Portland vs Seattle

Have you been to Portland recently?  Actually, I wonder what the rest of the country knows about Portland?  Probably, the answer to that question is,’Very little’.  If you consider Seattle to be a small town, then Portland is surely then one of the biggest small cosmopolitan cities out there.  There are around 600K people in Portland, which makes Portland maybe five times smaller than Seattle.  And, yet, for this size, they are impressively wise to the world and culturally sophisticated.  As opposead to many Seattleites, Portlanders are hppy to live in Portland and are not afraid to behave as such.

One very noticeable and particular Portland trait is that the Portlanders go out, and when they go out, they have lots of great places to choose from when they spend all this time outside of their home.  They go out.  A lot.  For Portland’s size, I can only surmise that there are more really good restaurants and bars than is reasonable.

There was a pretty good contingent of Seattlites that escaped down to Portland this weekend.  The main reason was the House Spirits 3rd Annual Booze Bazaar on this last Saturday (12/13/08).  Even though pretty much any excuse will do, what a great reason to go to Portland, right?

So, with the news of this event, a contingent of Seattlites decided to go down, as if one needed an excuse.  There were bartenders from Liberty, from Vessel and from Sonja’s, there was a representative of alcohol’s old guard, there were lots of Munats and an epicurian’s epicurian.  Some drove and the more sane amongst them took the train.  Immediately upon leaving their bags at the Ace or Jupiter Hotel, the crew immediately converged upon House.


House Spirits – House Spirits is a distillery in Portland that distills the Aviation Gin, Medoyeff Vodka and Krogstad Aquavit.  House Spirits was one of the first micro-distilleries in Oregon, krogstaadand since they started distilling these three spirits as part of the official House Spirits lineup, they’ve also taken to distilling products for other alcopreteures, such as the Absinthe Marteau, Ransom Spirit‘s Grappa and their Ransome Old Tom Gin, Sub Rosa Spirits and a few others.

There’s lots of reasons to be fans of House Spirits and especially about their annual Booze Bazaar.  Here, attendees were able to sample the various spirits and other goodies such as local cheeses from the Oregon Cheese Guild and chocolates from Xocolatl de Davíd.  The standout for me (besides the Absinthe Marteau, of which I am a big fan) was the Ransome Old Tom Gin.  I really love the new interest in old tom gins, and I think that Ransome did a fine job with theirs and I look forward to pouring it for customers.  Surely Ransome is a heavy gin, slightly aged in the old tom custom and without any assistance, a cocktail unto itself.

Even though I talk a lot about the impact of the cocktail and distilling cultures in Portland, I should add that per capita, Portland has to have more good restaurants than any other smallish town that’s not a summer destination.  365 days a year, there are all sorts of really good restaurants in Portland, from the really creative 50 Plates to a Greek place that I forget the name of that was fantastic.  All I had was the fool and a gyro sandwich, but they were great.  All the pitas are homemade by this one guy that I watched make batch after batch, surely earning himself the thanks of the many patrons and a good case of repetitive stress disorder.

Next, while we thought that we’d be going back to House for more hobnobbing over micro-distilled spirits (I never was able to taste their rum and whiskey), we actually ended up meeting back at Clyde Common,clydecommon a really enjoyable bar attached to the Ace Hotelace1 These guys know what they’re doing, and of the three times that I have been here, I have gotten not just a great cocktail, but a surprisingly creative cocktail.  For instance, the first time I went to Clyde Commons and sat at their bar was the first time that I really ‘got’ Aquavit in a cocktail:

Viking Quest

  • Krogstad Aquavit
  • Barolo Chinato
  • Campari
  • Orange Juice

This cocktail is everything that a great drinks should be.  It’s immediately and obviously enjoyable, even to those who may think that they don’t like Aquavit.  And, on top of that, it’s creative and surprising.  Whomever invented this drink surely did not take the easy way out when they came up with the Viking Quest.

