In Portland’s booming cocktail scene, aspiring mixologists will do just about anything to stand out. With handmade bitters and barrel-aged booze now simply expected, drink names have gained their own potency, depth, and, sometimes, literary flair. With Portland Cocktail Week upon us (Oct 21–25), we explore some of the best monikers.

 

Clement's Curse cocktail from Kask
Image: Mei Ratz

 The Historical

Clement’s Curse
(Kask)

Benedictine liqueur, Broker’s London Dry Gin, Lillet Blanc, dash Regans’ Orange Bitters

The ingredients provide a rough biography of 14th- century Pope Clement VI: a Benedictine monk, Clement had a tortured reign through the Hundred Years War between England (hence gin) and France (home of Lillet) until his, er, bitter death following the black plague.

 

Dagobah System cocktail from Free House
Image: Mei Ratz

 The Geeky

Dagobah System
(Free House)

Bourbon, lime juice, house cola syrup, Fernet Branca, Cock ’n Bull ginger beer

A dark brown, frothy cocktail, it’s named for Yoda’s swampy hiding place in Star Wars. And, of course, the drink’s bright flavor means it has both a light side and a dark side ...

 

A Personal Matter cocktail from Biwa
Image: Mei Ratz

 The Highbrow

A Personal Matter
(Biwa)

Irish whiskey, Fernet Branca, Coca-Cola, orange slice

A literary nod to Kenzaburo Oe’s grim novel of the same name about a man in postwar Japan who drowns himself in whiskey. (The addition of Fernet Branca adds another layer of meaning: people tend to either love or hate this tastebud-numbingly bitter liqueur.)


 

Make It Work! cocktail from the Bent Brick
Image: Mei Ratz

The Inside Joke

Make It Work!
(Bent Brick)

House Spirits White Dog, sweet and dry Vya vermouth, Rhuby Rhubarb liqueur

When Bent Brick’s manager questioned the purchase of so many exotic bottles of liquor, the bartender set about proving that they could, in the words of Project Runway’s Tim Gunn, make it work!

 

 

 

Guillotine cocktail from St. Jack
Image: Mei Ratz

The Groaner

Guillotine
(St. Jack)

Appleton Estate V/X rum, Cointreau, fresh lemon, house-made grenadine, Kübler absinthe

The head-spinning potency of this original recipe is, according to St. Jack slinger Kyle Webster, “quick, effective ... and hits the mark every time.” Yeah.