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A cocktail from Bar Comala.
Bar Comala

The Cocktail Heatmap: Where to Drink Right Now in Portland

The most exciting new bars in Portland, December 2022

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A cocktail from Bar Comala.
| Bar Comala

Like its culinary scene, Portland’s bar world continues to evolve and grow, with new concepts and creations arriving all the time. At bars across the city, inventive, balanced cocktails are imbibed alongside elevated bar snacks and full-on meals which are often tailored to the drink menu instead of the other way around. While the essential bar map rounds up the best, longstanding watering holes, and the heatmap rounds up the best new restaurants and food carts, this map directs drinkers to the hottest or newest cocktail bars that are worth the hype. Bars on the map have been open less than a year to qualify.

Note: Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Bar Cala

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Millennial pink isn’t dead at this Latin bar that serves refreshing cocktails that combine tequila and Aperol or bourbon with mole. The bar has recently switched up its splashy summer menu for more cold weather drinks, like a banana liqueur Old Fashioned and a mezcal negroni. Hungry drinkers will find dishes like clams-and-mussels with chorizo or shrimp ceviche on the seafood-heavy food menu. The bar’s high ceilings are festooned with lush greenery and fairy lights, and music pumps steadily through the speakers, giving the place a Palm Springs party vibe.

Cereus PDX

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Visit this bar, which pulls inspiration from cocktails around the world, to sip on a Prince of Edinia, which was originally created for a cocktail competition in Mexico. The cocktail is positively royal looking, from its purple hue down to the glass goblet it’s served in, and marries the corn-based Peruvian beverage chicha morada with tequila and a ginger-cayenne syrup under a cloud of egg white. Vibrant dishes like Colombian street-style ceviches and salmon tiraditos vie for space on tables adorned with mini floral arrangements from across-the-street neighbor Colibri. To get up close to the action, sit up at the intimate bar or near the open kitchen in the two-room space.

Mendelssohn’s

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Devoted to chamber music, this bar is owned by a direct descendant of its namesake, 19th century German composer Felix Mendelssohn. In addition to a calendar of live music from local instrumentalists and opera karaoke nights, the cocktail menu here is a draw for lovers of classical music — it’s stacked with libations with names like Bach Talk and A Drink Without Words (a play on Mendelssohn’s “Songs Without Words”). The food menu is lean, consisting of a charcuterie board and a few sandwich options, but the bar also allows patrons to bring over food from neighboring Bar Bar.

Drifter

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Striking a balance between casual and sophisticated, this European-style bar takes over Saint Simon Coffee’s Northeast 15th Avenue location in the evenings from Thursday through Sunday. The cocktail menu is short and sweet — four cocktails in total — and any imbiber who sits at the cross-section of coffee enthusiast would be remiss not to order the Saint Simon Martini, which deftly blends vodka, Kahlua, and Coava espresso. The bar’s wine list is curated by Chevonne Ball, a 2020 Wine Enthusiast 40 Under 40 honoree who owns Dirty Radish, a travel company which hosts wine tours in Oregon and France.

The Sports Bra

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Portland’s first ever all-women’s sports bar has been attracting massive crowds into its cozy, pub-like space since it opened. The sports aspect of the bar is present without being intrusive: A few flat screens air all manner of women’s sports, and Thorns and other female teams’ jerseys line the walls. Its drink program is likewise women-driven, with one section devoted entirely to Freeland Spirits cocktails, Portland’s own women-owned distillery. Most drinks are variations on classics made with local spirits, like the Pickle Ball, a dirty martini with Freeland gin. However the Goat is a good place to start, a bright and balanced cocktail which gets a nutty richness from Geneva gin and the bittersweet touch of Aperol. They can be enjoyed with a number of gluten-free sandwich and burger options, as well as ribs, wings, nachos, fries, and other pub staples.

Bar Comala

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Bar Comala is restaurant group República & Co.’s rendering of what a bar in the small Mexican town of Comala would be like circa 1821. At the time, the town was a liminal space, caught between Spanish control and the fledgling country of Mexico, and ripe with international influence. Here, the bar resides on the other side of La Fondita, serving a menu of classic cocktails which have been taken for a spin. Once visitors have been ushered through a curtain (the bar’s entrance is via La Fondita), they settle into the candlelit space with cocktails like the Vieux Carré homage Plan de Ayutla, where cognac is swapped for mezcal, or the menu standout El Obrero, a champurrado-like cocktail which utilizes owner Angel Medina’s Reforma Roasters coffee; it could easily stand in as a dessert.

Fools and Horses

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Industry vet Collin Nicholas’s latest venture can be found in the Pearl District right next to his one-year old cocktail Pink Rabbit, serving a cocktail menu laden with American whiskies alongside a Hawaiian Paniolo menu from chef Alex Wong. Design features like sliding ladder across shelves of spirits, a collection of hardcovers by Thackeray perched on the bar, and a living room-like nook make the polished bar is an ideal locale for date nights before or after catching a show at the Armory. Don’t miss the Cash & Curry — Roku gin, sherry, toasted rice, coconut, miso, curry, and lychee — a complex but approachable creation poured over one big ice cube.

