Art Appreciation

Rothko: On the Rocks

Famed Portland artist gets multiple tributes—and a cocktail.

By John Chandler February 20, 2012

Highly influential abstract artist Mark Rothko (1903-1970) grew up in Portland and attended Lincoln High School before following his star to New York, where he eventually found like-minded artists and flourished. For more on the subject, please read Randy Gragg’s excellent arts essay featured in the magazine this month.

You may have noticed the name Rothko bandied around Portland’s cultural campfires of late, and with good reason. There’s a Rothko retrospective at Portland Art Museum running through May; Portland Center Stage’s latest production is Red, a two-man play starring noted Shakespearian actor (and Golden Globe nominated TV star) Daniel Benzali, that brings Rothko’s uncompromising views on art and commerce, to life. And next month, Third Angle Ensemble will present Rothko’s Chapel, an evening of music written by Rothko’s friend and contemporary Morton Feldman. But that’s not all…

During the run of PAM’s exhibition, Hotel Lucia will also roll out the Red carpet, offering discounted tickets to see Red, as well as a Rothko in Retrospect overnight package that includes tickets to the Rothko retrospective, a $20 gift certificate to the museum’s gift shop, and, if guests want to whet their whistles, a Rothko-inspired cocktail called Red on the Rocks, a biting and bracing variation on the Old Fashioned, devised by executive chef Andrew Biggs—the recipe for which is below.

Layer 3/4 oz. of Cherry Heering (cherry liqueur) in a rocks glass
Soak 1 cube of sugar in bitters
Muddle sugar, 3 Cara Cara Orange slices and add 1 1/2 oz. Bulleit Bourbon, and 1/2 oz. of Dolin Blanc (vermouth) and ice in mixing tin
Pour into glass
Float 3/4 oz. of Campari
Garnish with one Amarena Cherry

“I really wanted the colors to blend and transform, in tribute to Rothko’s artistic vision,” Biggs explains. It’s a lovely drink (available to everyone for $12 throughout the Rothko run), especially if you give the bourbon and Campari—two very strong and distinctive flavors—a chance to mingle. And after a couple drinks you can mingle with your fellow cultural traveler at one of the aforementioned events during this citywide soiree. Cheers, Mr. Rothko.

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