Gin lovers, rejoice: Urban Farmer’s Robbie Wilson is about to open a bar and jazz club dedicated to the juniper spirit, complete with build-your-own negroni and martinis, terroir-aged cocktails, and a seafood-heavy menu to complement gin. Botanist will move into the closed subterranean Pink Rose at 1300 NW Lovejoy Street this fall, hopefully by late September, where Wilson hopes Portlanders will fall in love with the martini again.
“I think a lot of people here don’t give a lot of love to martinis,” Wilson says. “I’m trying to get people to think about the gin they use, the dry vermouth they choose, forcing people to think through the proportions of vermouth to gin.” Both the negroni and martini sections of the cocktail menu will come with guidance: After you choose a gin, suggested vermouth pairings, bitters or tincture pairings, and serving methods — frozen, for instance — will follow. For those looking for something easy, Wilson will also have a simple cocktail menu, including things like Spanish infused gin & tonics.
Wilson designed several of the cocktails at Urban Farmer before he moved into management, and he plans to take the downtown restaurant’s love of house-grown touches to Botanist: A hydroponic garden will sit at the bar for cocktails, as well as a garden outside. One of the earthiest touches to his cocktail menu will be his “terroir-aged martini,” in which gin will steep with Oregon dried fruit, woods, and lava rock to develop a sense of local flavor. “You’ll get this really nuanced, very elegant martini that’s supposed to taste like Oregon.”
For sustenance, Wilson will have a food menu loaded with seafood, from a selection of oysters and rockfish to ceviche and seaweed. Similar to Urban Farmer, Wilson wants to focus on whole fish and limited waste, using fish bones and often-discarded parts for stocks and bisques. The bar, Wilson says, will feel very reflective of its name, celebrating natural life: Even in an underground space, Wilson will use green and brown touches to create a natural feel: “Imagine walking through the forest and you find a cave, with a tiny bit of light shining on a spot with tons of life,” he says. Whether it becomes the life of the Pearl remains to be seen; the bar should open in late September or early October.