LAST FEW DAYS, I've watched the blue sky piss rain all over the city. The roads, slick and shimmering, reflect more light than could be falling on them. The air smells wonderfully like a wet wheaten terrier all day—whether there's actually a dog around or not.
This is the time of year I switch to tall drinks. Long, lean sippers with nose-tickling bubbles or fat stacks of clean-cut ice. Fist-sized, sweating glasses you hold against your forehead and neck, because even if it's only 57 degrees and raining, it makes the sun feel real if you squint at it through ice and gin.
Also, do you know what Aperol is? If you don't, it's an Italian bitter liqueur that tastes like a brighter, milder Campari, maybe cut with grapefruit juice. It's orange, bordering on pink, and it looks, smells, and tastes like running through a sprinkler in your best friend's backyard. An Aperol Spritz is as much summer as can be contained in a glass, and the best one you can get is at Angel Face (14 NE 28th). It's Aperol, sparkling wine, and soda. So how is this simple classic better at Angel Face than anywhere else? Because it matches the hand-painted floral pattern on the walls. Because the glassware is carefree and light, and the marble tabletops are always cool to the touch. And because you had to have the idea to order it in the first place, since Angel Face doesn't have a cocktail menu—just whip-smart bartenders that give a shit about what you want to drink.
Speaking of Aperol, over at Easy Company in Old Town (329 NW Couch), Aperol is pitted against the only beverage in the whole damn world that could give it a run for its money in the Thirst-Quenching Booze Olympics: Pilsner, the classic light Czech lager. Called a Pilsner vs. Aperol, this forehead-slappingly obvious pairing ties the two together with grapefruit juice, house clover honey syrup, and a splash of hopped grapefruit bitters. Plus, ice cubes and soda. The Aperol's blade-like sharpness carves some edges around the beer, but the sweet stuff makes smooth what otherwise might be a rough one-two punch.
Did somebody say Aperol? Look, anybody can make a gin and tonic. In fact, you can even find a house tonic at half the gin joints in this town. But you're not in the British Navy, so unless you really need an anti-malarial in your life, let's skip the quinine and head to Kachka (720 SE Grand). The homey Russian bar is vodka-centric and stocked with house infusions (beet-infused Fernet tastes like beets and Fernet. Go figure.), but the sunshiniest drink is the Pinko Commie Bastard: gin, pamplemousse, lime, Peychaud's bitters, and a little bright bitterness courtesy of not tonic, but Aperol. A green complexity pops from the gin, but there's a citrus roundness that makes this a gulpable cup.
There's one problem with these sunshine-friendly cocktails from Kachka, Easy Company, and even Angel Face: not one can be imbibed on an honest-to-god patio. Where do you go for a great backyard and a sleeper hit of a cocktail menu? North Portland. Spread out behind the Hop and Vine (1914 N Killingsworth) with Rosé Colored Glasses. If there's one thing I'll fight someone in a bar over without reserve, it's that all cocktails should be some shade of pink. This one's got more pink ingredients than not: vodka (clear), lemon juice (clear), Lillet rosé, cranberry, rhubarb, and bubbly rosé—pink, pink, pink, and pink with bubbles!? It's a no-brainer: fruity, dry, effervescent, and absolutely beautiful on the Hop and Vine's enormous patio.
But if you want that gin and tonic, get it. Or a Moscow Mule—$5 during happy hour at Kachka. Easy Company's got a Fennel Fantasy with "fresh extracted fennel juice." Or be bold and tell Angel Face you want a still-unnamed cocktail of Rhum JM Vieux, Campari, Cointreau, Dubonnet Rouge, and orange bitters. Or get the Brazilian Bike at the Hop and Vine, a simple mix of Brazilian cachaça, lime, and house tarragon simple syrup, served in a green glass that brings to mind the freshly cut grass of oncoming summer.
It's not a trick; the sun gets brighter with every sip.