Food & Drink

PDX's 8 best whiskey bars

Published On 03/26/2014 Published On 03/26/2014
whiskey at rookery
Drew Tyson

You can drink whiskey pretty much anywhere... except in your car, or at your job (unless you work at Thrillist!), or in public, or at the library (unless it's Multnomah Whiskey Library!), but literally almost ANYWHERE else, and definitely at any other bar. The very best places to drink whiskey in the PDX, though? Here're eight of 'em...

Drew Tyson

Best cocktails: Kask
Love ‘em for the same reason as before -- seriously sweet cocktails made with quality ingredients, including a shton of whiskeys/bourbons, so just pick one and beg their creative bartenders to make something up.

Andrew Zimmer

Most affordable drinks: Vintage Cocktail Lounge
Helmed by a former barman at Trebol, this boozer promises classic brown liquor-heavy cocktails done right, which they deliver for as little as four bucks, alongside equally affordable pub fare, including a Stumptown-powered coffee ice cream for dessert served with peanut butter & chocolate cookies.

Produce Row Cafe

Whiskey & beer pairings: Produce Row Cafe
Southeastside Industrial
Not only do they make one of the city's most underrated burgers, Produce Row has a bartending team putting out some of the city’s finest cocktails for under $10. Most importantly, they’ve got a rotating list of beer and whiskey pairings that sure beat your go-to Black and Blue.

Best day drinkery: Pope House Bourbon Lounge
Nob Hill
The once-exclusive Bourbon Derby is now prominent on their menu, but considering the three-hour wait to get into the new Multnomah Whiskey Library, we can’t blame them for pulling out all the stops, or, as their name states, focusing on real, American whiskey (though you’ll also find a well-crafted selection of the lesser variety). Its proximity to Trendy Third does mean that it’s pretty busy on the weekend, but it's the perfect place for a belt of brown earlier in the day/week.

Drew Tyson

Best. Period: Multnomah Whiskey Library
It's got the largest selection of whiskey in the city, with many of the most talented bartenders roaming around making Old Fashioneds and Sazeracs tableside. Yeah, it's also got unbearably long wait times (still!), but there’re a zillion bottles of liquor and paintings of famous persons from whiskey’s history on the walls that make it definitely worth visiting... just be careful.

Best neighborhood bar: Brooklyn Park Pub
Even if it didn't have a 100-plus-strong whiskey list (ask about the Whiskey Club!), it'd still be a sweet place to hang, as evidenced by the laid back atmosphere, a solid selection of beers on tap, board games, centipede, and "These Guys" food cart out back.

Andrew Zimmer

Best for a(n ironically) quick shot: Slow Bar
Southeastside Industrial
The place you go when all you want is to sidle up to the bar and have a quick shot... or three. But if you want to stick around, they've got a famously good onion-ring-topped burger and some of Portland's best bar snacks.

The Rookery

Best aged cocktails: The Rookery
It has all of the style of a gentleman's drawing room, and all of the free pool and TVs of a dive, plus hand-selected barrels of spirits and bottle-aged cocktails. Pro tip: try the Old Fashioned, or the equally old fashioned delicious Manhattan.

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1. 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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2. 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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3. Slow Bar 533 SE Grand AVE, Portland, OR 97214 (Se Portland)

Onion ring-topped burgers. Crispy fries drowning in melted cheese. Smoked bacon and onion wood-fired pizza -- the upscale branding and polished interior of this East Portland hangout might have you believing it's a snooty bistro, but what this place really delves out is glutenous American favorites. While menu items like ahi tuna salad and white wine fondue keep this place's image intact, most know to go straight for the house burger or bbq pork sandwich with their specialty cocktail.

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4. KASK 1215 SW Alder, Portland, OR 97212 (Downtown)

From the folks behind neighboring Gruner, KASK slings domestic bites n' booze to create a cocktail-forward experience balanced by artisanal meat/ cheese/ bread, in tavernish mountain-Americana-meets Euro-modern digs with cork floors and a rough-hewn “live-edge” walnut bar supported in part by a rock-filled gabion wall often used in erosion control, which hopefully ensures they never serve mudslides.

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5. Produce Row Cafe 204 SE Oak St, Portland, OR 97214 (Buckman)

Since 1943, Produce Row -- then just a breakfast cafe -- was slinging incredible eats to the people of Portland. And although the past 50 years have seen changes of ownership and intention (it was once a pub), today the Eastside Industrial venue has found harmonious success as a gastropub, known for both its creative American menu and beer/spirits combos. Stop by to enjoy a bite in Produce Row's sprawling back patio, open all year round.

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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. 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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8. Vintage Cocktail Lounge 7907 SE Stark St, Portland, OR 97215 (Montavilla)

Vintage in Montavilla is a great secret in Portland, but what should be more well-known is that the bar serves up consistently fantastic vintage cocktails. To keep the focus on the drinks, the space is pretty minimalistic with a long wooden bar and backlit shelves. To keep it all organized, the cocktails are sorted by type of spirit (such as whiskey, agave etc.), and new and old drinks live in harmony with each other on the cocktail menu.



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