It’s getting cold out there, fellow drinkers, and soon, the rains will come. We have two choices: to despair at the impending sunless months or to reacquaint ourselves with everyone’s old winter friend, the hot toddy.
But let’s be honest; there’s an obvious winner here.
Portland loves a good toddy, as evidenced by the beverage’s regular seasonal appearance on our bar menus. Sure, most dives can make you a mean classic, but craft cocktailers aren’t letting this one stay hot water and bourbon forever. They’re reinterpreting the drink with everything from pear brandy to maple syrup.
This is where we come in. We’ve assembled the short list of toddies you should try, and we have you covered from that dive-bar classic to a new cider toddy. Trust that three or four of any of them are perfection for a long, slow night listening to the wind howling outside.
And what a long, slow winter it’s going to be, friends. So spread the good cheer and share your favorite toddies below for us all to warm our hands on!
The Toddy That Lets You Choose
Bring three friends, and you won’t have to choose at all. Moloko’s house toddy is a magical combination of simple ingredients: dark honey, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and some bourbon, served in the enormous snifter that all hot beverages get here. Pass that one around and try your buddy’s “it’s good enough,” a pear brandy toddy that has a boozy funk to it. Keep playing musical beverages and pass that one on, too, because hopefully someone ordered the ginger snap toddy (with a healthy dose of molasses) and the questionably named cougar (apple-infused vodka). Here’s a tip: enjoy this toddy spectrum on the patio out back. It’s something of a heated den, so enclosed in various flora that it’s practically an indoor space and an excellent way to conquer a chilly night.
Moloko Plus, 3967 N Mississippi Avenue, 503.288.6272
The Portland Toddy
What makes this the Portland toddy? Well, to start, Tiga’s toddies are made with a house-infused ginger bourbon, and you’ll be enjoying yours in a charming candlelit space decorated in arthouse shabby chic. You might choose to pair it with any of their vegan menu items, and there’s a good chance you’ll be chatting up a bearded NoPo barista while you wait for your food. And, hey, those toddies are so warm and gingery, you’ll probably have ordered about four more than you intended to by the time you stumble out three hours later with his number tapped into your smartphone. Move over, summer fling! And welcome, winter romance.
Tiga, 1465 NE Prescott Street, 503.288.5534
The Toddy That Will Ruin You for Toddies
The Victory Bar
We’re talking about Victory’s cider toddy here, which is technically neither cider nor toddy, but you won’t care much in the face of this warm concoction. Hot cider is poured over brandy and served with a stiff dollop of house-made maple cream, which will proceed to slowly melt into your drink. And your heart. In fact, stir that cream in there yourself and sip luxuriously while you bask in the dusky orange glow of Victory’s décor. If you’re not flying solo, it’s a good idea to bring someone you can canoodle with, because, between the drink and the ambience, you’ll be very much inclined to.
The Victory Bar, 3652 SE Division Street, 503.236.8755
The Neighborhood Toddy
Balls the Cat's Moonshine Kitchen & Lounge
Moonshine has a rotating drink special each night, fittingly scribbled on the chalkboard behind the bar. When it’s their apple cider toddy, the aroma hits you the minute you walk in the door. So just order one, order more as the night goes on, revel in the cinnamon kick and buy a round for your friends. It’s the hot drink you want to huddle around one of the outdoor picnic tables with. If you’re enterprising enough, you can find a few extra candles to put in the middle, too, and you’ll have something of the campfire you need to complete the winter scene.
Balls the Cat's Moonshine Kitchen & Lounge, 1020 NW 17th Avenue, 503.943.2780
The Toddy With an Agenda
Remember the cleanse? That diet drink with maple syrup, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper? Well, it’s found its true calling as the Observatory’s house toddy, heated and mixed with rooibos-infused whiskey. Lighter-bodied than most specialty toddies, it’s an especially quaffable drink benefiting from the kick of the cayenne that intensifies as you get to the bottom of your mug. Once you’ve done that a few times over, go next door and bet the next round on a pool game, because you’re not too soused to win, right?
The Observatory, 8115 SE Stark Street, 503.445.6284
The Elevated Toddy
Walking into Central out of the cold is like arriving at your stylish old winter cabin, where someone’s already started a roaring fire. Pretty rare for a downtown establishment, and they don’t make an ordinary toddy, either. Prepare for a pear brandy-based cocktail that is essentially an herb garden in a hot beverage. Complete with thyme and a lemon wheel studded with cloves, it’ll cure what ails you, be it an impending flu or a broken heart. If you’re lucky, the golden-hued drink will be brought to you in a regal chalice, which is an especially pleasing vessel to drain.
Central, 220 SW Ankeny
The Classic Toddy, Served to You by the Right Bartender
Don’t be shy about heading into the bar area of this old-school Chinatown joint. You’ll be greeted by the bowls of bar snacks no one seems to have anymore and some serious red lighting and faux-Chinese wall paintings. Belly up to the bar and ask for that toddy from the woman who’s been bartending there for over twenty years. She’ll ask if you want brandy or bourbon—brandy, of course—and you’ll soon be enjoying a strong drink in the company of elderly men and the local news. Tuck into your cushioned bar stool, make friends with your drinking compatriots, and let winter rage outside for the next few hours.
Republic Café, 222 NW 4th Avenue, 503.226.4388