Pacific Standard

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Jeffrey Morgenthaler and Benjamin Amberg, the dynamic duo formerly behind the bar at Clyde Common, have hopped the river to another hotel and opened a bar of their own. Standards like an Old Fashioned and an “all-day” bloody mary find themselves at home with cocktails infused with Good Coffee, low-proof draft cocktails, and Morgenthaler’s canned Bourbon Renewal, made in collaboration with Ninkasi. The food menu is fiercely Pacific Northwestern, from Oregon bay shrimp rolls to Puget Sound mussels to Oregon berry crumble. Find a perch at the elegant bar, softly illuminated by library lamps, or sink back into a leather couch with a group of friends in your own little nook.

Sousòl

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A trip below Top Chef alum Gregory Gourdet’s new but already highly lauded Haitian restaurant Kann is primed to transport visitors to the Caribbean, with a cocktail menu incorporating spirits and produce from countries across the region. Gourdet, who is sober, wanted to make sure the bar had an extensive non-alcoholic cocktail menu, and the bar’s collection of zero-proof cocktails are as creative and nuanced as the bar’s spirited offerings. Sousòl’s food menu similarly explores the flavors of the Caribbean, as well as countries that have influenced its culture, with small plates ranging from familiar bar snacks (salt cod fritters and Trini-Chinese chicken wings) to dishes that are harder to find in Portland (Jamaican beef patties and Trinidadian doubles, a flatbread filled with curried chickpeas).

City Bridge & Tunnel

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Moving into the space vacated by Shift Drinks would be a challenge for any bar: Making its sparse, industrial space cozy could be tricky, and the bar would have to live up to the beloved industry spot’s reputation. But City Bridge & Tunnel is making admirable strides to do so. The spacious dining room now features comfortable tufted green couches and chairs, stylish marble tables, live plants, and a massive art piece of roses along one wall. The drinks are accessible and familiar — all classics at the moment, but made with a steady and confident hand. Negronis and Vieux Carrés on-tap mean the drinks are well balanced and quickly delivered, and bar’s Spellbound gets a satisfying brightness from Pamplemousse and Aperol. Draft cocktails are $2 off during happy hour.

Sugar Hill

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Settle into one of the bar’s plush booths or banquettes at this ’70s-themed bar from the team behind Jackie’s and Two Wrongs to sip retro cocktails like the Pornstar Martini or a Blue Hawaii(an). A giant palm tree takes center stage between walls adorned with vintage posters advertising liquor, and more seating can be found outside on a summery patio. The bar’s daily happy hour offers two dollar oysters, and classic frozen treats like rocket pops and ice cream sandwiches are a nostalgic cap to any visit.

Bar Cala

Millennial pink isn’t dead at this Latin bar that serves refreshing cocktails that combine tequila and Aperol or bourbon with mole. The bar has recently switched up its splashy summer menu for more cold weather drinks, like a banana liqueur Old Fashioned and a mezcal negroni. Hungry drinkers will find dishes like clams-and-mussels with chorizo or shrimp ceviche on the seafood-heavy food menu. The bar’s high ceilings are festooned with lush greenery and fairy lights, and music pumps steadily through the speakers, giving the place a Palm Springs party vibe.

Cereus PDX

Visit this bar, which pulls inspiration from cocktails around the world, to sip on a Prince of Edinia, which was originally created for a cocktail competition in Mexico. The cocktail is positively royal looking, from its purple hue down to the glass goblet it’s served in, and marries the corn-based Peruvian beverage chicha morada with tequila and a ginger-cayenne syrup under a cloud of egg white. Vibrant dishes like Colombian street-style ceviches and salmon tiraditos vie for space on tables adorned with mini floral arrangements from across-the-street neighbor Colibri. To get up close to the action, sit up at the intimate bar or near the open kitchen in the two-room space.

Mendelssohn’s

Devoted to chamber music, this bar is owned by a direct descendant of its namesake, 19th century German composer Felix Mendelssohn. In addition to a calendar of live music from local instrumentalists and opera karaoke nights, the cocktail menu here is a draw for lovers of classical music — it’s stacked with libations with names like Bach Talk and A Drink Without Words (a play on Mendelssohn’s “Songs Without Words”). The food menu is lean, consisting of a charcuterie board and a few sandwich options, but the bar also allows patrons to bring over food from neighboring Bar Bar.

Drifter

Striking a balance between casual and sophisticated, this European-style bar takes over Saint Simon Coffee’s Northeast 15th Avenue location in the evenings from Thursday through Sunday. The cocktail menu is short and sweet — four cocktails in total — and any imbiber who sits at the cross-section of coffee enthusiast would be remiss not to order the Saint Simon Martini, which deftly blends vodka, Kahlua, and Coava espresso. The bar’s wine list is curated by Chevonne Ball, a 2020 Wine Enthusiast 40 Under 40 honoree who owns Dirty Radish, a travel company which hosts wine tours in Oregon and France.

