It’s no secret that Portland, Oregon, has a phenomenal drinking culture. Whether you’re after craft beer, obscure sake, sherry, natural wine, or a top-notch craft cocktail, Portland really does have it all. But amongst the big names are plenty of smaller outfits that the casual drinker might not be familiar with.
Colin Carroll, bar manager at Trifecta Tavern and Bakery in Portland’s Central Eastside, is a seasoned barman, best known for his wood-fired cocktails (with different woods charred and then infused into spirits, sous vide). We asked this cutting-edge mixologist about the best underrated bars in Portland — what are the city’s true under-the-radar gems? Here are his picks.
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“A recently revamped Portland institution,” says Carroll; it’s “a pitch black, Elvis-era, tiki drinking den.” Their spirits knowledge is on point: “My girl Emily Mistell knows more about rum than just about anybody.” And the best part? “There's karaoke seven days a week.”
“They share the same philosophy as I do when it comes to cocktails,” says Carroll: “Less is more.” The highlights at Shift Drinks: “Well-thought food and an amazing wine list with bottles they sell to-go.... until 2:30 AM.”
Ansel Vickery and team “are some of the most underrated cocktail makers in Portland,” says Carroll, “though I will never say that to his face.” The creative cocktails here encompass a wide range of spirits and styles, and the approachable bar has a friendly, neighborhoody vibe.
“A cocktail with LaCroix, wood-fired pizzas, and tacos?” says Carroll. “That pretty much appeals to everybody.” Hard to argue.
“A shoebox place with great, creative drinks,” according to Carroll. “The food, specifically the steak frites, is some of the best in the city.” Bonus points for Rainier longneck beers.
“Classic cocktail are close to my heart, and they are often butchered,” says Carroll. But this tiny spot in Montavilla “does classic cocktails with finesse, and it has a great neighborhood feel.”