Tucked around behind the lobby of downtown Portland’s Woodlark Hotel, Abigail Hall occupies a space that was once the Ladies Reception Hall of the original Cornelius Hotel back in 1907. Named for women’s rights activist, Abigail Scott Duniway, the bar draws inspiration from women of history, honoring femininity and featuring a period decor that seems appropriate given the historic location.
The hotel lobby mixes classic design with a contemporary touch that feels both modern and traditional as you stroll past the front desk and down the hall to the left. At the end of the hall, a heavy curtain reveals a dim, comfortable space that seats 40 guests. Large hex tile flooring gives way to penny mosaic below, with coffered crown moulding above. Period wainscot and lush, hand-painted murals connect a corner bar and cozy fireplace surrounding a tufted circular “bench” seat shared by all of the marble tables.
Guests are brought to tables by the host which helps to balance seating and maintain each party’s claim vs. a would-be crowded free-for-all. We arrived near the start of service so it wasn’t busy, but as we sat, a line formed near the curtain. It is clear the space is setup to support the art of conversation as much as the art of cocktails. There were no stools at the short bar which we found most curious. The talent behind the stick enjoys plenty of room with an extra deep back bar, happily stirring two drinks with one hand and a shaker tin in the other.
We selected the Cloister from the happy hour menu, and the Walnut Oliveto—a fun and unexpected surprise based on Pip Hanson’s Marvel Bar original. We would have never thought to pair nocino with this lemon, olive oil and egg white modern classic. It was brave and delicious, while the Cloister with gin, Yellow Chartreuse, grapefruit and lemon was a perfect, complex citrus sipper.
Our second round included The Cobra’s Smooch, an impossible to ignore smokey Smith Zheng Shan tea-infused double-base of rhum and gin with gentian liqueur, vermouth and sherry for good measure. This was accompanied by the non-alcoholic Seltzer de Corse, an inspired bubbly and floral cabernet verjus beverage we would definitely order again. We enjoyed a few yummy bites and made our departure.
There is something for everyone at Abigail Hall, and we were excited to kickoff our Bar of the Month adventure with our visit. It was nice to see such creative options for guests seeking to avoid the alcohol, but if you do want to explore great boozy options, the menu is full of fat-washing, milk clarifying and tea infusing, with all spirit categories accounted for. We found plenty of reasons to visit and to return. And if you don’t care for nightlife they even do high tea on the weekends. This is not your typical hotel bar. Not by a long shot.
This was the first in a monthly Bar of the Month adventure. Click the link to see them all!