Hey, Barkeep! 5 Local Bartenders to Watch

Savvy shakers share their signature drinks, cocktail philosophy, and where they sip on their nights off.

By Rachel Ritchie February 3, 2014 Published in the February 2014 issue of Portland Monthly

Adam Ho

Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen 

Ho c5xanw

Signature Drink: Hello & Goodbye—an effervescent, food-friendly mix of rum, roasted coconut water, and lime juice, served carbonated on tap

Backstory: A member of his family’s third generation of pho-slinging restaurateurs, Ho cooked for three years at Pho PDX under the tutelage of his mother, Le Ho, before hopping over to the bar when they expanded to open Luc Lac. Since 2011, the affably dapper Ho has grown Luc Lac’s bar program into one of the city’s most wildly creative cocktail galleries.

Philosophy: “I like to start with a Vietnamese ingredient, and get inspired from there,” says Ho. Pineapple syrup spiced with Thai chiles, for instance, might find itself paired with bitters and a smoky scotch to spin into a sweet, sultry sister to an old-fashioned. Likewise, green tea, condensed milk, pho syrup, and lychee share the spotlight on a menu that reads like an Asian acid trip and drinks like a dream.

Where He Drinks: “My home bar would have to be the Rum Club. I’m simple: it’s always a beer and a shot.”

Chauncey Roach


Roach xhsvk0

Signature Drink: The Mint Julep—a build-your-own kit of parts, with a rocks glass of mint granita topped with edible flowers and a tall shot of Four Roses bourbon on the side

Backstory: Roach has spent most of his career in kitchens rather than bars: he was a line cook and butcher at Nostrana for three years and a sous-chef at Caffe Mingo for two years. After he got “burnt out on Italian food,” he decided to try his hand at dreaming up cocktails to match chef Anthony Cafiero’s freewheeling modern cooking at Ración.

Philosophy: Roach begins with the classic cocktails, and ponders how to best deconstruct them—maintaining their essence but mixing in some novelty. “My goal is to make cocktails more interactive, more fun, more tied into food,” he says. “Anthony and I are always brainstorming new ideas. Right now we’re trying to make Alka-seltzer.” 

Where He Drinks: “I love Cassidy’s and Clyde Common. And the dealer’s-choice daiquiri at the Rum Club is definitely a favorite.”

Taylor Gerhts


Gehrts yqwolp

Signature Drink: The Rum—a darkly smoky but lightly sweet mingling of black cardamom–infused rum, tamarind, and honey

backstory:A Portland native, Gehrts has toiled in the service industry for as long as he can remember. He launched his bartending career with a brief stint at the Old Spaghetti Factory before joining the bar crew at Nostrana for five years. There, he met sous-chef Johanna Ware, who invited him to help create a liquid counterpart to her “inauthentic Asian” bites when she split off to open Smallwares in 2012.

Philosophy: “I used to start with the basic ratios: sweet, sour, and bitter,” says Gehrts. “But I’ve become much more influenced by the culinary side, and by the Asian pantry.” Such leanings lead to flavorful cocktails in which spices take the classic place of bitters. Keep an eye out for syrups and tinctures made from Sichuan peppercorn, garam masala, ginger, and tamarind.

Where He Drinks: “Most recently, I really enjoyed the cocktails at Trifecta Tavern. They’re doing a lot of classics really solidly—cold drinks, emulsifications, flips. And, of course, an old standby is Rum Club.”

Angel Teta


Teta q9g4rs

Signature Drink: Sangria—sous-vide brandy (infused in an immersion circulator with cinnamon, vanilla bean, apples, pears, orange and lemon peels, pimentón, salt, and rose hips) brings new levels of depth when combined with red wine and fresh citrus.

Backstory: Teta began waiting tables at her mother’s pizza joint in Florida in ninth grade—by 18, she was juggling orders at a gay nightclub in Daytona Beach. She happened upon Portland in 2006 and fell in love with the city, taking a bar job at Three Degrees—meanwhile, she made it her business to know every bar and bartender in town. In early 2013, she helped open Raven & Rose’s Rookery Bar with David Shenaut and then joined the familia at Ataula, chef Jose Chesa’s buzzy Catalonian tapas temple in Nob Hill. 

Philosophy: “Jose has been cooking since he was 14,” says Teta. “I want to craft cocktails around what he’s doing in the kitchen.” That means reliable, low-proof drinks with vibrant spices and unobtrusive flavors.

Where She Drinks: Rum Club is almost like a family to me. It’s effortlessly cool. And you can do a shotski! I also love Muu-Muu’s—we’ll go get bombed and then get pedicures.” 

Michael Shea

Rum Club

Shea bs5c05

Signature Drink: Rum Club DaiquiriBacardi 8 rum shaken with fresh lime juice and demerara syrup, spiked with maraschino, a few drops of absinthe, and angostura bitters

Backstory:After moving to Portland from Pittsburgh in 1993 with fellow barman Kevin Ludwig (La Taq), Shea helped open Wildwood in 1994 as a busser. In 1995, he ascended to Wildwood’s bar, where he stayed until 2001, veering off from fine dining and into the club world, working at downtown’s XV and then
managing the Doug Fir’s bar. When Ludwig opened the former mixology mecca Beaker & Flask in 2009, Shea joined him there at the bar before opening his own cult wedge of cocktail heaven, Rum Club, in 2011.

Philosophy: “I’m all about the daiquiri,” says Shea. “Rum, lime, and sugar is the holy trinity—it’s three chords and a bridge. But I also love the idea of dirty tikis: taking those tropical flavors and spice flavors and stomping on them with bitterness.”

Where He Drinks:“I love Hale Pele, love Teardrop. But I end up at restaurants a lot—I think Tom [Lindstedt’s] program at Little Bird is really underrated.” 

Filed under
Show Comments