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Destination Portland: Clyde Common

Kimberly and I have a new favorite location for great food and even better cocktails, but it requires a little planning to get there from St. Paul. That's because this destination is all the way over the Rocky Mountains in Portland, Oregon. The object of our affection is Clyde Common, a Downtown/Pearl District hot spot that is helping to define the cocktail revolution.

Before I jump right into the cocktails, it's important to mention that first and foremost, Clyde Common is a restaurant. The decor has a basic, modern look that reminds me of a warehouse. The stenciled labels on the wall identify the "KITCHEN" or the "BAR" with a somewhat industrial look that is softened by wooden tables and candles glowing from every corner.

We were seated in front of the open kitchen at a huge table that seats perhaps 20 guests. This "common" seating arrangement was interesting, and repeated throughout the main level with smaller tables along the mezzanine rail. The tables are just wide enough that you don't feel as though you are really sharing dinner with the guests across from you, and yet you could easily make new friends gathered around the corners. I ordered the beef carpaccio as a starter and Kimberly chose an asparagus salad with tarragon puree. My entree was an amazing chicken confit with morels and cream sauce. Kimberly ordered a spicy fresh pasta with squid that was equally impressive.

Ok, so the food was delicious, made with fresh, local ingredients. But it was the cocktails and the reputation of the bar manager that really led me to investigate Clyde Common. Jeffrey Morgenthaler is the man behind the stick creating all of the magic. If you are a regular reader of Summit Sips you might recall a post a while back about how to make your own tonic water. Well, it was Jeffrey's recipe that got me started on that project and his skills with the shaker and spoon are somewhat legendary at this point. To start our evening we decided to try something totally unique: barrel-aged cocktails.

For a couple of months now, Mr. Morgenthaler has been batch mixing cocktails and putting them into oak barrels to age for several weeks. This results in a sublime melange of flavors with a light oak finish. I had the Negroni and Kimberly tried the Trident. After dinner we returned to the bar to enjoy more.

The Trident cocktail was created by Robert Hess in 2000. You can read about this newly popular cocktail on his website. Ours was aged in whiskey barrels, but you can still make an excellent cocktail without that!

1 oz dry sherry
1 oz Cynar
1 oz aquavit
2 dashes peach bitters

Stir with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

For those of you keeping score, we tried the One Trick Pony, a bitter cocktail featuring Pelinkovak, a Croatian potable bitters balanced with maraschino liqueur and boosted with the aforementioned house tonic. Then there was the Bourbon Renewal, a Maker's Mark sour using cassis as a sweetener augmented with bitters. Our last round included a wonderful sherry cocktail that contained Amontillado, Aperol and grapefruit called the Suicide Note, and the Copper Penny: a frosty potion of rye, pear and apricot brandies, Angostura and lemon peel.

All told, I think we picked an excellent spot to kick off our visit to Portland. I can now cross it off my list, yet, even with plenty of other local destinations to explore, I have a feeling we will find our way back to Clyde Common again before the week is over!

8 comments to Destination Portland: Clyde Common

  • Chun li

    I follow your website for quite a lengthy time and ought to tell that your content articles often prove to be of a high value and quality for readers.

  • Ok, thanks, Chun li. Glad to hear you are enjoying the content!

  • Scott

    Randy, you tossed me over to the Trident from the conversation we had on the Norwegian Wood..and you hit on another great recommendation! Amazing layers of tastes..from the herbals of the aquavit and the Cynar to the nuttiness of the sherry...! would be interesting to try it with a sweeter sherry, esp after reading that Hess based this as a distant cousin to the Negroni, which is a fine blend of sweet and bitter in itself...

    ..next is to try a Negroni with Aquavit as a Gin stand in...



  • Scott, I know what you mean about the sweet flavors. I make my Negroni with Carpano Antica Formula, but lately I have been mixing things up a bit trying to work in replacements like Madiera or adding a little Fernet Branca, Aperol and Cynar. I really enjoy the complex flavor of these spirit-driven bitter cocktails. I am glad you do too!

  • Scott

    Love the Carpano Antica Formula...I havent used anything else since discovering C-A-F!...prior i was using Punt e Mes for most my Sweet vermouth needs...

    keep sharing these beverages...!

  • Agreed. It's hard not to use Carpano Antica while you have it. However, Dolin Rouge has a wonderful flavor too. It's different than Carpano, but lets be honest, CAF tastes great all by itself!

  • Derick

    Just back from a weekend in PDX. Made it to Clyde Common for a barrel-aged Negroni, a Bourbon renewal and a Bottle Rocket (gin/apricot/citrus) which was our favorite. All excellent! Thanks for this blog entry, Randy! The highlight of the trip was a tour and tasting at Clear Creek Distillery. Amazing selections!

    • Derick, there are a growing number of distilleries in Portland which is awesome, but I haven't yet made it to Clear Creek. Before moving out here, it was one of the places I read about when I wrote a post about making cranberry liqueur. They are one of the few distillers making it. I need to check them out!

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