Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone. If you’re anything like me, you’re staying in tonight, maybe enjoying some Irish Whiskey, and waiting for midnight when Daredevil season 2 airs on Netflix.
I kind of hate this holiday. Admittedly, it was worse when I was in college (more on that later) but even here in Portland I still find it a tedious affair. Why? Allow me to enumerate.
7 The Drinks are Terrible
Admittedly, in Portland and other cities this is not always the case, thus its placement at the bottom of the list. There are some bars offering great Irish inspired cocktails or just an array of top shelf Irish whiskey. But for every place making an Emerald or pouring some Powers John Lane, there’s fourty bars serving Guinness (only good in Ireland, not when it’s made by Labatt), crappy lagers dyed green, or Irish Car Bombs.
6 It Often Falls During Finals Week
This is a minor grievance, and not appicable to many, but I did find it irritating that it always seemed to fall on winter finals when I was in college. There’s nothing like trying to study for a French exam while frat bros were hollering and puking outside my dorm. But it was so worth it for all the French I fluently speak now, non?
5 No One Looks Good in Green
Unless you’re very dark skinned, or incredibly pale with green eyes. Anything in between and you just look sickly.
4 It’s Tacky
Speaking of Irish Car Bombs (a truly vile concoction), what a ghastly name for a drink. For those uninformed, the name refers to a type of bomb set off during the Northern Ireland Conflict, which killed dozens of people. That’s like naming a drink a “9/11” or a “Black Church Arson”. Additionally, gold coins, leprechauns, and clovers aren’t cute. They’re tacky and stereotypical.
3 You’re not Irish
Not really. Sure, most of us white folk here in the states probably have a healthy portion of Irish blood in us. I know I do. But that doesn’t count as an excuse to get wasted and rant about how it’s not racist to make slave jokes because your Irish ancestors were “totally just as oppressed as blacks in America”.
2 It’s Amateur Hour
Congrats, dude, you pounded those four Irish Car Bombs and you’re “totally not even wasted”. Please, if you’ve ever tried to go to drink-for-drink with any one of our city’s bartenders, writers, servers, or librarians, you’d probably end up in the ER. Go back to Beaverton and drink some Miller with your bros while playing Madden. Leave the serious drinking to us.
1 It’s Harassment
It’s a holiday that encourages groping strangers. Whoever came up with the idea that you should pinch someone for not wearing a color is a pervert. Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but I see it as an excuse for guys to get wasted and grab women with impunity. Pro-tip: Don’t grab people you don’t know. Maybe don’t pinch people you do know, unless you know they’d be cool with it.
Happy Holidays, all. I’ll be looking forward to Easter, the greatest drinking day of the year.
I first tried Fernet Branca at Marché in Eugene in 2011. The manager and head chef would order shots of it after their shifts. It reminded me of brushing my teeth; I didn’t care for it. I wrote it off as an affectation, a cliché, a fad.*
Fernet’s ubiquity started in San Francisco. Apparently, Fernet Branca gave out an astounding amount to bartenders in the Bay Area, and it became the quintessential shift drink. Then, like tech workers looking for affordable rent, it made its way up here to Portland bars. It’s the post-work drink for many industry members, available in every bar, including the dives. It even made its way into Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, into the bad one.
I’m sorry, a what? I couldn’t tell through that ridiculous accent.
2015 was more of a subdued year for me than 2014 in many ways. I graduated school, supposedly (where is my diploma? I never got one!). I managed to maintain my record of successful romantic relationships. I found my first gray hair. And I drank. But still, this year was less wild or mercurial than the previous. I think it’s a transitional thing; I have nothing resembling stability in my life, but I believe I’m working towards it.
I also didn’t write on this blog this year, so why not spend the last day of the year doing so? edit: I didn’t finish in time. Sorry.
Like me, the city is transitioning. 2015 was a year for rent and eviction panic. Our city is growing, rent is spiking, evictions are prevalent. Somehow bars and restaurants continue to spring up and thrive. Maybe it’s the new money coming into the city. Maybe these new places are not for us, the Portland natives. I wonder if I would be able to drink at these places if I were not awarded the benefits and connections that I am. Nevertheless, the drink scene is changing, and my views and experiences of the city are changing with it. My photography is improving, my writing is, I hope, getting stronger. And I’ve built a lot of great connections, both personal and professional. Let’s recap all the drinking in Portland in 2015.
Favorite spots and events
The Happy Hour: Possibly society’s greatest invention. Generally sometime between the hours of three and seven, before the heavier drinking times of the evening, happy hour is an attempt to lure patrons in to bars with discounts and specials on food and drinks. Most bars in the city of Portland sport a happy hour of some variety, but not all are created equal. Here are some of my favorite spots to waste an afternoon:
If you follow my Instagram and/or Twitter, you would have seen more than a few photos of Mint Juleps going up lately. When the weather turns warm and the sun sets late, all I want to do is spending a sunny afternoon with the perfect summer drink–bourbon slightly spiced with mint and sweetened, topped with a mountain of crushed ice. The drink should be strong, as the ice slowly melts and incorporates. This isn’t a cocktail to be quickly downed, but a long, involved process.
