503 Distilling is best known for its line of canned cocktails, including its popular Wicked Mule and Blood Orange Greyhound, but this winter, it went back to basics. The distillery has opened a cocktail lounge in the Brooklyn neighborhood’s Iron Fireman Collective building, with both made-to-order and draft cocktails served alongside spiced lamb sloppy joes.
503 Distilling opened in 2017 in Oregon City, producing gin, whiskey, rum, and vodka, but but what set the distillery apart was its canned cocktails, made with its own spirits. It quickly gained popularity, landing on store shelves across the country; in 2021, co-founders Dave Schleef and Rusty Caldwell decided the operation had outgrown its space, and started the move to Portland.
Willamette Week broke the news that the distillery has opened as a bar with a full on-premise license, which means it can sell full-sized cocktails rather than the smaller, sample-sized drinks often seen on Portland distillery crawls. The popular canned cocktails are available on draft, but the team also tapped bartender Danni Mailhiot, whose experience includes tenure at Nostrana and Headwaters. Visitors can order cocktails made with the distillery’s spirits like the Apple Jacks, with Gambler Whiskey, apple juice, lemon, and bitters, or the Brooklyn Yard with vodka, rhubarb, and whiskey. “We use our draft cocktail line as our R&D,” says Caldwell. “If one of our drink gets hype, we can dial it in to make it canned.” Diners are also able to order any of the drinks to-go.
Rather than opting for their own kitchen, the team relies on the Indian street food-inspired sandwiches and snacks from Chaat Wallah, from the team behind Desi PDX — think: masala pulled pork sandwiches, nachos topped with paneer and tamarind date chutney, or a take on bhel puri made with Fritos. Schleef notes that the food will also be available at the nearby Ruse Brewing, who also provides the beer on tap at 503 Distilling.
The space also serves as a full retail shop, selling the canned cocktails and bottled spirits to go. The dining room features custom-built tables and can seat around 35 diners, with capacity for up to 50. 503 Distillling’s cocktail lounge is open from 3 to 9 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays and 1 to 7 p.m. at 4784 SE 17th Avenue.