Food & Drink

The Very Best Whisk(e)y Bars in Portland

Published On 06/01/2016 Published On 06/01/2016

If you’re new to Portland, or just new to its bar scene, and you’re looking for a bar with a great whiskey program, you'll probably end up at Whiskey Bar. It’s understandable, but also very wrong, because Whiskey Bar is actually a dance club and music venue. Instead, try one of these spots if you’re looking for bourbon, rye, Irish, Japanese, Canadian, Scotch, or any other type of whiskey. We guarantee them to be the best in the city for whiskey drinking.

The Old Gold

The Old Gold

Overlook

The Old Gold is tucked into the burgeoning Overlook neighborhood, conveniently just off of the MAX line. It’s something between a neighborhood bar and a hip cocktail joint, with whiskey classes, customizable flights, and a cocktail list focused on the brown stuff. With all of this you wouldn’t need a great food menu, but the Old Gold provides with an impressive selection of sandwiches, including some great veggie ones. If the spot is underrated, it’s probably because the neighborhood wants it that way.

The Multnomah Whisk{e}y Library and the Green Room

Downtown

The Multnomah Whisk{e}y Library isn’t just the best whiskey bar in Portland, it’s one of the best whiskey bars in the country. It has an unbelievable selection, painstakingly cultivated by whiskey maven Tommy Klus, now helming La Moule. It has sexy, high-back tufted leather chairs, gorgeous rugs over hardwood floors, exposed brick, chandeliers, fireplaces, and well-dressed whiskey librarians pouring your whisk{e}y table-side from bar-carts. You might find yourself waiting a few hours to get in, but now there’s The Green Room, a downstairs sister bar to grab a drink in while you wait to get... into the bar... for a drink.

Kari Young

Bit House Saloon

Buckman

Jesse Card and his seasoned "Team Riff-Raff" are clearly having fun at work, serving drinks from slushies to on-tap cocktails and sherry, but the hospitality at Bit House Saloon is paramount. The team has a select number of single barrel whiskeys (and other spirits) that can be ordered in flights of various tasting sizes, from ½oz to Old Fashioneds. Bit House also houses a supply of affordable whiskeys, all of which can be ordered as a half-pour. The goal, Card says, is to give people a chance to try a big, badass whiskey that may otherwise be cost prohibitive. Check in on Mondays when the bar occasionally hosts Monday Night Flights, with liquor experts bringing in quality spirits to preview at a fraction of what you'd normally pay. Even if it’s not whiskey that day, it’s bound to be something good.  

Courtney DeKorte

Paydirt

Kerns

“We have too much whiskey” is the motto of Paydirt, the hip new bar in the center of the hip new Zipper Building, a collective of restaurants, cafes, and a nail salon. Indeed, they do have too much whiskey, and you can grab a decently priced, heavily poured shot and a tallboy of some domestic lager on the cheap during happy hour. If you get tired of whiskey you can avail yourself to some champagne or a bucket of the Champagne of Beers, quickly delivered to your table with a single call from the bar’s phone booth. Or just get some Fernet on tap.

Brooklyn Park Pub

Brooklyn

From the outside, it looks like a dive bar. On the inside it looks... like a dive bar. But scrawled in chalk on one wall is a large whiskey list, some of which are circled -- these are for the whiskey club only. To get into the whiskey club, you have to try 30 different whiskies, and a certain amount must come from each "family" (bourbon, scotch, etc.). Then and only then will you have access to the club list, and all other whiskeys are permanently a $1 off for you. Just don’t expect any fancy ice or craft cocktails.

Kenji Mizumori

Pope House Bourbon Lounge

Alphabet District

A quaint bar set in an old Victorian house in the beautiful Alphabet District, Pope House lives up to its name: in addition to the Bourbon 101 classes that celebrate and elucidate on the subject of bourbon, the bar offers the Bourbon Derby, a list similar to Brooklyn Park’s, but 50 bourbons long. Once you reach the Finish Line, you receive a personalized Lucky Horseshoe on the Wall of Fame. Pope House also has a number of whiskey flights and a happy hour with $4 select whiskeys and $6 whiskey cocktails, perfect for sipping on the multi-tiered front patio during the summer months.

Swank & Swine

Swank & Swine

Downtown

If you’re coming in from out of town, or just want a decent spot to drink Downtown, Portland has some excellent hotel bars, one of which is Swine Bar, part of the Swank & Swine duo in the Paramount Hotel. The restaurant is great, but Swine Bar is where the whiskey's at (it’s actually available at both, but). Some 250 whiskeys line the shelves, collected by Portland bar veteran Johnny Rizzo, including rotating seasonal-infused whiskeys -- for summer it’s a smoked fig bourbon. Stop in on Whiskey Wednesdays when select whiskey pours are $2 off.

Raven & Rose

Raven & Rose/The Rookery

South Park Blocks
Raven & Rose and the Rookery Bar take classic cocktails very seriously; while there are some fantastic original cocktails on the bar menu, it’s the standards that stand out. That’s because the staff selects single-barrel spirits specifically for each individual drink. This means when you order a Sazerac or a mint julep, you’re getting the best possible whiskey for the cocktail. It also means you won’t mind that you just dropped $15 on a Manhattan, but rather, are tempted to get a second, and possibly a third.

