Portlanders can now help fund aid for unhoused and low-income teens while popping by a neighborhood bar.
Mike and Courtney Nierengarten, the owners of Oregon-based distillery Dregs Vodka, opened Tini’s in January — a Portland tasting room on NW 23rd, pouring flights of mini-cocktails and selling bottles of its branded vodka. But the Nierengartens aren’t pocketing the sales from Tini’s; rather, the couple donates 100 percent of the profits from the bar and distillery to nonprofits specifically working with low-income youth, including Portland-based P:ear Mentor, Friends of the Children, and SMART Reading.
Local bartender Jon Davidson, who consults for companies like Wilderton, designed the mini-cocktails at Tini’s, intending to showcase the distillery’s vodka in offbeat ways. For example, the Toucan Sam’s cocktail sweetens and smooths out the spirit with Froot Loops simple syrup and grenadine, topping the glass with a skewer of Froot Loops. Alternatively, the Kind of a Big Dill complements the vodka with savory additions, like pickle juice and honey-jalapeno simple syrup. For those looking for something simple to highlight the vodka on its own, the ‘To Pea or Not To Pea’ sticks to a touch of lemon, simple, and butterfly pea flower for a violet-hued Lintik variant. The cocktail menu will evolve over time, keeping some staples and rotating others seasonally. Each cocktail is 2 ounces and $5 each, or visitors can opt for a flight of three cocktails for $13.
The Nierengartens didn’t come from a distilling or beverage industry background; for them, funding the distillery came from a desire to give back. The couple decided to specialize in vodka upon researching the numbers: In 2019, just over 74 million cases of vodka were sold in the United States, because of its versatility as a base spirit. Instead of learning how to distill spirits themselves, they partnered with Swallowtail Spirits in Springfield, Oregon, who produce the vodka under the Dregs label; from there, the Nierengartens distribute the vodka to liquor stores, restaurants, and other businesses — including Tini’s.
The profits from Dregs and Tini’s sales, after tax profit, then go to 14 different nonprofits and organizations. Dregs first donated its profits to Portland YouthBuilders, as Mike served on the nonprofit’s board; YouthBuilders provides free vocational training for underserved young adults. The couple has since expanded to include Oregon-based nonprofits like Project 48, which gives kids in foster care backpacks full of new clothes and toiletries, or the Shadow Project, which works with schools to build equitable programs for students with learning disabilities. The Nierengartens specifically choose nonprofits that benefit low-income youth in some way, and that serve communities where people can find Dregs. Considering Tini’s location, several of the nonprofits receiving Dregs profits are based in Portland.
Tini’s is located at 1650 NW 23rd Avenue in Slabtown.
• Tini’s [Official]