Just a few weeks ago, it was almost 80 degrees in Portland—leaves were barely falling and sunshine was pouring in through open windows all around town. It felt as though the sun had decided to take a tiny amount of pity on us following the last few months of national news, allowing just a few more weeks of patio weather before the cold, dark, rainy days came.
It was hard not to wish summer would live on forever—particularly after a string of rain-defying bars opened across the city. Happily, many of them seem determined to keep the season alive.
Anchoi, Cathy Pham and daughter Therese Tran’s Vietnamese restaurant and bar near PSU, hit the ground running this summer, with banh mi sandwiches, noodle soups, and a cocktail menu of Tiki-ish drinks (designed by Portland’s Tiki king, Blair Reynolds of Hale Pele). The drinks put subtle twists on classics, like a lemongrass martini with soju and vodka, or a daiquiri with arrack—a funky Indonesian rum made with fermented red rice. But for toasting that now long-gone sun, not much beats a subtle, simple lychee spritz: lychee liqueur, ginger, lemon, and soda.
Meanwhile, Dan Hart (owner of Prost and Stammtisch) has recently expanded his empire of everyday imbibery to Northwest 21st and Lovejoy, turning the old Laughing Planet spot into Bantam Tavern—something of a younger sibling to Hart’s North Mississippi stalwart, Interurban. With Ollie Gahlsdorf running the bar, Bantam is shaping up to be the best (if not only) option for casual, comfortable, and thoughtful cocktails northwest of the Pearl.
Among those cocktails are a handful of $6 happy hour drinks served from 3 to 6 pm Monday through Friday. A paloma is hard to beat, but don’t sleep on the Lion’s Share Punch, a rum and port number with apricot, allspice, and plenty of angostura bitters. It feels tropical but overcast, a slightly stormy day on a pirate ship. If you need a prettier color of cloud on one of these dark days, go for the fizz, an angostura-pink cream and egg-white sipper topped with a pile of foamy fluff gaudy enough to make Marie Antoinette’s wigmaker blush.
Back in the Pearl District, Bend’s Avid Cider has opened a big spot with a long central bar and roomy tables for covering with cider, cider cocktails, and pizza. The cocktail list changes on the whims of the cidermakers down in Bend, but keep an eye out for mix-and-match opportunities: Told they’d gotten rid of the pineapple-dragonfruit cider for the #5 cocktail (a margarita-ish tequila-Cointreau-lime juice concoction), I was given my choice of replacements. A “spicy grandma” chili-dragonfruit cider called Dragon’s Breath called my name. It’s great in a cocktail, but a warning: On its own, it puts the actual sun to shame in terms of scorching heat.
Maybe after all these bars, the sun had just been on a tropical-drink kick and decided to stick around long enough for Hey Love to open in the Jupiter Next hotel. The cool cats and jetsetters came from far and wide for Hey Love’s endless summer vibes in its first week, and the bar does feel locked in a sweaty summer dance party under a rainforest canopy.
The drink menu gets to have its cake and eat it too by serving up decidedly slanted takes on classic drinks, but with descriptions cheeky enough to disarm the squeamish drinker. One of the highlights of my visit was a “salty mango oolong mai tai” called The Secret Life of Plants, a deep-cover endless summer sipper that hits sweet, salty, and sour bases. Meanwhile, a Loving Spoonful bourbon bananas foster pudding shot topped with CBD caramel should put you in the mood for people watching, which is the secret perk of any hotel bar. Rain or shine, who doesn’t love watching weirdos with nametags having meet-cutes over mai tais?