to Imperial, just opened up in time for summer. The Crown’s cocktail list, helmed by industry vet Nick Cifuni, offers a number of creative drinks, including the Watermelon Paloma ($10). This summer-sipper demonstrates how well watermelon and tequila go together, especially with a little vanilla bean, cilantro, and spice from szechuan peppercorn. It’s a fresh and zingy delight. (410 SW Broadway; 503-228-7222)
Rambler Bar
A lovely hued drink, The Moonlighter ($10) at Rambler Bar combines local Aria Gin, lavender, creme de violette, and lemon with just a touch of blue curaçao for additional color and citrus. The result is a delicate, light drink made for sipping out on the shaded back patio, preferably during a game of bocce ball. (4205 N Mississippi Ave.;503-459-4049)
TD’s Pop-Up
TD’s at Three Degrees is a summer-long pop up taco and tequila bar right on the waterfront. It’s short lived, disappearing when the clouds come back out, so get in for a Meet Me in Tollan ($11) while you can. Mezcal and a house tepache—a Mexican pineapple cider—get a bit of lemon and agave syrup, the sweet acidity of the pineapple and lemon blending with the smoky richness of the mezcal. A few of those and some tacos and you’d swear you’re in Jalisco… especially with the 90+ degree weather. (1622 SW Harbor Way; 503-295-6166) Courtesy of Three Degrees
Bible Club
The Bible Club is one of the most authentic speakeasy style bars in the country, if not the world. And while it receives considerable (and earned) attention for its decor, its cocktail program is just as laudable. Take the Wishing Huel ($16) from Jessica Braasch: in essence, it’s a tequila and tonic, but in delivery it’s something elegant and complex. The Casa San Matías tequila is exquisite, and Braasch didn’t want to hide it, instead highlighting it with a bit of Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic and some homemade rhubarb-cucumber shrub. It will simultaneously turn you on to tequila and tonics and ruin any other for you. (6716 SE 16th Ave.; 971-279-2198)
Jenn Louis’ Italian joint is gone, but her Israeli restaurant has risen to take its place. Ray has landed in time for summer, complete with cocktails. The Goat Hanger ($10) for instance is a delightful summer quencher, made with tequila and pomegranate. Like most of the cocktails here, it’s specifically intended to pair with the Israeli cuisine, which itself is great for the summertime. (3808 N Williams Ave.; 503-288-6200)
Danwei Canting
Boozy drinking yogurt doesn’t immediately sound like a summer drink, but the Bai Yun goes remarkably well with the Chinese street food served at Danwei Canting. Made with a local Beiji, a Chinese liquor, as well as lychee syrup and Bol’s Yoghurt Liqueur with a bit of lemon and mint, it’s not like anything else you’ll find in town, and it’s well worth the try. (803 SE Stark St.; 503-236-6050) Courtesy of Little Green Pickle
Wayfinder Beer
You can’t have a summer cocktail list without the most essential of estival drinks: the daiquiri. The Daiquiri ($12) at Wayfinder, from bartenders Jacob Grier and Anthony Bruno, is a mix of Plantation 5 and the funky Smith & Cross Jamaican rum, lime, sugar, and Aromatique, a spice liqueur from Germany. It’s really just a classic daiquiri with a kick, but that’s all you need. Get it with one of Wayfinder Beer’s new lagers as a back for optimal boozy refreshment. (304 SE 2nd Ave)
Ash Bar
Serving primarily as the cocktail bar for the prix fixe dinner program Nomad, Jen Rae’s Ash Bar is worth a visit on its own, and not just for the stylish, sexy space. Rae’s bar program, like many, switches up seasonally, and this summer try the appropriately named Island in the Sun ($14). Cardamaro backs up Flor de Caña white rum, and then gets a bit of lemon. The best part, though, is the seasonal fruit that gets muddled into it. One day it might be blueberry, the next, raspberry, all depending on what Rae finds at the market that day. (575 NE 24th Ave; 503-206-4085)
Buckman Public House
If you’re abjuring high-proof cocktails in the hot weather, then check out the newest cocktail bar and restaurant on the scene, the Buckman Public House. The low-proof menu offers a number of sessionables, including the Watermelon Field Forever ($8). Bar Manager Beau Raymond decided to use more arcane ingredients, including rancio (similar to mezcal) and Damiana, a Mexican herbal liqueur. The result is a drink that manages to be a light, daytime drinker while remaining flavorful and assertive. (1310 SE Stark St.;503-206-5451)
Pazzo Ristorante
Another staple of summer treats is the creamsicle, which Geoffrey Balk at the Italian Restaurant Pazzo, has managed to mimic in drink form with the appropriately named Creamsicle ($12). Vodka, orange cordial, Aperol, and lemon get shaken with egg-white for a creamy, smooth cocktail that manages to be evocative of the dessert without being too sweet. (627 SW Washington St.; 228-1515) Photo credit; Geoffrey Balk


Photos by Alexander Frane (unless otherwise noted)


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