Portland's Best Springtime Cocktails

by Alexander Frane on May 9, 2017 in Roundups

Spring has finally arrived in Portland. Go for a walk in between rain storms, or on the rare sunny day, and you’ll find blossoming trees and budding flowers all over town. You’ll also find bartenders hard at work crafting new drinks to imbibe during this mercurial season. Spring cocktails have landed all across town, and here are eighteen of our favorites. Did we miss your favorite vernal drink? Let us know on our Facebook or Twitter.

At the gastropub Interurban, Cameron’s Kick tips its hat to the great whiskey countries — Scotland and Ireland. Shaken with Irish whiskey, Scotch, lemon and orgeat, then served up, it’s a delicious and refreshing sour variation. (4057 N Mississippi St.; 503-284-6669 photo credit: Katie Burnett)

Camille Cavan regularly produces creative and beautiful concoctions from behind the bar at Quaintrelle, and this spring is no different. Try the Old Soul, with tequila, mezcal, amaro, ancho reyes, pineapple gomme syrup, lime, and salt. It’s like slightly spicy, complex, elevated margarita. (3936 N Mississippi Ave.; 503-200-5787 photo credit: Heather Jones)
Urban Farmer
Urban Farmer lives up to its name, sourcing local ingredients for its food as well as its drinks. Take The Manzanita: Reposado tequila, mezcal, lime, Mountain Rose apple shrub, and cinnamon syrup. The Mountain Rose apples are only grown in the Mount Hood River Valley, and Urban Farmer sources them once a year to create a shrub that lasts through the summer. (525 SW Morrison Street.; 503-222-4900; photo courtesy of Urban Farmer)
Bacchus Bar
Bacchus Bartender Bryan Galligos made the Saffron Martini for his mother in law, reworking an existing cocktail on the menu for her, but it works great for spring. It’s less of a martini and more of an Aviation married to a Sazerac: gin, saffron, lemon, maraschino liqueur, and Peychaud's bitters get a Pernod rinse in this bright and zesty drink. (422 SW Broadway; 503-228-1212 Photo Courtesy of Bacchus Bar)
Red Star Tavern
The Other Side of the Pillow by Brandon Lockman at Red Star Tavern is a fitting name: it’s a drink to cool you off. Cucumber infused vodka gets sweetened with a bit of agave, then gets a little lemon and dill for a vegetal, refreshing drink. It goes down a little too easy, so be careful. (503 SW Alder St.; 503-222-0005 Photo Courtesy of Red Star Tavern)
OP Wurst
The Portland Sour at the brand new OP Wurst is just that: a gin sour made with local spirits, like Aria Gin and Hammer & Tongs L’Afrique sweet vermouth, which gives it a violet coloring. Lemon, lime, sugar, and egg-white finish the drink, which is as delicious and light as it is beautiful. Pair it with the Portland Dog, with kale, hazelnuts, and pork belly, for a truly local experience. (126 SW 2nd Ave.; 971-386-2199)
Nothing says springtime in an Italian restaurant like a tiki drink with Campari in it, and the Rare Bird ($12) at Renata is exactly that. Bar manager Eric Rickey has created what is essentially a Jungle Bird but Renata style, with a blend of three different rums, campari, pineapple gomme syrup, and a house made chinotto. It’s less tropical than you’d think, but still delightfully vivid and refreshing, with rich, herbal notes from the chinotto and campari. (626 SE Main St.; 503-954-2708)
Shift Drinks
Alise Moffat at Shift Drinks knows that Portland has no definitive spring. Sure we get flowers and days of sunlight, but we also have long, wet, gray days, holdovers from the winter we’re escaping. That ambiguity is captured perfectly in the Sub Alpine, a “dark spring drink” made with bourbon, lemon oils, amaro, orange bitters, and Avèze Luxardo (a bittersweet liqueur). It’s lightly sweet, dank, herbal, and floral, with hints of dandelion and tobacco. (1200 SW Morrison St.; 503-922-3933)
The Blood Wine Cooler, made by Beau Burtnick at Kask, is like an elevated sangria, or a Kalimotxo mixed with an Aperol Spritz: Lillet Rouge, citric and malic acid spiked orange juice, Aperol, and Mexican Coca-Cola come together to make a juicy, refreshing highball with a hint of creamy vanilla and herbal qualities from the Aperol and Mexi-Coke. (1215 SW Alder St.; 503-241-7163)
The cocktail menu at Rue, created by bar manager Jon Lewis, is always reflective of the season, and regularly changes to fit. This spring, Lewis wanted something simple and accessible but still interesting: The Toki Highball. The Japanese whisky lends itself to a highball already, but he spiced and sweetened it with velvet falernum, orgeat, lemon, pineapple bitters, and mint. The Toki performs nicely as a base to what becomes, essentially, a fun take on a whiskey ginger. (1005 SE Ankeny St.; 503-231-3748)
La Moule
The Solera Fizz at La Moule might be the perfect after-dinner or late night drink: Evan Williams bourbon, amontillado sherry, orgeat, lemon, cream, egg white, and soda are vigorously shaken together. It’s smooth, sweet, with just a hint of nuttiness from the amontillado sherry, and a thick almost meringue like head on it. It definitely fits the sultry atmosphere of La Moule while still evoking spring. (2500 SE Clinton St.; 971-339-2822)

