Food & Drink

Where Portland's Best Bartenders Go on Their Rare Nights Off

One of the remarkable aspects of Portland’s bar culture is the bartenders themselves. These hardworking people spend most of their nights slinging drinks, which could be anywhere from cracking open a PBR to intricately mixing a cocktail. Occasionally, they get time off.

Because the bartending community is so close in this city, they often visit each other on their off hours, supporting each other, trying each other’s drinks, or, more likely, nursing a whiskey and beer back and not thinking about craft cocktails. We met up with a few of Portland’s great bartenders and found out where they might be found when they're not at work.

Colin Carroll

Bar Manager at Trifecta Tavern, PDX’s tallest tattooed bartender
Choice Spots: The Hutch, Free House, Dig a Pony, Rum Club, Slow Bar,My Father’s Place

Like many bartenders, Colin Carroll, the bar manager at Trifecta Tavern, is a parent. When he’s not infusing cocktails with charred wood in a sous vide container or clarifying milk punches, he’s usually with his two kids. However, on the rare occasion that he has a night out, he hits up the bars near his place, east along 50th, or the bars near his work. His friends work down the street from Trifecta at Dig a Pony, so he’ll stop in there for a cocktail in the afternoon, before it gets too crazy with west-siders. He’s also a fan of the Tijuana Speed Ball at Slow Bar, and the cheap drinks at My Father’s Place. Any night at Rum Club you’re likely to see an off work bartender knocking back a few daiquiris, and Colin is no different -- if he does it make it out for a night, it’s a favorite.

Alex wood bartender
Alex Frane/Thrillist

Kate & Alex Wood

Owners and Bartenders at Bang Bang, owners of Aalto Lounge, PDX’s most stylish bartending parents
Choice spots: Wine at home, Verdigris.

Since opening Bang Bang, bartending couple Kate and Alex Wood haven’t had a lot of time to work over at their cocktail bar Aalto, and then they had a second kid. Most nights you can find one or the other managing, serving, and bartending at Bang Bang, a place for Thai curry and cocktails. Most often, they might find time after work to share a bottle of wine at home. On weekends, the pair make it a habit to visit Verdigris, the excellent European-style restaurant in NE Fremont, with their adorable daughter and son. The family is a regular sight there and are close with the staff.

Jacob Grier
Alex Frane/Thrillist

Jacob Grier

Bartender at Common Law, writer of Cocktails on Tap, founder of Aquavit Week, political scholar
Choice spots:
Horse Brass Pub, The Rookery

Bartender, writer, libertarian... magician? When Jacob isn’t mixing drinks, sipping aquavit, or working on his next bar book, he meets up with a small group of friends at the Horse Brass Pub. There, the foursome shows off to one another their newest illusions; they’re all talented magicians, changing the color of cards, teleporting foam balls into your hands, disappearing and reappearing objects, etc. Occasionally the group performs around town, including at the Rookery at Raven & Rose.

Kate Bolton and Eric Rickey
Alex Frane/Thrillist

Kate Bolton and Eric Rickey

Kate: Portland’s favorite San Franciscan bartender, bartender at Tusk, mother; Eric: bartender at Renata, viking, dad
Choice spots:Kay’s Bar, Reverend’s BBQ, Gino’s, Bible Club
Kate Bolton recently moved up from San Francisco to help open Americano, the new vermouth bar on East Burnside, and is now moving over to the newly opened Tusk. One of her close friends, Olga Semoukhina, a rep for Campari Company, moved up concurrently with her fiancé, Eric Rickey, who took a position at Renata. Eric and Olga live near Kate and her husband in Sellwood, so when the group has a night off together and sitters for their kids, they like to explore the neighborhood. Favorites include Kay’s Bar, which sports a surprisingly good cocktail program, the fantastic BBQ spot Reverend’s, and the extremely authentic speakeasy Bible Club.

