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CUhlCocktails 10 best cocktail and bar experiences in Portland, Oregon in 2023

You can have the best cocktails in the world and you can still have a terrible bar. You can have the most artistic presentation posible and still have a terrible bar. You cannot have an amazing staff and still have a terrible bar. As this generation says; "everything is a vibe." In order to have an incredible bar, I personally expect a balance of these things, or a very exceptional staff. At certain places, the drink doesn't matter at all because it draws me in for the social experience and I always have a great time when I am there. When you stack on amazing flavor and creativity it's a big bonus for me since I am a cocktail artist and enthusiast myself.


So much of a city's heartbeat lives within the realm of the gastronomy available there. I spent seven years living in and eating my way through Portland's exceptional array of flavors and fully consider it an incredible place for elevated and fresh food. Whether it be brunch, food carts that are breaking barriers, incredibly innovative producers, traditional restaurants, or even dedicated cocktail bars, Portland's food and flavors are certainly one of it's best characteristics as a city.


As a major enthusiast addicted to the exploration of flavors, after a concluding seven years in one of the best food cities in the States, I have decided to put a list together of the places in Portland where I found the best cocktail and bar experiences over this past year.


This was not an easy list to narrow down to 10, but I’m stoked to highlight these experiences!


1) At the top of our list is what I consider my home within Portland. This cash only intriguingly decorated oasis off 12th street is like time traveling and globe trotting in the same experience. Everyone on staff is absolutely wonderful, but don’t ask for a complicated cocktail. This is specifically a dive bar and rightfully so. It’s meant to be a place where you slowly sip in inexpensive beverage over hours of great conversation with incredible Portland locals.



2) The Rum Club is equally a special place. From the owner down, you will fund smiles and positive energy. Collectively you will find decades of cocktail knowledge and a staff wide collaborative menu that changes with the seasons. Don’t forget to grab a rum flight and taste the incredible globe full of rare and delightful rums!



3) Atlantis Lounge is hidden in the back of Mississippi Pizza pub in one of Portland’s most vibrant neighborhoods. On Wednesday nights, they feature Zander Emery, a chemistry focused drink artist accompanying one of the funniest and longest running weekly comedy shows in Portland; Dough Comedy. It’s an experience that had me going back every week for 7 years. Such a great time!



4) The Solo Club in Slabtown. A sexy bar that came back to Portland at the beginning of the year. This one made the list in two ways. First for it's namesake and a neon sign on the wall that states "It's okay to be solo." As someone who almost always goes out alone, this made me feel at home. The second reason I chose to highlight this moment was specific to this single experience of learning about a now new favorite cocktail the “Bee’s Kiss” simply just rum, honey & cream. Meet Nick, possibly one of the best bartenders that exists. He wouldn’t agree because he doesn’t have a drop of pretentious in him. His kindness and welcoming attitude make his bar top the best place to be. This was a guest shift, he just opened his own bar @toosoonpdx GO THERE! Experience it for me please! It will certainly be my very first stop next time I’m back in Portland! 





5) The Firkin Tavern had a rocky year, but they’re back and David will mix you up something intriguing. He has his own type of flair and breaks a lot of the rules as it’s very much a dive bar, but it is none the less a special place. For the majory of my time in Portland I considered this my "Cheers" bar. The place where everyone knew my name. Shout out to Todd, Courtney, AJ and the rest of the staff as well! 



6) Deadshot is oddly just down the street from the Firkin (12th street on the inner east side is the spot in PDX) but the patrons from each spot likely don’t know each other exists. Adam (the owner) is a super rad spirits educator with a lifelong love of the industry and it shows at Deadshot! This cocktail the “Grey Gusano” was one I made countless times when I worked at the Bit House under Adam’s good friend Tasha and I appreciated the homage. It’s a damn good cocktail!



7) The Holy Ghost Bar. I don’t know that much about this place and only went there once, but when I saw the “Ramos Gin Fizz” featured at the top of their menu, my bartender brain thought DAMN! That’s friggin' bold! Famously one of the worlds most laborious cocktails, I immediately felt remorse for the bartenders. I then asked and she pointed at the machine behind her and said that’s not for milkshakes. They have a Ramos machine! Therefore I did not have to feel guilty ordering one and boy are they utterly delicious! Their whole menu was impressive and their space was too. It was a huge place with a gorgeous patio. Their doing it right!



8) 5&Dime down Foster. The cocktails here are undeniably delicious. I almost didn’t put them on this list because their staff was not very friendly to me multiple times, but the bar as a whole is kind if my spirit animal. It is beautiful and well lit with a hint of elegance. It is also odd, has a punk rock vibe and often features punk rock and eclectic live rock shows. In larger part that’s when you’d find me there..



.. And here I have obligation to sneak in an 8.5 on the list; StarDay Tavern (it really belings as like a 1.5 or 4.5, but here we are) the self proclaimed “Best worst bar in Portland.” It is next to 5&Dime and has (for me) the best vibe on Foster, hands down. Much like the Roadside your not getting a fancy drink there and if you ask for one they’ll probably dish you out a “princess shot.” Their jello shot topped with whipped cream and pop rocks. Hell yea! I’m a princess only when I go to StarDay!


9) Abigail Hall snuck in on this list thanks to a friend inviting me for happy hour. It’s an upscale hotel bar in downtown hidden up on the first floor of the Woodlark hotel. It celebrates femininity In it’s history as well as its design and offerings and the cocktails were delightfully flavorful! Plus they have a killer happy hour!



10) Swan Dive PDX - an 80’s inspired dancehall built into an old saloon space that used to be called the Bit House where I originally elevated my bar career in Portland. The space has more than a hundred years of history and is the pivot point of my career. I stayed loyal to it when the ownership changed and it went from being the Bit House Collective to the Swan Dive PDX. This specific cocktail blew my socks off! “Mustard Up the Courage” aquavit, dijon simple, black pepper distillate, & ginger beer. Sounds intense, but it was SO GOOD! Certainly near the top of the best tasting I've ever enjoyed personally.





I would highly recommend any of these places to anyone who is visiting or lives in Portland. They are truly large parts of what makes Portland a lovely city. Many of the cocktails I have featured in this article were part of a seasonal menu, but I am sure they will have something quite tasty to offer you!

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