Saturday night is last call for one of Portland's top bartenders. At least for now.
Adam Robinson, most recently the bar manager at Rum Club, is following his wanderlust once again, but this time he's going all the way to the capital of Taiwan to take a job as bar manager at Ounce Taipei, a two-year-old cocktail den.
"I really like going to places for an extended period of time instead of a vacation for just a couple weeks," says Robinson. "I've lived in Europe. I've spent time in Africa. I just spent six months in the Caribbean. But I've never been to Asia and I've always been fascinated by the culture. And I love Asian food."
Robinson first made his name in Portland behind the bar at Park Kitchen, and later earned raves as the opening bartender at The Bent Brick. In 2012 he was named Eater Portland's Bartender of the Year, before moving on to Rum Club.
With the move to Taipei he becomes something of a cocktail ambassador, bringing a piece of Portland's cocktail-savvy culture to a place that's just starting to awaken to the possibilities. "Excluding Japan, the cocktail scene there is extremely young," says Robinson. "You're serving them the first cocktail they've had in their life. That's why the bar has no menu. People would look at it and not know what it is or what the ingredients are."
Instead, the bartenders talk to the customers to find out their tastes, and come up with cocktails to suit them. And trends that seem passe here are totally fresh there. "Ounce Taipei is an American-style speakeasy," says Robinson. "You go in the back of the coffee shop and you hit a button and the wall opens up and there are 25 seats. It's totally played out in the States, but it's so new there."
But that doesn't mean Robinson expects to just coast. Not only will he face the challenges of learning a new language and customs, he's hoping to expand his skills by working with the other bartenders on the team. "I'm very excited to work with Japanese styles of bartending. I'm going to work with some people who will probably look at things very differently from myself. It'll be a great learning opportunity."
His contract with Ounce Taipei is for one year. After that, he's open to wherever life takes him, whether it's Portland or some other far-flung locale. But he says he'll definitely be back at some point. "I'm going to miss Portland. I've been here for five years. I love this town. But Portland is going to be here, it's not going anywhere. I've got two round-trip tickets. I'll be back."
Robinson's last shifts at Rum Club are Friday and Saturday night (Oct. 31 and Nov. 1). Swing by one more time and wish him luck. And while you're there, you can say hello to Joel Westrom, who's been promoted from the floor to a position behind the bar. "I'm super happy for him," says Robinson. "He's really worked for it and deserves it, and he'll be a great addition."