The Sports Bra

Portland’s first ever all-women’s sports bar has been attracting massive crowds into its cozy, pub-like space since it opened. The sports aspect of the bar is present without being intrusive: A few flat screens air all manner of women’s sports, and Thorns and other female teams’ jerseys line the walls. Its drink program is likewise women-driven, with one section devoted entirely to Freeland Spirits cocktails, Portland’s own women-owned distillery. Most drinks are variations on classics made with local spirits, like the Pickle Ball, a dirty martini with Freeland gin. However the Goat is a good place to start, a bright and balanced cocktail which gets a nutty richness from Geneva gin and the bittersweet touch of Aperol. They can be enjoyed with a number of gluten-free sandwich and burger options, as well as ribs, wings, nachos, fries, and other pub staples.

Bar Comala

Bar Comala is restaurant group República & Co.’s rendering of what a bar in the small Mexican town of Comala would be like circa 1821. At the time, the town was a liminal space, caught between Spanish control and the fledgling country of Mexico, and ripe with international influence. Here, the bar resides on the other side of La Fondita, serving a menu of classic cocktails which have been taken for a spin. Once visitors have been ushered through a curtain (the bar’s entrance is via La Fondita), they settle into the candlelit space with cocktails like the Vieux Carré homage Plan de Ayutla, where cognac is swapped for mezcal, or the menu standout El Obrero, a champurrado-like cocktail which utilizes owner Angel Medina’s Reforma Roasters coffee; it could easily stand in as a dessert.

Fools and Horses

Industry vet Collin Nicholas’s latest venture can be found in the Pearl District right next to his one-year old cocktail Pink Rabbit, serving a cocktail menu laden with American whiskies alongside a Hawaiian Paniolo menu from chef Alex Wong. Design features like sliding ladder across shelves of spirits, a collection of hardcovers by Thackeray perched on the bar, and a living room-like nook make the polished bar is an ideal locale for date nights before or after catching a show at the Armory. Don’t miss the Cash & Curry — Roku gin, sherry, toasted rice, coconut, miso, curry, and lychee — a complex but approachable creation poured over one big ice cube.

Pacific Standard

Jeffrey Morgenthaler and Benjamin Amberg, the dynamic duo formerly behind the bar at Clyde Common, have hopped the river to another hotel and opened a bar of their own. Standards like an Old Fashioned and an “all-day” bloody mary find themselves at home with cocktails infused with Good Coffee, low-proof draft cocktails, and Morgenthaler’s canned Bourbon Renewal, made in collaboration with Ninkasi. The food menu is fiercely Pacific Northwestern, from Oregon bay shrimp rolls to Puget Sound mussels to Oregon berry crumble. Find a perch at the elegant bar, softly illuminated by library lamps, or sink back into a leather couch with a group of friends in your own little nook.

Sousòl

A trip below Top Chef alum Gregory Gourdet’s new but already highly lauded Haitian restaurant Kann is primed to transport visitors to the Caribbean, with a cocktail menu incorporating spirits and produce from countries across the region. Gourdet, who is sober, wanted to make sure the bar had an extensive non-alcoholic cocktail menu, and the bar’s collection of zero-proof cocktails are as creative and nuanced as the bar’s spirited offerings. Sousòl’s food menu similarly explores the flavors of the Caribbean, as well as countries that have influenced its culture, with small plates ranging from familiar bar snacks (salt cod fritters and Trini-Chinese chicken wings) to dishes that are harder to find in Portland (Jamaican beef patties and Trinidadian doubles, a flatbread filled with curried chickpeas).

City Bridge & Tunnel

Moving into the space vacated by Shift Drinks would be a challenge for any bar: Making its sparse, industrial space cozy could be tricky, and the bar would have to live up to the beloved industry spot’s reputation. But City Bridge & Tunnel is making admirable strides to do so. The spacious dining room now features comfortable tufted green couches and chairs, stylish marble tables, live plants, and a massive art piece of roses along one wall. The drinks are accessible and familiar — all classics at the moment, but made with a steady and confident hand. Negronis and Vieux Carrés on-tap mean the drinks are well balanced and quickly delivered, and bar’s Spellbound gets a satisfying brightness from Pamplemousse and Aperol. Draft cocktails are $2 off during happy hour.

Sugar Hill

Settle into one of the bar’s plush booths or banquettes at this ’70s-themed bar from the team behind Jackie’s and Two Wrongs to sip retro cocktails like the Pornstar Martini or a Blue Hawaii(an). A giant palm tree takes center stage between walls adorned with vintage posters advertising liquor, and more seating can be found outside on a summery patio. The bar’s daily happy hour offers two dollar oysters, and classic frozen treats like rocket pops and ice cream sandwiches are a nostalgic cap to any visit.

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