The season of clouds may be upon us, but that doesn't mean a long winter of discontent has to be on you. Belly up to just about any Portland bar and chances are you’ll find someone who has crafted a cocktail that will cure your winter blues.
Neighborhood Notes went out in search of a few hot drinks—hot as in heated up—and what we found were libations amalgamated with cinnamon, honey, cloves, lots of hot water, and plenty of booze. Here are some we think you'll enjoy.
The secret weapon in any Ping bartender's arsenal (a Korean concoction of ginger-suspended-in-honey that’s used in drinks year-round) doesn't seem so secret when you consider the name of its take on the hot toddy: the ginger honey toddy, which Ping makes with brandy, lemon juice and hot water. On first sip, you taste the brandy up top, but with each subsequent sip, the spirit fades into the drink until it's as invisible as a ghost. Squeeze in juices from the lemon garnish wedged on your glass mug and the brandy seems to disappear completely. But be warned: That’s just your tongue playing tricks on you, so proceed with caution.
Ping, 103 NW 4th Ave., 503.229.7464
Mt. Tabor, Hawthorne
If you've spent the day walking up and down the Hawthorne Boulevard drag and need a place to warm your bones, you could certainly do worse than the Sapphire Hotel. But, you'd better bring a date. If the cozy banquettes and blushing red colors don't imply that this spot's a romantic destination, the candles and the mood lighting will. In fact, it's the kind of place that most certainly keeps candlemakers in business. So blow into your hands, grab a seat, and ask for The Error of My Ways, a seasonal potion made with rum, pineapple juice, housemade passion fruit syrup, and a housemade compound butter spiced with nutmeg, ginger, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, and clove sticks. In other words, it's a Zombie served hot. Once you've put one of these to bed, cozy up with your sweetheart and enjoy a sumptuously, leisurely meal. And while you're at it, ask for another round because you've got the whole night ahead of you.
Sapphire Hotel, 5008 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 503.232.6333
Why flirt with just one good thing when you can fuse it with another, thus creating one great, big, super good thing. The list of famous combos seems endless: peanut butter and jelly, coffee and donuts, cocaine and heroin. Speedballs, of course, aren't good for you, but Felicia's Tijuana Speedball is. Like the potent drug cocktail for which it's named, the ingredients in this cocktail pull you in two different directions at once: high (espresso) and low (tequila). But what makes this drink a Portland legend is the signature of its author, Felicia Sledge, who felt that tequila and coffee alone wouldn't do. That's why her recipe instructs bartenders to cut the drink with Kahlúa, dark and white Godiva chocolate liqueurs, and heavy cream. Served up and chilled, it can also be a terribly dangerous drink because one round probably won't fulfill your cravings, and a second round might not either.
Saucebox, 214 SW Broadway St., 503.241.3393
Concordia, 42nd Avenue
The first thing you notice when you enter this Michigander-owned NE Portland bar is the color of Jacobean. It pervades the tables, booths, wainscoting, and sometimes, as is the case with the coffee nudge, even the drinks. At first glance, the nudge (Kahlúa, brandy, dark creme de cacao, and a cinnamon stick) looks like it will be densely rich, but even with its crown of freshly whipped cream, sprinkled with nutmeg and cinnamon, it's surprisingly light. Should those featureless afternoon winter skies press down upon you, hole yourself up in Nepo 42 with a coffee nudge or two, and by the time the sun sets, it'll feel like springtime in your heart.
Nepo 42, 5403 NE 42nd Ave., 503.288.8080
The Hop & Vine
Overlook, Overlook Village
You think you're tasting honey, but you're not. Technically, The Hop & Vine's Hot Ginger isn't a hot toddy, even though it seems like one. No, what you're tasting is the housemade ginger demerara syrup, a complex blend of such depth and reach that you’ll find yourself distracted from the matter at hand—the Armagnac brandy—as you try to identify the notes. With it's clove-studded lemon wedge, it warms the heart and soul while calming the belly and nerves on dark, dismal, wintery days. And really, what else could you want?
The Hop & Vine, 1914 N Killingsworth St., 503.954.3322
Eagle Eye Tavern
With its slow burn, a whiskey shot has always been an easy way to warm yourself up fast. Add a little cinnamon to it, and that fast warm-up comes faster still. But if a shot's not your thing, you can always ask to have your infused whiskey mixed. What exactly do you mix with cinnamon whiskey? The bartenders at Eagle Eye (formerly Riley's) suggest a big dose of hot apple cider, which they cap with a fluffy cloud of cinnamon-sprinkled whipped cream. So get one, and then get lost in all of Eagle Eye's multiple distractions—from its weekly open mic nights and Sunday night screenings of popular TV shows, to its pool tables and Multicade video game cabinet (on which you can play Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Galaga, and about 15 other vintage video games). So, savor this hot drink and lose yourself in that which surrounds you.
Eagle Eye Tavern, 5836 SE 92nd Ave., 503.774.2141