old gold

The Old Gold brings a convivial new gathering spot to a quiet stretch of N Killingsworth Street.

The Old Gold

2105 N Killingsworth st; theoldgoldpdx.com
FOR: Friends of North Portland
YOU’RE HAVING: El Diablo (tequila, crème de cassis, Brew Dr. Lemon Ginger Cayenne Kombucha, lime juice, cayenne)

This much is certain: North Portland is thrilled about the Old Gold. The moment you step onto its freshly cemented patio and cross that oh-so-familiar threshold of the rolled-up garage door, you can feel a distinct sense of euphoria saturating the room. Because the Old Gold is just the bar this patch of Overlook needed—a cozy local watering hole where you just might run into a neighbor or strike up a conversation with a perfect stranger. But beyond its freewheeling, wide-open atmosphere, the bustling bar also boasts some uniquely admirable assets, among them a hand-hewn, wooden, White Stag–esque “Drink in Oregon” sign, a memorable elk burger and tofu banh mi, and, best of all, a spacious booth outfitted with a “Champagne Button.” (Push it, and your server will appear with Champagne. Really.) The cocktail menu makes a good-natured stab at mixing in kombucha, which doesn’t always shine. But six local taps and a chalkboard scrawled with an impressive, always changing selection of whiskeys offers surefire redemption. —RR

Riffle NW

333 NW 13th Ave; rifflenw.com
FOR: Serious Cocktail Geeks
YOU’RE HAVING: Riffle Collins (gin, lemon, lime, celery, absinthe, salt)

An evening spent at the bar at Riffle NW is akin to a grad-school class in drinking. Behind a perfectly bespoke bar, beverage director David Shenaut and his dapper cohorts have created a cocktail science lab, doling out professorial wisdom on bitters, aeration, and dilution; hand-carving ice cubes with Japanese woodworking saws; and carefully calibrating cocktails to dispense, perfectly carbonated, from a shiny row of taps. You might think it’s all a little overwrought—until you take your first sip. Every drink holds a sly wink of surprise, whether it’s the addictive celery essence of the Riffle Collins or the savory allspice dancing on a foundation of sweet cachaça in a drink dubbed the Leya. And because the cocktails are carefully arranged in food-friendly sequence, from aperitifs to light spirits to brown liquors, a beer cocktail, and finally, digestifs, pairing each with a bite from Riffle’s bar menu of creative, super-fresh seafood is a no-brainer. —RR

The Woodsman Tavern

4537 SE Division St; woodsmantavern.com
FOR: Bourbon-Loving Perfectionists
YOU’RE HAVING: Hunting Vest (Campari steeped in charred cedar, rye, vermouth)

Standing behind the bronze bar at the Woodsman Tavern is Evan Zimmerman, one of Portland’s best bartenders—and this particular restaurant’s high-proof beating heart. In his natty suspenders, Zimmerman is unflinchingly affable, encyclopedic in his knowledge of cocktails, and judicious with his pours. His motto—“elegant and understated”—runs deep through the Woodsman’s rotating cocktail list, from a tart, foaming “Blackthorn Sour” (sloe gin, apricot brandy, lemon juice, pineapple gomme syrup) to the “Judge, Jury and Executioner” (Old Weller bourbon, Amaro, cucumber, macerated Sichuan flowers), with its cool cucumber nose and spicy final kick. In an evening at this sturdy bar, questions are encouraged and feedback is welcomed. If you’re not in a cocktail mood, try a pint from one of the 16 curated taps, and don’t leave without a “pickleback”—Irish whiskey chased by a briny shot of pickle juice. —BT

dig a pony

Local DJs, svelte bartenders, and stylish tipplers mix for an energetic, booze-fueled scene at Dig a Pony.

Dig a Pony

736 SE Grand Ave; digaponypdx.tumblr.com
FOR: Portland Scenesters
YOU’RE HAVING: Sam Isaacs (bourbon, mint, blackberries, lime)

Dance-party madness spills onto SE Morrison Street from this one-year-old, DJ-fueled destination where great-looking people come to play and everyone else comes to watch. A tremendous horseshoe bar anchors the room, while sprawling white tile, Oriental rugs, and a 110-year-old piano set the stage for impromptu weekend raves. Svelte, speedy bartenders shake up a storm for an impressive 280-degree performance, and local DJs pump ’90s vinyl into the well-heeled crowd. Dig a Pony turns out a surprisingly crafty food menu, with a top-quality Painted Hills burger smeared with sweet onion jam, and a bowl of sautéed mushrooms and soft-poached egg mopped up with shoestring fries. The overall vibe? A time-tangling mix of modern sophistication and boomtown honkytonk. In a word: confidence. —BT

The Box Social

3971 N Williams Ave; bxsocial.com
FOR: Lovers
YOU’RE HAVING: The Thoroughbred (Torani Amer, brandy, maraschino, lemon, pomegranate shrub)

Portland may have found its quintessential date spot in the Box Social. Unsurprisingly, it comes courtesy of Shannon McQuilkin, co-owner of the city’s other quintessential date spot, the Sapphire Hotel. The Box Social aims for a level of sophistication matched to the modern Portland crowd, with floor-to-ceiling embroidered drapes; a long, tufted-leather banquette; a dark, candlelit mahogany bar; and a huge hand-painted mural of Portland’s twinkling cityscape. Sure, it might feel a bit Sex and the City for Portland’s hipster set, but this 1,000-square-foot box creates a little world that you can’t help but get lost in. An extensive menu of original, classic, and bubbly cocktails holds some deliciously potent creations—along with plenty of drinking vinegars, beer, and wine—while well-priced nibbles range from parmesan popcorn to a pitch-perfect butter lettuce salad and decadent fig compote panini. If this place doesn’t set the mood, we don’t know what will. —RR