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Star Bartenders Jeffrey Morgenthaler and Benjamin Amberg Are Opening Their Own Bar

The former Clyde Common duo will open Pacific Standard in the Kex Hotel in early June

Two white men in collard shirts lean smiling against a stylish copper bar.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler and Benjamin “Banjo” Amberg at the soon-to-open Pacific Standard
Rachelle Hacmac/Official

During his decade-long stint at downtown’s Clyde Common and Pépé le Moko, bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler and his team won numerous accolades, including seven nominations for the James Beard Outstanding Bar Program. With drinks like the Bourbon Renewal and barrel-aged negroni, Morgenthaler helped develop Portland as a renowned cocktail destination. But despite its lauded status and wild popularity, Clyde Common was unable to weather the pandemic, and officially, permanently closed its doors earlier this year. Now, the Oregonian first reported, Morgenthaler is back—along with his longtime bar partner Benjamin “Banjo” Amberg, Morgenthaler is gearing up to open his own bar. Pacific Standard will open in early June in the spacious and stylish lobby of the Scandinavian hotel KEX.

With Pacific Standard, Morgenthaler and Amberg are leaning into the hotel lobby vibe. Drinks will mostly lean towards the lighter, more “sessionable” kind that can be enjoyed at any time of day. For instance, a draft michelada, espresso martinis spiked with Spanish brandy, and what the team is calling an “all day” bloody mary.

“I’ve always said that if you’re drinking a bloody mary after the sun goes down, there’s something wrong with you. But I like challenging myself, so I thought, what if there was a bloody mary that could be drank all day?” Morgenthaler says. So he and his team crafted a bloody mary mix that’s much lighter than the traditional style. “It’s a super light, zesty drink like the Caesar. It’s not like drinking a jar of marinara sauce.”

To help guide diners through the menu, each drink will be listed with its ABV, from zero-percent up. That way, visitors will have an easier time finding something to fit their mood, whether that’s lighter —like the draft Aperol spritz or the passionfruit Ramos gin fizz— or something a little stronger, like the Lobby Irish Coffee. Morgenthaler’s own line of canned cocktails, made in conjunction with Eugene brewery Ninkasi, will be an easy way for visitors to take drinks to go.

Alongside the Aperol spritz and michelada, the draft menu will include all the wines the bar has to offer, save perhaps a few bottles of bubbly. The wines will be overwhelmingly local, featuring the winemakers that Morgenthaler and Amberg have forged relationships with over the years. The beers, too, will feature local producers and be entirely on draft.

Beyond the drink menu, the duo is designing the food program, with help from chef Jason French, formerly of Ned Ludd. “I’ve always wanted to do this,” says Morgenthaler. “We designed it from the bar out, designing the food program to the drink. It’s a completely holistic program that’s all us.” Avoiding the usual bar trappings of deep-fried foods, the menu will instead focus on West Coast-inspired dishes including a classic cheeseburger, Bay Area caviar, raw oysters, shrimp cocktails, and whole leaf Caesar salads. Fans of Morgenthaler’s chocolate chip cookie recipe will be happy to know that, while initially hesitant to do so, he will be serving them at the bar.

Initially, the bar will open in the afternoon, so breakfast may be a ways off, but Morgenthaler says it will follow the same model of lighter, cocktail-friendly fare. Also in development is a happy hour, for which Morgenthaler likes the idea of a flat $2 off all items.

Pacific Standard will operate from 3 p.m. to midnight daily at 100 NE Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard, but Morgenthaler tells the Oregonian that he hopes to quickly expand those hours, opening early in the morning and closing later, like 1 or 2 a.m. By early summer, he also hopes to open the rooftop bar as the Sunset Room. This will have a totally separate cocktail menu, which Morgenthaler describes as “irreverent” and “bonkers.” Details, however, are still being kept close to the chest.

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