The whir of an ultrasonic dental cleaner isn’t the sound you’d hope for at a cute Sellwood café. But it’s the secret weapon in Either/Or owner Ro Tam’s teetotaling coffee cocktail arsenal.
In her quest to push coffee beyond the quotidian, Tam uses the machine to create cold extractions of ingredients like rose petal and cardamom. (Steeping in hot liquid, she says, clouds the flavors.) Tam’s growing apothecary of extracts drives her coffee creations, a rotating cast of seasonal drinks with the complexity of cocktails but none of the alcohol. She approximates negronis using the essence of grapefruit peel and cascara (the dried fruit of the coffee cherry) to stand in for Campari, and palm vinegar infused with juniper, allspice, and pine tips for the gin. “I want to show coffee as an ingredient versus just a way to get caffeinated,” says Tam.
In a city driving the third-wave coffee and craft cocktail movements, it’s no surprise to find the two trends colliding at the bar. Explore the brave new intersection of coffee and cocktails at these five spots around town.
Either/Or’s Devil’s Nog
Tam’s autumnal, latte-style “dry cocktail” is made with persimmon, cinnamon, cardamom, and a rather evil-looking Asian nut called a “bat nut” or “devil’s pod.” It has the dreamy texture of egg nog with a Creamsicle-like taste. 8235 SE 13th Ave #2, facebook.com/eitherorcafe
Bit House Saloon’s Breakfast with Paula Deen
This fall, Bit House pulls out all the stops with five coffee cocktails, both hot and cold. Our pick? Bar man Chauncey Roach’s cheeky Breakfast with Paula Deen: Water Avenue coffee, liquored up with cherry-washed bourbon, pecan milk, sorghum, and Angostura bitters. It’s fittingly served with an over-the-top garnish of Chantilly cream, bourbon-soaked cherries, and candied walnuts. 727 SE Grand Ave, bithousesaloon.com
Americano’s Bitter Coffee Tonic (now closed)
Boasting a mind-boggling assortment of vermouths and amari, the mod-fabulous bar makes a strong case for adding bitters to your brew. Bar manager Carlton Dunlap combines cold brew from house-roasted beans, Campari, tonic water, and vanilla tincture. As he explains: “the different bittering agents play off each other.” 2605 E Burnside St, americanopdx.com
Raven & Rose’s Café Gibraltar
No disrespect to Huber’s famous flaming cup o’ joe, but R&R’s chilled version, made with true Spanish-Caribbean flair, takes top marks for its Spella cold brew, spiked with sweet Pedro Ximénez sherry, Dos Maderas rum (aged in both the Caribbean and Spain), demerara syrup, and “orxata” cream made with chufa nuts. Need a warm-up? R&R’s bar celebrity David Shenaut makes one of the best Irish coffees in town. 1331 SW Broadway, ravenandrosepdx.com
Teardrop Lounge’s Café Calva
It doesn’t get any simpler than coffee and Calvados. But simple doesn’t cut it at Teardrop, where bartender Alejandro De La Parra tweaks tradition by using nitrogen-charged chicory cold brew for fine effervescence and “brooding, herbal flavors.” A little palm sugar adds butterscotch sweetness and a garnish of garam masala–whipped cream plays off the apple notes in the brandy. 1015 NW Everett St, teardroplounge.com