The next step in Portland’s food-cart evolution has materialized in the form of a tiny alfresco bar at Cartopia in Southeast Portland. Although it is the city’s first-ever liquor-serving cart, its arrival comes as no big surprise—it’s not as if the gregarious folks who frequent the popular pod on SE Hawthorne would say no to a drink. The hammered and hungry throngs that make up a significant portion of the late-night weekend clientele do love their poutine and pizza, but it’s about time a cart appeared to tend to the adult beverage needs of these intrepid revelers. It’s also a philanthropic venture as all the workers at the Oregon Bartender Guild-tended cart are volunteers, and every drink sold is a charitable donation to the organization.
Need another good reason to grab a gin and tonic? The cart is there to help promote Portland Cocktail Week, an upcoming festival of mixed-drink merriment and workshops. Partnered with Rogue brewing and boasting bartenders from all over the world, Portland Cocktail Week is going all-out to attract basement bartenders, spirits enthusiasts, and the cocktail curious. The events are for those that appreciate the craftsmanship of a properly mixed beverage—measured ingredients, subtle bitters, balanced vermouth, and of course, a slice of lime. But the cocktail cart, surrounded by a rope barrier and adorned with a string of lights, offers only the simplest of drink choices—four cocktails, one punch, and two beers. The menu may rotate with the staff depending on who is volunteering each night.
Thus far, no one has figured out the mystery of their license approval. The folks who started the cart say it was a surprise that the the cocktail cart (or as the Oregon Liquor Control Commission calls it, the "Oregon Bartenders Guild Hospitality Suite") was approved in just one month after being pulled together in "the DIY spirit of Portland." It seemed unlikely that the OLCC, often lambasted by business owners for its curmudgeonly rules regarding licensing, would green-light the suite. But there it is—a perfectly legal outdoor booze cart conveniently located for your drinking pleasure! So, next time you stop by Cartopia after the bars for your evening crepe, be sure make room for a nightcap—it’s for a good cause! At this point, the cart is cash only and temporary—it will only be open from 6 p.m to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 22.