Move over, mojitos and caipirinhas. Tall and rummy was so last summer. You might have noticed a newcomer popping up on the cocktail lists of bars all over town: punch! Borne of the prevailing trend of the 1920s speakeasy throwback, punch is making a serious return to the drinking scene, and we suspect this is just the beginning! Good thing, because July’s around the corner, and what sunshine-and-libation-loving Portlander wouldn’t like to order such an easy-drinking concoction?
Long considered to be the slightly frumpy, no-fuss drink favored by the collegiate crowd and the occasional harried wedding planner, punch is emerging as a drink with potential for greatness. Sure, it might have been willed into existence in order to mask the flavor of bathtub gin, but it’s not just about sweet anymore, fellow drinkers! Think infused liquors, bitters, and muddled seasonal fruit. By the time you finish off with brandy and a hint of spice, you’ve got a bowl of deliciousness you might just want to keep all to yourself (actually, we don’t recommend that, but we understand the impulse).
So pull up a chair, invite a few of your best drinking buddies, and dive in. We’ve highlighted a few different places to find the good stuff in the city. And as usual, add your own boozy suggestions in the comments!
Oh, the daily punch at Clyde. You probably already come here for their whisky selection, their food, the casually cool downtown ambience, and a staff that’s easy on the eyes, but now you have something else to add to that list. Forget those barrel-aged cocktail offerings. Throw on some heels and a saucy dress and really hone in on that “ever-flowing” element of their daily punch. Don’t even worry about what’s in it. Just know that the final product has involved a dry muddle, precise proportions, the bartender’s mood, and probably Prosecco. No better time to chat up that bearded gentlemen sipping rye than after a few of these, we imagine.
Clyde Common, 1014 SW Stark Street, 503.228.3333
Head here for some inventive punches, and a generous selection of them at that, by the current city standards. Circa 33 adheres to a bartending style based on conviviality and classic drink mixing, which extends to every drink on their list. Lucky for you! These punches tend to be on the sweeter side, but check out the pisco punch, a more gingery concoction. You have your option of a carafe that serves five or a smaller, individual portion if you feel like defying the communal spirit and essence of the drink (so the menu says!).
And if you choose to forgo (or can’t find space in) the alleyway patio seating, the interior includes a library-style setup behind the bar complete with sliding ladder to reach the tallest shelves. Between that, the bartender’s 1920s-esque get-up, and the new carafe that just arrived at your table, you’ll be pretty happy that silly 18th Amendment got repealed.
Circa 33, 3348 SE Belmont, 503.477.7682
Photo: Natalie St John
Central’s current cocktail list leaves a very important opening in its “bartender’s choice” option, under which we’re sure no reasonable request for a quaffable, communal drink would be refused. Really, when you’re inside this thoughtfully decorated, Americana-influenced speakeasy, what doesn’t seem like punch in this atmosphere? The drinks list is available nowhere except inside the bar itself (it’s “secret,” if you will), so get in there, tell the bartender what you like, and spend the rest of the night pretending you’re just whiling away the hours while your own bathtub gin brews at home.
Central, 220 SW Ankeny
You’re most of the way down this list, and maybe you’re speakeasy-ed out. Maybe you don’t want bitters in your punch. Maybe you just want to sit and relive the thrill of that first jungle juice of freshman year. We’ve got you covered. The Original is rocking a back-to-basics punch right now, all flavored vodka and fruit puree, which is in its own unique category of delicious. It’s some ridiculous price at happy hour, so if you’re making this into a bar crawl (you are, right?), make sure you hit this one in that small window of time between 4:30 and 6. But get there soon, because there are no guarantees that the next iteration of punch (ever-changing recipe, we hear) will pair so beautifully with the gravy-soaked poutine.
The Original, 300 SW 6th Avenue, 503.546.2666
The Bye and Bye
Technically, this bar’s eponymous cocktail isn’t a punch, but we’re in the camp of considering any drink as such if has more than one kind of liquor and is served in a canning vessel (which, here, is large enough to be considered a misshapen bowl). And for the teetotalers and designated drivers amongst you who’d like to live the glory of ordering punch despite your non-drinking habits, it’s a delightful irony that the this is the place for you, too. We hear asking for punch will get you some kind of refreshing non-alcoholic cocktail you can sip while laughing at your increasingly belligerent drinking buddies.
The Bye and Bye, 1011 NE Alberta Street, 503.281.0537