Tommy Klus
Courtney DeKorte

Tommy Klus

Owner of La Moule, whisk(e)y maven, humble educator, sherry drinker
Choice spots:Jake’s Famous Crawfish, Mi Mero Mole

Tommy Klus is a bit of a whiskey genius (though he’d never admit it), having curated the entire collection of the Multnomah Whisk{e}y Library and, now, Loyal Legion’s whiskey program. After that task, opening La Moule with Chef Aaron Barnett and bar manager Mark MacMinn seems almost easy. When he’s not overseeing the restaurant or working with Mark and the rest of the staff on the great cocktail menu, Tommy wanders downtown, for either an Irish coffee at Jake’s Crawfish from his friend Pete, or for tequila or mezcal at Mi Mero Mole from his friend Pablo Portilla.

Emily Mistell
Alex Frane/Thrillist

Emily Mistell

Liquor rep, bartender extraordinaire at Rum Club, proud dog mama
Choice spots:Club 21, Hale Pele, Rum Club

You can take the girl out of the tiki bar... Emily is no longer the bar manager at Rum Club, stepping down a bit to spend more time with her French bulldog, Brix, but, luckily for us she still tends bar there a few nights a week. When she’s not bartending or meeting with bars to discuss La Niña del Mezcal, the world’s only women-operated mezcaleria, she likes to stick to tiki bars near her, either the divey tiki bar Club 21, or the king of tiki bars, Hale Pele. Emily always rolls with a crew, and doesn’t mind stopping in to visit her friends at Rum Club when not working.

Anna Moss and Alex Blair
Alex Frane/Thrillist

Anna Moss and Alex Blair

Anna: bartender at La Moule, half of Portland’s cutest bartending couple; Alex: bar manager at St. Jack, other half of Portland's cutest bartending couple
Choice spots: Aalto Lounge, The Watertrough Saloon, The Vintage

If asked, Alan Akwai, owner of newly opened Hat Yai and previous bar manager at St. Jack will claim that he introduced Anna and Alex. Now they work at separate spots, but manage to find a few nights off together a week. Monday nights are often girl’s nights out for Anna, but other times the couple visits The Vintage cocktail bar in Montavilla for grownup coloring. Aalto lounge and its ridiculous happy hour is another favorite spot, and Alex likes to test his pool skills at The Watertrough on SE Hawthorne, catching Pokémon between shots.

Katie Barnett, Daniel Osborne, & Lucas Plant
Alex Frane/Thrillist

Katie Burnett, Daniel Osborne & Lucas Plant

Bull in China, bartenders, consultants, mavens, rogues, enablers
Choice spots: Bit House Saloon, Aria Gin Distillery

Luke Plant is currently bartending at The Green Room, and Daniel Osborne is joining Kate Bolton at Tusk, but otherwise the two, along with marketing gem Katie Burnett, consult with bars and shapes the industry with their company, Bull in China, curating swank barware. The trio doesn’t really get time off, but when they work on a new menu or a new product to launch, they often find themselves with their friends over at Bit House Saloon, where they can celebrate a finished project with shots of tequila or fernet and cider boilermakers.

Amy Snyder
Courtesy of Amy Snyder

Amy Snyder

Bartender at Lucky Devil Lounge, Devils Point, Kit Kat Club, mother, all around beautiful badass
Choice spots: Parks, movie theaters, pho restaurants

Voted Portland’s Best Bartender in 2015 by the Willamette Week’s Readers’ Choice Awards over a number of craft cocktail superstars, Amy Snyder is a Portland icon. Ex-Suicide Girl, ex-stripper, ex-gogo dancer, Amy is now a full time bartender and mother. She hasn’t left the strip club scene, though; she just moved behind the bar at some of the best spots in town. She manages the impossible task of working three different late-night bar shifts and still getting up every morning to take full care of her kid. When she’s not at work, her life revolves around him, whether it’s going to movies, hitting the coast, grabbing pho, or taking him to friends’ birthday parties.

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Alex Frane is a writer in Portland, and appreciates all the bartenders who let him tag along on their nights off to shove a camera in their faces. Find out more about the bar scene in PDX at @franiacdrinks