The Green Room
The Salsa Roja at the Whisk{e}y Library’s Green Room was created by mistake: bartender Amy Tegge had no idea that Suze—a bittersweet liqueur—and cassis together would end up tasting like salsa, but she leaned into it, adding tequila, lime juice, and saline. The resulting concoction is, indeed, much like salsa, but in a very good way, nicely balanced between sweet and savory. (1124 SW Alder St.; 503-954-1381)

The Fireside, with its titular fireplaces, seems at first more of a winter bar, but in the sunnier months it’s just as pleasant to sit next to one of the open windows, catching a cool breeze. It’s even better with a New Ceremony in hand, from bar manager and co-owner Sue Erickson. Cachaça, lime, green tea syrup, matcha powder, Green Chartreuse, and egg white make for a verdant, silky, sweet drink with a botanical kick from the matcha and chartreuse. (801 NW 23rd Ave.; 503-477-9505)
The Waiting Room
No Time for Love (Dr Jones) is a fairly straightforward drink in concept: It’s an Aria Gin highball with Aperol and a housemade rhubarb-honey shrub made from artisan viognier vinegar, topped with soda water. The resulting drink is piquant, bright, and fruity. The preserved Meyer lemon wheel garnish is more than just for looks, and should definitely be eaten. (2327 NW Kearney St.; 503-477-4380)
Solo Club
Solo Club’s signature Gin and Tonic is, reportedly, the coldest version of the drink found in town. Housemade tonic water and Aria Gin (the distillery is right near by both Solo Club and The Waiting Room) are chilled to 23 degrees, then force carbonated for an especially effervescent expression of the drink. But what really sets it apart is the inclusion of an amaro for added depth and complexity: try it with the Braulio Amaro, a traditional amaro from northern Italy. (2110 NW Raleigh St.; 971-254-9806)
The Prince Kuragin at Kachka is bracing, but in a pleasant way. Apricot liqueur helps to mellow the house-infused celery gin, fino sherry, and celery bitters, but only so much. It’s great for when you get off work and need something to ease you into the evening, and definitely asks to be paired with some Russian drinking snacks.  (720 SE Grand Ave.; 503-235-0059)
It’s only open one day a week, but Deadshot, the pop-up bar from Holdfast Dining, is the best way to spend a Monday evening. The menu regularly changes, and right now the Pins and Nettles is a springy standout. Gin, kummel (a liqueur made with caraway, cumin, and fennel), nettles, and bitters make a bright green, bittersweet drink. Intense and herbaceous, it tastes like the how a freshly mowed lawn smells. (537 SE Ash St. #102; 503-504-9448)
Trifecta Tavern
Colin Carroll at Trifecta Tavern likes to take classic recipes and inject some creative culinary aspects to them. The spring menu is full of fun drinks, like a clarified milk punch hurricane or a Dr Cocktail Swizzle with layered boozes. There’s also a housemade guava shrub (a drinking vinegar) for the season that goes into four different drinks, including a pisco sour. The shrub gives it a tropical kick but keeps it from getting too sweet, perfect for a pre-dinner or happy hour cocktail. (726 SE 6th Ave.; 503-841-6675)

Photos by Alexander Frane, unless otherwise noted

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