A Radish Walks into a Bar... from Imperial

Finding the very best cocktails in Portland is like trying to hold tight to a handful of sand. For every changing season, upstart mixologist, or rediscovered French liqueur, there are dozens of new concoctions emerging across the city. So we opted for a snapshot of the moment: we scoured neighborhood dives and cocktail havens, tapped top bartenders, and queried spirit-leaders for drinks so good (and sometimes weird), you’d drop everything for a taste. Behold, the most interesting cocktails in Portland, right now.

Imperial

A Radish Walks into a Bar...
VERMOUTH, GIN, LEMON, RADISH GASTRIQUE, PEPPER, SALT
What could be the prelude to a bad joke is actually an ode to Imperial owner Vitaly Paley, the iconic local chef who defeated Iron Chef star Jose Garces using the humble radish two years ago. Any whiff of gimmickry fades as this strange concoction hits you on the nose with black pepper, rides smooth with gin and dark vermouth, and finishes sweet, with a mouth-puckering radish bite. $12

The Richmond

Sassafras
TEQUILA, MESCAL, CYNAR, ROOT, SIMPLE SYRUP
The improbable fusion of Rockwellian Americana and earthy Oaxacan countryside, the Sassafras unloads like a one-two punch. Root liqueur—a distilled version of root beer from the pioneering days—surges with a kick of birch and musky black tea alongside the smoky, sophisticated bite of mescal and a spicy jolt of tequila poured on the rocks. $10

The Tennesse Williams from Paadee / Langbaan

PaaDee / Langbaan

Tennessee Williams
VANILLA-ROASTED PEAR PURÉE, LEMON, PISCO BLEND, CHAMPAGNE
You know a drink is good when it can keep pace with one of the best meals in Portland. That’s the case with the supremely drinkable Tennessee Williams, occasionally served to kick off the casually ceremonious feasts at Thai phenomenon Langbaan. Deep caramel notes from vanilla-roasted pear and citrusy Encanto pisco fizzle up with a topper of fruity California bubbly. $11

Ataula

Ciudad Vieja
BOURBON, COGNAC, VERMOUTH, BENEDICTINE, BITTERS, LEMON OIL
To match chef Jose Chesa’s modern Spanish menu, bartender Angel Teta dove into the vermouths of the Iberian Peninsula. For her worldly twist on a Vieux Carré, she plucked velvety, spicy, and complex Yzaguirre red from just outside Barcelona. The Ciudad Vieja is the Francisco Goya of cocktails: dark and brooding, blanketed with the rich, luxurious body
of Spanish vermouth. $11

Kask

Bicycles & Baskets
RYE WHISKEY, ST. GERMAIN, APEROL, LEMON, CANE SUGAR, GRAPEFRUIT TWIST
You’ve seen it before: whiskey, served up, with a few trendy Italian liqueurs and a pop of citrus. But when you discover a studious rendition as even-keeled and satisfying as Kask’s Bicycles and Baskets, you’ll forget those sorry attempts. The bright, summery punch of lemon and grapefruit soften St. Germain’s elderflower bouquet, making it our favorite shoulder-season cocktail, with the ballast of winter, but the soul of springtime. $10

The Canicule from Aviary

Aviary

Canicule
GIN, VERMOUTH, SAUVIGNON BLANC, PINEAPPLE SHRUB, CILANTRO, JALAPEÑO
This impish, tropically inclined gin sipper borrows its name from the French slang for “heat wave,” but its flare-bright bursts of jalapeño heat, heady cilantro, and pineapple pucker hail straight from Mexico City. Super-fruity sauvignon blanc provides a sweet, dry through-line that’ll have you ordering another round before you’ve finished your first. $10

The spicy drink is an ode to bartender Ross Hunsinger’s Mexico-born, teetotaler girlfriend. She orders it with lemon and lime juice instead of alcohol. (You can, too!)

Teardrop Cocktail Lounge

Illuminations
TEQUILA, LEMON, SHERRY, MAPLE SYRUP, EGG WHITE
Of the 350-plus drinks that Daniel Shoemaker keeps in his Rolodex of Teardrop cocktails, the master bartender considers this tart, smoky-sweet elixir from the bar’s early days his all-time favorite. It’s an oddly alluring balance of smoldering tequila and sherry warmth, bracketed with a bracing squeeze of lemon and the mellow sweetness of grade B maple syrup, all lathered with egg white froth. $10

The Souracher from Raven & Rose

Raven & Rose

The Souracher
RYE WHISKEY, CAMPARI, VERMOUTH, LIME, GINGER BEER
Through his prolific Portland career, bartender Dave Shenaut has reworked this single drink dozens of times over, tweaking vermouths, swapping out ginger syrups for ales, and playing with whiskey profiles. Shenaut’s latest masterpiece is the ultimate thirst quencher: with each citrusy, bitter, and refreshing sip, the smooth, dry finish of vermouth di Torino brings you in for more. $10

Kachka

Infused Vodka Flight
HORSERADISH, LEMON, EARL GREY
If you thought Portland was a whiskey town, think again, comrade. With 50 or so
native and international vodkas to try, Kachka is luring the masses to its potato-driven linchpin. The Soviet-inspired bar’s house infusions (still technically cocktails—we looked it up in Webster’s!) offer a proper introductory tour. Start with head-clearing horseradish, followed by smooth lemon, and cap off your meal with floral Earl Grey. Most infusions $4 for 30 grams (about 1 oz)

Rum Club

Fino Countdown
SHERRY MIX, RUM, DON’S SPICES #2, LEMON, BITTERS
Dry, nutty, and complex, fino and cream sherries find their perfect counterpoint in bold Cruzan blackstrap rum, creating what owner Michael Shea calls a “magic trick”: an off-sweet quaff both rich and refreshing. Cut with fresh lemon and the subtle heat of winter spices, this longtime menu staple (and Shea’s own go-to “shift drink”) embodies Rum Club’s mission to elevate the house spirit from a flaming tiki mixer to an elegant standalone spirit. $8

The secret to Shea’s tiki gusto lies with Don’s Spices #2, made in small batches by Blair Reynolds, owner of Portland’s Hale Pele. bgreynolds.com


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