Summer in the Northwest is officially dragging its feet this year. While most of the country is dangerously hot, every mini heat wave in Portland seems to be followed by a cold snap or a streak of drizzly rain. But keep your eyes peeled—in those brief rays of sunshine, you might catch the shimmer of a few summery newcomers to the Portland cocktail scene.
It certainly feels like summer at the Chefstable-assisted pop-up bar from Danish brewery Mikkeller, filling the old Burnside Brewing space until December (and possibly longer), where a casual parking lot patio allows for games like cornhole and what appears to be giant beer pong. The suds are, of course, the star [“Mikkeller and Vagabond: A Tale of Two Breweries from Other Cities,” Food & Drink, July 18], but if you find the hot sun especially oppressive with a bourbon vanilla stout or double IPA in your hand, consider the pop-up’s secret weapon: Vegas royalty Jamie Neering’s cocktails, which borrow ingredients like nuoc cham and furikake from her husband Shaun King’s food menu of Asian-leaning barbecue.
The cocktails are listed by their main spirit, like a house shiso and pea-infused gin mixed with the smooth, soft Chareau aloe liqueur (a genuinely unique product I’m glad to see on more and more cocktail menus) and tonic ($12); or a bright, bitey shishito pepper tequila combined with green apple, cucumber, lemon, and celery bitters for something like an alcoholic juice cleanse ($11). The only named cocktail is the Mikkelada ($6), an aggressively flavored riff on a michelada—lager with togarashi and chilis combined with fishy, limey nuoc cham.
It’s guaranteed to feel like summer inside at Gado Gado, where murals of brightly plumed birds watch over the deceptively large strip mall space in the Hollywood District. And while you may be here to dive into a fully fleshed out menu that’s based on Thomas and Mariah Pisha-Duffly’s esteemed Chinese-Indonesian popup days, don’t ignore the short but sweet $10 cocktail list. The Green Cab and Cold Tea Punch are standouts. The former is a matcha-cucumber gin refresher, while the latter’s a showcase for Indonesia’s famed rum-adjacent spirit, Batavia Arrack, a sugarcane distillate made with fermented red rice, mixed here with lime, jasmine tea, and some very fizzy bubbles. (You can also bring some friends and try to knock down a half pint of house-infused spirits, served to the table DIY-style with soda and accoutrements for $35.)
For a proper endless summer vibe, though, it’s going to be tough for anybody to beat Hi-Top Tavern. The newest member of the Old Gold family of bars, Hi-Top moved into a spacious indoor/outdoor Beaumont space that was last home to beer bar Bottles. With a coat of brighter paint and a clean sweep of beer fridges and pinball machines, the claustrophobic bottle shop has been replaced by an airy, open neighborhood bar. (Full disclosure: One of Hi-Top’s owners is Ezra Caraeff, the former music editor of the Mercury.)
Hi-Top’s enormous, multi-level, partially covered patio is the perfect place to enjoy an adult beverage, and since we can’t endorse getting drunk on negroni sbagliatos while handling a lawnmower, the herbaceous whiff of basil in their Dryer Hits, a Campari-vodka spritz ($12), offers a great alternative. Later on, check out an excellent rye whiskey and Fernet cocktail called Second Chance ($9), perfect for sipping as the sun goes down and the string lights come on.
But it’s some real rare-form cutesy shit at Hi-Top that cements its oddball nostalgia for a school’s-out-forever, permanent-block-party version of the ’80s and ’90s. Witness Hi-Top Tavern’s “drink friends” and “dressed beers” menu. The former are the tiny backs meant to be paired with hard liquor—housemade sangrita (tomato citrus juice), verdita (spicy pineapple juice), and pickleback, or a small pour of draft beer or a Miller High Life stubby bottle. The dressed beers, however, are just a can of beer slathered in flavored salt. Rain or shine, if there’s anything summerier than sitting on a patio sipping a Tecate pounder rimmed with grapefruit salt, it can wait until 2020.