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Portland Bar Review: Victoria

Have you ever wished for a friendly, neighborhood bar with a good tap beer selection, fantastic craft cocktails with a nostalgic flair, and delicious food where you can eat, drink, and socialize on a nice patio, huddle in a quiet corner, or muscle up to the bar to watch all of the action behind the stick? North Portland's Victoria Bar checks all of the boxes! We absolutely love the drink menu that features Princess Bride themed cocktails with names like The Cliffs of Insanity and The Six Fingered Man. Lisa Victoria Hare is creating some amazing flavors in her Lightning Bar Collective space. We recommend trying the Pit of Despair cocktail (if it's on the menu yet). We can't wait to return!

Final Say

There are a handful of cocktails in our experience that anyone reading this should recognize, or at the very least, drinks you should try. One example is the Last Word—a forgotten classic until it was unearthed by Seattle bartending legend Murray Stenson of Zig Zag Café. To the uninitiated, its bold and unusual flavor profile featuring both Luxardo maraschino liqueur and Green Chartreuse can be a revelation. The fact that it is citrus-based makes it accessible, and if you are a self-proclaimed gin hater, it is a drink that can definitely open your mind to the wonderful possibilities that a good craft cocktail can offer. Don't feel like you need to make the Last Word before you try today's feature, but if you haven't had the pleasure you are certainly missing out. Knowing one drink can also serve as a convenient benchmark for judging another.

As good as

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Seattle Bar Review: Zig Zag Cafe

One of the most important cocktail bars in the Pacific Northwest, Zig Zag Cafe is situated along the staircase above the Seattle Aquarium near the the famous Pike Place Market. No trip to Seattle is complete (if you enjoy a good drink) without stopping here. Home of bartending legends like Murray Stenson and Erik Hakkinen, Zig Zag was an early west coast destination in the current cocktail renaissance that helped establish the fact that great drinks can be made outside of New York!

Cold Brew & Tonic

Normally, we don't reach for tonic when we want a cocktail. The old G&T may be a popular choice, but we think it's because people don't know what else to make with gin. It's a shame because many of the best classic cocktails call for gin—not vodka—not only because vodka was unknown in the pre-prohibition era, but because gin brings something extra to a cocktail that simply isn't there otherwise—and we don't mean juniper. It may be a requirement in gin, but not all brands choose to emphasize juniper flavor, allowing other botanicals, citrus and even spice to play the center role. Yet, even with strong, piney examples, gin is transformed by other ingredients in a way that can be hard to explain to people who think they are gin-averse. But tasting is believing.

On a recent trip to Minnesota to visit some of our former haunts, we happened

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Portland Bar Review: Bible Club

Remember back in college when you used to tell your parents you were going to meet some friends at "The Library", but instead of studying, that was the name of a local bar you were visiting? Well, last week, we finally made our way to Bible Club. Of course, it's not a place of worship—unless you place the vintage art of craft cocktails above all else!

Visiting Bible Club is like stepping back in time to an era when alcohol may have been taboo, but you'd be willing to break the law to experience a libation made just for you by a professional using the right tools, ingredients and technique. It's a speakeasy in every sense, with an unassuming residential facade that hides an authentic, antique atmosphere within. Attention is paid to every detail, from the 24k gold ceiling and antique decor to the use of period bar tools

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Portland Bar Review: Ataula

The commercial area around NW 23rd has plenty of reasons to attract folks interested in shopping, dining and drinking, and thanks to Ataula, it also has a fantastic restaurant that is home to delicious tapas and paella—as well as a great cocktail program. Chef Jose Chesa puts his passion to work in the kitchen but isn't afraid to wander the tables to ensure everyone is enjoying their meals. We weren't sure where to start, so we let the staff take care of us with an impromptu tasting menu of the chef's choosing. If you love Spanish fare, put Ataula high on your list of destinations. The bar program is also expertly managed by Angel Tata who adds a touch of Spain to most recipes and makes a fine Sangria to boot! We also loved the Elixir de Amontillado.

Portland Bar Review: Imperial

What can we say but the facts. This is a great downtown spot on SW Broadway that always has delicious food and a terrific cocktail menu. Being one of chef Vitaly Paley's restaurants, it's arguably one of the top places to eat in Portland. With cocktails created by former barman and local mixology hero, Brandon Wise, it's hard to go wrong at Imperial. Come for happy hour and sit at the bar where you might stare right past (or through) gigantic blocks of crystal clear ice. Imperial does craft cocktails properly, serving unusual combinations and house mixers (radish gastrique is amazing!). They even have a couple of cocktails on tap along with wine, beer, cider and even some carefully constructed non-alcoholic selections.