Each New Year, as everyone makes pledges to change their behaviors in some way to improve their lives, I make the same resolution: This year I’ll drink less beer, and more gin. I’m not sure if I’ve ever succeeded in the first part, but I have a good track record on the second. Just in case you have a more robust resolution portfolio, here are a few good ways to stay on track this winter.
(Another typical New Year’s resolution is to try new things. In the spirit of that easiest of promises, I’ll focus on bars that opened in the latter half of 2017, but haven’t yet made it into this column.)
So you resolved to drink more gin: the Katie Collins at Capitol
Capitol isn’t even the newest bar from the Lightning Collective anymore—unless they’ve opened another in the last week or so, that fleeting honor goes to Thunderbird on Foster—but it’s still so bright and shiny, it feels like new. That golden gleam is transmogrified into a cocktail in the Katie Collins, a gin-and-Cynar soda cooler made with lemon juice and more importantly, a lemon syrup that, combined with the cough medicine-like bittersweet of Cynar, gives the drink the feeling of a sophisticated, grown-up hard candy in a glass. Bonus resolutions: “eat less meat” (vegan menu), “be brave” and/or “sing more” (karaoke in the back), “enjoy more beautiful wallpaper.”
So you resolved to drink more cheaply: the Oaks Park at Haymaker
Admittedly, even reading the phrase “fried chicken and waffles on a stick” might void like, three different resolutions, but chances are if you haven’t been to Haymaker, the new bar in the old Eddie’s spot on North Killingsworth, you’ll definitely be trying something new when you order it. Haymaker fries up a strip of chicken, coats it in waffle batter, performs magic on it with some arcane device, and presents to you what looks like a corn dog with a grid of waffle ridges. It’s served with honey butter or maple syrup, plus a tallboy of Montucky Cold Snacks lager and a shot of Old Taylor, all for $9. Bonus resolutions: “be lit only by Edison bulbs,” “eat more food on a stick.”
So you resolved to drink more scotch: the Endless Winter Fizz at Blank Slate
Blank Slate opened fairly quietly on Glisan in Montavilla, an understated cocktail bar with a deceptively simple appearance. Only featuring a small handful of house cocktails on the menu at a time, Blank Slate bartenders will whip up a classic at a moment’s notice, and are happy to guide you through one of the flights on the menu. Don’t sleep on those originals just because the list is short, though. The Endless Winter Fizz, for instance, is the warming, bitter, spritely cocktail you might need as we round the one-year anniversary of you-know-who’s inauguration. It’s somehow the perfect drink for now: Bossy scotch actually takes a backseat here to bitter Angostura and lime, but everything is softened by egg white and cream and suspended with uplifting bubbles from a dash of soda. There’s something about the Endless Winter Fizz—and probably about Blank Slate’s tall ceilings and lush wallpaper—that makes the drink feel like an escape into an endless winter, not from one. Bonus resolutions: “be more bitter,” “enjoy more beautiful wallpaper.”
So you resolved to drink like the King: Girls! Girls! Girls! at the Elvis Room
Every night can be New Year’s Eve if you drink champagne cocktails. Luckily, Portland’s Elvis-themed bar offers a handful of choices. A surprising favorite is the Girls! Girls! Girls! I’m typically dubious of elderflower liqueur in cocktails, especially champagne cocktails, but this one is somehow not cloyingly sweet. Rounded out with cucumber, ginger, and grapefruit, it doesn’t necessarily sound like something Elvis would drink (the Flaming Star, champagne with vodka, lemon, simple syrup, and gold flake might be more up the King’s alley), but goddamn if it doesn’t make you feel like 2018’s going to be your year. Bonus resolutions: “go out to more bars” (they have two: bright and airy upstairs, dark jungle room downstairs), “eat horribly” (it’s delicious, but the food—loaded fries, cola-braised burgers, etc. is very latter-days Elvis, and we all remember where he died).