Portland’s Best Cocktails

Whenever I travel, I always get asked about the great cocktail scene here in Portland. While Portland does have a strong cocktail culture, just like all other cities, we’ve got our share of dogs too. If you are coming to Portland and looking for a great cocktail, check the places below out and you won’t be disappointed.

Beaker & Flask Do cocktails get any better than Kevin Ludwig and Tim Davey’s creations at Beaker? The short answer is no. Chef Ben Bettinger cooks up some of the most creative and inspired cuisine in town too.

Laurelhurst Market Evan Zimmerman and Elizabeth Markham behind the same bar? Food by the Simpatica guys? This is one not to be missed.

Lincoln Restaurant While Lincoln may well be more famous for Chef Jenn Lewis’ food, the bar here offers a short but exceptionally well executed cocktail list as well as great wines by the glass. My favorite restaurant in Portland. They also feature wonderful nonalcoholic sodas in interesting flavors.

Carlyle Restaurant The two Jakes (Martin & Grier) work their magic here. Try Chef Jake Martin’s famous burger while sipping one of wunderkind bartender Jake Grier’s creations. Not a cheap evening, but well worth the money for this kind of elegance.

Ten01 Kelley Swenson is arguably the best bartender in Portland, and perhaps the entire state of Oregon. His creations are unique, seasonal and pair will with the creative cuisine from the kitchen. Ten01 has an interesting spirits list and great beer wine selections.

Branch Whiskey Bar Whats not to love about a neighborhood tavern offering classic cocktails, upscale comfort food and great hospitality. Bartenders Evan Furey and Andrew Finkleman are both great local finds.

Andina Greg Hoitsma remains one of my favorite bartenders in the city of Portland. His knowledge and appreciation for pisco is unmatched in the city and his alcoholic creations please both the bridge & tunnel crowd as well as sophisticated diners.

Spints Alehouse Brand spankin’ new, featuring  talented refugees from Teardrop Lounge in owner/chef Alyssa Gregg and bar manager Ted Charak, Spints has a great cocktail list to complement a well designed beer list and Gregg’s delicious food.

Secret Society Intimate, relaxing and sophisticated, Secret Society is a secret no more, with crowds filling its bar space most nights of the week. A great place to grab a drink before or after dinner at its downstairs neighbor Toro Bravo.

Urban Farmer If bar manager Daniel Stern is behind the bar, just put yourself in his hands as he guides you through his outstanding repetoire of classic cocktails and modern creations. Urban Farmer is the only bar in Portland aging their own supply of whiskey behind the bar, ask the bartenders about the different woods of the barrels and how they are affecting the flavor profiles for an interesting education.

Veritable Quandry The VQ as its known to locals is one of Portland’s classic old school watering holes as well as a great restaurant. VQ’s bacon wrapped dates (stuffed with chevre and marcona almonds) make a great accompaniment to their seasonal cocktail menu. Also look for a great single malt scotch selection at reasonable prices.

Meriwethers Having fallen off the culinary map in Portland for a time with the departure of Tommy Habetz, Meriwethers bar program has always been a strong point under the leadership of Lud Dulka. A small but creative cocktail list, great wines and the best outdoor patio in all of Portland make this a must stop in northwest Portland.

Serratto Restaurant Serratto is a restaurant first, and a bar second. This establishment probably wouldn’t make this list except for the talents of their incredible bartender Kurt.  While the food is quite good and comes recommended, sitting at the bar with Kurt is an exercise in classic hospitality. Warm, convivial and well versed in cocktails, the experience at the bar at Serratto is second to none when he is behind the bar.

22 thoughts on “Portland’s Best Cocktails

  1. Chris Bailey

    I’m quite stunned to not see Clyde Common (Jeff Morgenthaler) and Teardrop (Daniel?). I credit Mr. Morgenthaler with teaching me what a truly stellar cocktail is. He’s also very hospitable, creative, and picks up on what kinds of drinks people like very quickly (which makes it really fun to then ask him to make you something surprising).

    I’ve only been to Teardrop a couple times, but it’s always unique and has some pretty interesting cocktails. To be honest, the feel of the bar is not my favorite, but the cocktails are stellar, and you did say “best cocktails” in the title :)

  2. admin Post author

    Thank you for the feedback Chris. I assumed I’d get some flack for leaving those two (as well as Gilt Club) off. 18 months ago, both establishments you mention would have been listed, it would have been a no brainer. As it is though, I think both places have lost so much talent (TD has lost Evan Zimmerman, Allyson Dykes, Ted Charak and Alyssa Gregg, Clyde has lost Charlie Hodge, Kevin Ludwig, Tim Davey, Justin Pike and Elizabeth Markham). Clyde remains one of my favorite restaurants in the city, but my perception is that the bar isn’t as exciting or cutting edge as it was under Charlie Hodge and later Kevin Ludwig. As for TD, I find it rather antiseptic and some of the cocktails muddy. I know that they’ve been reduced to hiring baristas as bartenders, and bartending is a skill that takes time to develop. David Shenaut at TD is amazingly talented, but if I wanted a drink from him I’d rather sit at the bar at Beaker when he is working a shift there. As always, best cocktails is a subjective subject, but hopefully this explains why I left both of those establishments off of my list.

  3. Angie

    Ouch – I’m with Chris: no Teardrop? Those guys get it right for me every time (and their food menu keeps getting better and better!).

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    I bet Vegas wouldn’t touch those odds. Anyways I know just from my kids that just about everyone in school shows up every morning with a hoodie on, some in the summer ( those kids scare me – if you know what I mean )

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  10. Lauren Viera

    Thanks for this incredibly helpful list, recommended via Frank Sennett here in Chicago. Am headed to PDX for the next few days and many of these hadn’t made my initial list, but will try to check some out.
    Best,
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    Chicago, IL

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