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Alex Frane is a proud native of Portland, and loves that we rival even the South in our whiskey selection. Follow his drinking habits at @franiac

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1. The Old Gold 2105 North Killingsworth, Portland, OR 97201 (Overlook)

The Old Gold in North Portland is somewhere between a neighborhood bar and a hip cocktail joint. It prides itself on having one of the largest whiskey collections in Portland, and though the stock is always changing, it's full of bourbon, rye, and whiskey from Japan, Canada, Ireland, and Scotland. Custom whiskey flights and pairings are available, as are house-made picklebacks. The bar also serves standout pub fare like smoked gouda grilled cheese, elk burgers, and caramelized onion-topped mac & cheese.

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2. Multnomah Whisk{e}y Library 1124 SW Alder St, Portland, OR 97205 (Downtown)

If you're a whiskey fan, Multnomah Whisk{e}y Library in Portland is worth a trip. One of the best whiskey bars in the country, it has more than 1,500 whiskeys stacked along a huge brick wall, and in true library fashion, they're accessible by a sliding ladder. Roaming bartenders serve drinks from bar carts, and they know more about whiskey than you ever will, so trust them. You can buy a membership to the semi-gentlemen's club to reserve a table ahead of time, otherwise you'll have to wait a few hours for a seat on peak nights with the rest of the non-members. You can always buy a one-time "Hall Pass" to skip the line though.

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3. Bit House Saloon 727 SE Grand Ave, Portland, OR 97214 (Buckman)

Even though it opened in 2015, there's an age-old feel to the 150-seat Bit House Saloon, named for how much a beer cost before the US outlawed foreign coins in the 1800s. You'll walk up to a bar on floors made from old bourbon barrels to order a whiskey-focused list of specials. But don't expect service as rusty as the brass accents in the space, this saloon has beed lauded for its mixology since landing on the scene. Stay traditional with an Old Fashioned or Manhattan, or dip into the punch-packing proprietary drink list, featuring sips like the Astro City Cracker Jack (popcorn-washed Applejack, smoked maple syrup, Verjus, soda). The food menu is fit to soak up the drinks, with fried pork rillette or smoked chicken wings playing opener to fried bologna sandwiches or a smoked pork plate.

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4. Paydirt 2724 NE Pacific St, Portland, OR 97232 (Kerns)

“We have too much whiskey” is the motto of Paydirt, the hip cocktail bar in the center of the Zipper Building. Indeed, they do have a lot of whiskey, and you can grab a decently priced, heavily poured shot and a well-priced tallboy of some domestic lager during happy hour. If you get tired of whiskey you can avail yourself to some champagne or a bucket of the Champagne of Beers, quickly delivered to your table with a single call from the bar’s phone booth.

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5. Brooklyn Park Pub 3400 SE Milwaukie Ave, Portland, OR 97202

Brooklyn Park Pub is a dive bar that offers up a slew of whiskey options plus pub fare. Scrawled in chalk on one wall is a large whiskey list, some of which are circled -- these are for the much-lauded whiskey club only. To get into the whiskey club, you have to try 30 different whiskeys, and a certain amount must come from each "family" (bourbon, scotch, etc.).

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6. Pope House Bourbon Lounge 2075 NW Glisan, Portland, OR 97209 (Nob Hillalphabet Dist)

While the Pope House near Italy has a garage full of sweet-ass cars, this one has guns on the wall and real-deal bourbons like Jefferson’s Reserve Very Old Very Small Batch and Parker’s Heritage Collection 27yr. You can also savor its own Four Roses Single Barrel Private Selection, aged over 10 years, by joining the unadvertised Bourbon Derby tasting club, a concept you really have to tip your hat to.

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7. Swank and Swine 808 SW Taylor St, Portland, OR 97205 (Downtown)

Swank and Swine is one of Portland's best hotel restaurant and bars, housed in the stylish downtown Paramount Hotel. The restaurant, Swank, has a menu that features great American fare, and the bar, Swine, is a whiskey bar. Swine has over 250 whiskeys that line the shelves, collected by Portland bar veteran Johnny Rizzo, including rotating seasonal-infused whiskeys.

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8. Raven & Rose 1331 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97201 (Downtown)

Housed within a historical landmark, Raven & Rose serves upscale comfort food and a nearly overwhelmingly large wine list. The beautiful dining room is inspired by the Irish and British countryside, as does the menu. Take dining to the next level by experiencing a bison cheeseburger paired with a craft beer you can't pronounce.

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9. Rookery 1331 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97201 (Sw Portland)

Entering The Rookery Bar, housed in the historic 1883 Ladd Carriage house right above British tavern Raven & Rose, feels like stepping into an old boys' club. It's all too easy to assume a "dandy chap" pose when you're sitting sitting fireside in an armchair, sinking further in with every sip from your Manhattan. Any of the classic cocktails poured here will get you in the mood, really, and the proprietary concoctions are given so much care, you'd mistake them for old standards (try Caroline's Fancy: reposado tequila, curacao, cardamom bitters). The kitchen nods to Irish and English inspirations, with fish & chips, shepherd's pie and London broil feeding tipplers under the vaulted ceilings. Stir in some regular live Irish folk music, a bold green billiards table, and a rare liquor selection and the entire experience is intoxicating.

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