THERE ARE OFTEN DAYS when it is simply too disgustingly hot and humid to face friends, grills, and the effort of pouring drinks for yourself. A thermometer reading of 90 degrees sends Portland natives scuttling indoors to the air-conditioned oases of bars and restaurants, blasphemous retreats met by the wide-open and well-prepared arms of the service industry. Next time such conditions scare you inside, enjoy one of these incredible summer cocktails from the safety of a shaded barstool, where vegetable juices, shrubs, smoky spirits, and giant ice cubes conspire to refresh and cheer.
As We Go Up, We Go Down
Laurelhurst Market's creative blend of English snap pea juice, mint, house pickles, pisco, kümmel (an earthy liqueur of caraway seed, fennel, and cumin), and lemon juice comes on slightly sweet and finishes with an herbal elegance that isn't overwhelmed by any one player. Subtlety has never tasted so good—and neither have vegetables, for that matter.
Laurelhurst Market, 3155 E Burnside
At the newly opened Fireside, a casual sipper of tequila, mezcal, Zucca (a rhubarb digestif), lemon juice, and orange bitters brings all of the smoke and none of the heat of its namesake activity. It'll make you feel as lazy as a few hours in the sun, but without the pain and peeling skin.
Fireside, 801 NW 23rd
Meaning "heatwave" in French, the Canicule features fresh jalapeño and cilantro muddled into gin, sauvignon blanc, and pineapple shrub, a move that provides fresh flavor over showy impact. Not a drink to attack the palate with searing spice, the jalapeño instead imparts a light color and genuine balance. Refreshing restraint that works well with such tropical flavors.
Aviary, 1733 NE Alberta
Tasty n Alder offers cocktails to match their own grill-heavy food menu, like this flavor-forward mix of Cana's Feast Chinato, gin, lemon, demerara, and soda water. Beautifully bitter and tart enough to complement rich food in warm weather, the Cup's carbonation pleasantly mobilizes fragrant botanicals and offers them up for your olfactory pleasure.
Tasty n Alder, 580 SW 12th
Sipping on this well-balanced combination of rum, marmalade, lime, dry sack sherry, and mint will chase away any cares while you watch sweaty shoppers stumbling around outside. And its tendency to go down quickly can easily lead to a second, perhaps a third, and a blissfully unproductive afternoon.
Radar, 3951 N Mississippi
Cazadores tequila, cucumber, lovage, falernum, and strawberry star in this winning beverage-of-the-month at Smallwares. A unique salty/sweet touch comes from the freeze-dried strawberry rim, while the concoction within remains light, fresh, and vegetal by contrast.
Smallwares, 4605 NE Fremont
Playing with a classic works to Irving Street Kitchen's advantage here, featuring tequila, fresh lemon, ginger-agave syrup, and a mezcal float. Simple, spicy, smoky, and nothing if not refreshing, this summer "medicine" does not suffer for an absence of Scotch, its regular player.
Irving Street Kitchen, 701 NW 13th
Middle-Eastern phrases abound on Levant's original drink menu, but it's just tequila, fino sherry, strawberry shrub, and citrus that fill this sweetly indulgent glass. An initial syrupy flavor and consistency give way to a tartness perfect for washing down anything from lamb borek to bottarga aioli. It's like a strawberry soda for grownups.
Levant, 2448 E Burnside