Truth be told, my favorite juleps are the ones I make at home, so I might keep the bourbon flowing. I like to make mint simple syrup, which a new friend recently lambasted me for, but it makes it easier to refresh my drink.
That being said, I wanted to try out some juleps around town, as I’m sure some local bartenders could make better ones than I. It’s a deceptively tricky drink–it seems simple enough, just whiskey (preferably bourbon) or brandy, mint, sugar, and crushed ice. But there’s something about picking the right spirit, getting the balance right, and garnishing the drink that allows variances in quality.
The Mint Julep also has one of the most signature vessels; the silver julep cup is iconic, and something I lack at my home bar. Few bars carry them, as they’re expensive, and can potentially be stolen.
Ordering a julep is like ordering a mojito: do so when the bar is slow, and when it is sunny out, so earlier in the evening is better. Tip more than $1 per drink. Don’t order one from a dive bar.
When I think of Portland’s bar scene, I often think of it as clusters of drinking spots organized around streets: Mississippi, Belmont, Clinton/Division, East Burnside, etc… I plan on writing up a review of all my favorite neighborhoods/streets, and this week, it’s Belmont.
The Beautiful Mountain (I think), Belmont runs all the way up and over Mt. Tabor, and all the way down to the Morrison Bridge. Unlike Mississippi, the subject of my previous post, Belmont has remained more or less the same in the past five years. You can still peruse the shelves of DVDs and VHS at Movie Madness, the best rental store in the city; you can still pop in for a latté at Stumptown or a cup of tea at the Tao of Tea; and you can still lose hours depositing nickels into the video-games at Wunderland Avalon.
Belmont carries, for me, a serious sense of nostalgia. I grew up on Yamhill, just a block to the south, and spent many hours of my life wandering the street, even before I was able to drink in bars. I still spend a considerable amount of time there, but it involves a lot more alcohol.
Aalto Lounge Continue reading
Just kidding, I’ll never tire of Negronis. Good thing too, as I still had days of drinking them ahead of me.
(Part 1 is here, if you missed it)
Day 3: June 4th
My father was the first person to make me a Negroni, and I had to include him in my travels. We decided to hit up the Rum Club for some drinks, followed by dinner at Produce Row.
Besides the donation aspect, the bar wasn’t doing anything special for the week, just your run of the mill Negroni, and while I’m sure it would’ve been fantastic, I found it impossible to go to the Rum Club and not order rum. My dad was of the same mindset, and ordered their Old-Fashioned and a Daiquiri. I had The Fino Countdown, an enticing mixture of rums and sherries, and His Girl Friday, which had gin, Campari, and Cocchi Americano, which I counted it as being part of Negroni week.
It’s no secret that the Negroni is one of my favorite cocktails in the world. I, like many bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts, was immediately won over by its herbal, citrusy, bittersweet notes and bright, vivid color the first time I had one. So when I found out that Portland, and many other cities both nationally and beyond, would be celebrating the cocktail for a week in June, I knew I had to get out there and write about it.
Negroni Week: Introductions
A month ago, I was sitting at Aalto Lounge, one of my favorite bars in the city, flipping through Imbibe Magazine while waiting for my friends to arrive, when my eyes fell on an advertisement for Negroni Week. “Woah! Are you guys participating?” I asked the bartender.
“I’m not sure yet. But I’m designing the website for it.” He said, sliding my drink in front of me, “My fiancée is one of the editors of Imbibe.”
Aalto Lounge isn’t one of the 25 or 30 participating Portland bars this year, but the festival did start here. The idea began with Nostrana, who has been featuring a Negroni of the month for years now. They came up with the idea that different bars could develop their own take on the mutable concoction, and then find charities to benefit by selling the drink. Imbibe Magazine and Campari took off with the idea, and developed Negroni Week, an international festival of Negronis, where each bar selects a charity of their choice and donates money for each one sold that week.
When I think of Portland’s bar scene, I often think of it as clusters of drinking spots organized around streets: Belmont, Clinton/Division, East Burnside, etc… I plan on writing up a review of all my favorite neighborhoods/streets, starting with one of the newer scenes in town: Mississippi.
Mississippi is almost synonymous with North Portland. When I decided I wanted to write this sequence of posts, NoPo was the first place I wanted to review, and the street was the obvious choice. Williams, nearby, is great if you want dinner, but for a bar crawl, it’s hard to beat Mississippi: From cocktail bars to dive bars, pubs to specialty liquor stores, it’s completely covered in drinking establishments.
It’s difficult to describe how much the street has changed over the past decade. In high-school I would take the number 4 up Mississippi to my father’s place. When I returned there in 2012 after moving home from Eugene, it was completely unrecognizable. I had to see Sunlan Lighting, the sole vestige of Mississippi’s previous form, to even realize where I was. When I did finally place myself, I was completely shocked.