This time, I didn’t get the Viking Quest, I was sipping on the Weller 107proof bourbon,

Leaving here, we then went to Mint/820, the grande dame of the Portland cocktail revival.  As the story was related to me, Mint was the first real ‘cocktail’ bar in Portland, which is known for this fact, the fame of Mint/820’s owner, and for hiring really attractive female bartenders and staff.  To tell you the truth, I don’t remember much about Mint/820 except on a Saturday night the bar section held a private party so we were resigned to sit in the restaurant section and that the staff was rather attractive.  Rocky had a gin and tonic…

I may be mixing up the order, but I believe that after this we went to Secret Society, “Ballroom & Recording Studio” with a nice little bar with a few seats in front of the bartender and a number of tables around the single room that constiuted the bar proper. [Note to self: start taking pictures…]  I liked this place, if not for the same quality of cocktail as we had at Clyde Common but that the bartender was friendly and the general vibe was pleasant.  Oh – it has one of the more pleasant women’s bathrooms that I’ve seen in a while.  Comfy couches, a nice big mirror…men never get this treatment.  Maybe if more of us fucked better?  Who knows.

After this, we went to one of my favorite places the first time that I went to portland: Ten-01.  Ten-01 really has a great bar program.  A) It’s a really pleasant bar at which to sit for a while, B) a good selection of spirits, and C) they have a very creative bar staff.  Both times that I have been to Ten-01, the bartender (Kelly?) was just a pleasure to watch.  One of our possee had the Île de France, another surprising and creative cocktail:

Île de France

  • Sparkling Wine
  • Cognac
  • Chartreuse

Unfortunately, I forget the exact ratio for the Cognac to the Charteuse,chartreusevep but play around with it, put it in a nice tulip glass and I guarantee you that you’ll love it.  It’s one of those cocktails where the ingredients meet each other and becomepicassocubist a wholly different drink, ‘You mean like a Long Island Iced Tea?’, dryly suggested by Robert ‘Drinkboy’ Hess. Yes, Robert.  I suppose so, like a Long Island Iced Tea.  But…in an overstated manner, similar to how one may describe a cubist-era Picasso painting as ‘childlike’.

I had the Pistache:


  • Jamaican Rum
  • Pistachio Cordial
  • Lime

Generally, rum holds little interest for me.  My favorite rum so far has been the excellent Havana Club Anejõ, so don’t listen to much of anything that I say about rum.  But, this drink looked interesting, so I went for it and I was happily rewarded.  First of all, Kelly (?) makes the Pistachio Cordial, which he says, ‘Is like Falernum, but with pistacio instead of almond’.  Genius.  Whether he’s the genius that came up with it or someone else I do not know, but I DO know that I’m going to make some this week.  Probably, I should call them and get the recipe before spending hours on this effort, but the process is part of the fun.  Anyway – it’s a very interesting drink.

At this point, the possee broke up.  Some people went to 50 Plates to see Lance, but Robert and I had walked in to the really incredible Teardrop Lounge, Danielteardrop sat us down at the bar, and we were not leaving.  See – the Teardrop is like a really, really terrific and beautiful woman.  Is that a bit meladramatic?  Yes, but I think that you get the point – once we were in there, we were not going anywhere.  In fact, Teardrop needs it’s own Alcohology post, so I will just have to leave now and start a whole new post about this really unique and amazing bar.  Before that though, I will say that this was the last bar of the night for me.  I had seen enough bars in Portland, I had enough drinks over the last few hours and I was sure that no other place was going to top my Teardrop experience.  So, I happily sat at the bar, was handed drinks by owner Daniel Shoemakerh.  Why the fuck I did not write down each drink’s name?  I don’t know.  What the hell is my problem?

2 Responses to “Portland vs Seattle”

  1. Calamityville Says:

    What a fabulous report on my hometown’s finer bars and other resources. It’s always good to see things through another person’s eyes – gives me a new appreciation our local treasures.

  2. the Gin and Tonic was after the disastrous Pisco Sour at Mint

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