As many Oregon bars and restaurants remain in hibernation for the winter or work to pivot their bar programs to comply with new cocktails to-go regulations, establishments with existing and robust food menus have suddenly found themselves having a leg up. The OLCC (our liquor overlords) is requiring the purchase of one substantial food item per two alcoholic beverages, lest you get too smashed to make it from your living room to your bedroom.
I visited two staples in the Central Eastside bar scene who were able to quickly tap into the boozy takeout and delivery services that the temporary cocktails to-go bill allows. Many others aren’t in the same position, sympathizes Deadshot owner Adam Robinson: “If you look at places like Rum Club, there’s a reason why they’re not doing [cocktails to-go]. I think they will at some point, but given the food requirement, it is an added burden.”
His message to support your favorite bars through these tough times might be oft repeated, but it cannot be stressed enough.
Could it be?...the Ghost of Portland Past?! Amid months and months of lamentable closures, the once highly lauded Ping has returned. Formerly a sister restaurant to the now dissolved Pok Pok empire, the restaurant has been resurrected after an eight year hiatus by Chef Michael Kessler.
Across the river from its original location, Ping resurfaced last month as a pop-up inside a currently dormant Deadshot. To compliment Ping’s Southeast Asian dishes, the host bar has added new drinks to their repertoire of house classics, which include ingredients like green chili, turmeric, and cumin.
The GCP Old Fashioned I ordered is zhuzhed up with fragrant plant extract pandan, and galangal, a ginger-like root. Although it mostly drinks like your typical Old Fashioned, there is a smooth hit of the pandan as it goes down which is a harmonious addition. Tip: If this is also your drink of choice, don’t turn down the big ass ice cube like I almost made the mistake of doing. I initially reasoned that I had ice at home before remembering what drink I ordered and that I do not in fact have big ass ice cube-making capabilities.
Moving forward in this new phase of COVID bartending, Robinson and bar manager Natasha Mesa have hopes to collaborate with local spirit distillers. They are also looking to source PDX ICE’s (which is based out of Beaverton, go figure) premium clear ice as the cocktails to-go menu continues to evolve.
Deadshot/Ping, 2133 SE 11th, (503) 875-0527, pingportland.com
Scrolling through Palomar's Cuban-inspired bar menu, I resolved to branch out from my usual frozen drinks of choice. I finally settled on the Swizzle (mezcal, pineapple, falernum, peach, lemon, and absinthe), which the menu describes as “tropical crisp and refreshing.” Despite the promise of fruity flavors, I found that the falernum, a staple liqueur in tropical drinks, and the absinthe did most of the talking. The cocktail was a complex concoction that took me by surprise at first sip, but one I found myself enjoying more and more as I reached the bottom of the cup.
Upon arrival at Palomar, a neon sign of a bird sitting on a crescent moon shines as a beacon to let you know you’re in the right spot—your booze is right through this door.
Owner and bartender Ricky Gomez, who helped Representative Rob Nosse’s effort in pushing for cocktails to-go legislation, says the new regulations will quite simply save his business. With their signature libations back on the menu, Palomar made more sales in a single day than the entire three weeks post-shutdown when only allowed to serve food.
“For us, in the first four days alone it was a game changer... because this is what we’re known for, we’re a cocktail bar. Prior to COVID, even during COVID, 65 percent of our sales are cocktails, and if we’re not allowed to sell those it’s really hard to survive,” said Gomez.
Palomar’s cocktail to-go menu was tailored with the “to-go” part specifically in mind. Gomez wanted to make sure his offerings were ones that travel well, and pulled cocktails from the current menu as well as past favorites.
The bottled cocktail comes in a mini kit of sorts—everything you need to freshly assemble your drink at home. I was pleased to see a generous helping of crushed ice, a humble but essential ingredient. Crushed ice makes any beverage it’s bathed in taste better, and that’s facts. Also included is garnish, which for my order was mint. The finishing touch is Palomar’s logo stamped cup, sure to delight every 90s kid who eagerly fished the free color changing spoon out of their cereal box.
Whether you’re still lamenting that beach getaway you had to cancel, or you’re looking to fully embrace a theme night complete with Hawaiian shirts, treating yourself to a tropical cocktail in the dead of winter is a guaranteed mood booster.
Palomar, 959 SE Division, (971) 357-8020, barpalomar.com