Question: how does one get a tried and true country boy into downtown Portland?
Answer: Whiskey. Much whiskey.
From the time I met Bryan, I knew a few things for certain but among the most important was that he did not do Portland. My initial response to this was something along the lines of, “Well yeah, if I tried rolling into downtown in a big ol’ jacked up truck like yours I’d probably hate it too.”
(His truck, for the record - and up until just a couple of weeks ago when he took the lift kit off - was no less than 75 feet off the ground (with no running board) and is still at least as wide as 18 football fields. Or, it’s a big red Dodge diesel but you get the idea.)
Anyway, it turns out I wasn’t too far off the mark there. And guess what, I hate driving downtown too – most of the time it just brings out my road rage and makes me feel stabby (proving here too that I am becoming more and more my father’s daughter). But still, my determination remained because let’s face it – most of the time Portland has a hard time keeping up with real cities and these are hardly the mean streets of the PNW up here. It’s about as benign as big cities get.
Regardless, as much time as I’ve spent out in his neck of the woods, it was time he spent some time in mine so how did I lure my favorite redneck into the city? Multnomah Whiskey Library.
Let me say that again – Multnomah. Whiskey. Library.
Sure, it’s a whiskey joint. But it’s much more than that. It’s one part whiskey, two parts speakeasy and 100% secret society-feeling when you walk up the wooden staircase behind the door you’d probably miss entirely if you didn’t know it was there (which I totally did the first time I went there and walked back and forth in front of the building oh, two, three times before I noticed where I was) (my cool factor just skyrockets with anecdotes like that, don’t it?).
Speaking of being lost! I really upped Bryan’s confidence in me as tour guide when, as we were nearing our destination but I couldn’t remember exactly which street to turn onto, I asked him to use his eagle eyes to help me out when we stopped at a red light.
“Does that say Alder?”
“You can’t read that from here?”
“I’m going to die in this car.”
“You’re not going to die. I haven’t killed us yet. I mean, it’s just that one time you should be worried about, but…”
“You can’t see, I have no idea where we are. All I know is the waterfront is that way [points to the right]."
"The waterfront is behind us."
"Yeah, we’re going to die here.”
“There’s a glare on the sign from where I’m sitting and no we won’t die.”
“There’s no glare and we’re definitely going to die.”
And so on…
Anyway, back to my story!
So based on my only other experience there, I was expecting a colossal wait time to get in but somehow the Tuesday night gods smiled on us and we were seated right away at the long (legit) old library table, complete with those great glass-hooded library lamps and dark green leather tabletops. I can’t even begin to do justice to the aesthetic of this place other than to just say they done good with this one.
High ceilings, old wood floors, high-back leather booths lining one corner, big leather chairs, roaring fireplace with a huge mantel filled with a crystal decanter collection most museums would envy, and of course, beautiful oil painting of the presidents and various other distinguished old white dudes (and at least one Chinese guy that Bryan noticed) (and the well-dressed insect that I decided was Jiminy Cricket in his later years after Pinocchio grew up and went to college or joined the circus or whatever it is he did with his life after the movie ended… I probably should have read the book, I bet there’s an epilogue somewhere…). Just… Every detail of the joint is perfection. Crystal decanters as your water jugs! Rolling bar carts for tableside cocktail making! Embossed leather coasters!
And the menu.
When I asked the last time I was there, the answer to “How many options do I really have here?” was about 900 different whiskeys, scotches and things of that nature and in total, about 1,500 different spirits.
The last time Bryan and I had gone out we were delayed in our ordering because we couldn’t stop yapping long enough to decide on which beer to drink. This time, it was the sheer scale of the menu set before us (and the visual of the wall of whiskey that in itself takes a while to fully behold). Our poor waiter was a saint and gave us plenty of time to take it all in. We finally decided that yeah, the $300 shots were probably out of the question but still, we were going to treat ourselves to something good – and something new – so we landed on Jameson 18 Year (him) and House Spirits Westward Whiskey (me).
They were heaven.
Though we both tend toward whiskey on the rocks, we got ours neat so as not to tarnish the experience in any way. Our sainted server returned with not only the amazing whiskey tots they serve your drinks in (Bryan ended up buying one) but the bottles themselves so as to do the full service up right. Watching him measure out the perfect pours only added to the experience – seriously, top notch all the way.
So we sipped and talked and watched as the people around us ordered food which then made us almost regret the spaghetti dinner we’d had with his parents earlier (except not really because it was delicious and you should never regret a good spaghetti). Still, I’m pretty sure we both have made a mental note to go back and try their Scotch egg and charcuterie board.
Once we finished our drinks we decided one more would round out the evening nicely (“once more, for the cheap seats in the back!”) so we detoured away from the whiskey neat and settled on a cocktail (his decision was made more when the people and the other end of the table got what I was pretty sure was the Ward 8 that I’d tried last time I was there and had been craving ever since, and based on looks alone that he needed that like right now). And yeah, that was also a great choice. I don’t go for a lot of cocktails, but make it delicious and make it well and I am all kinds of on board with that. The Ward 8 consists of Old Overholt Rye (one of my favorites), lemon, orange and house made grenadine...
Um. Yes please. Over and over again.
We were the happiest of campers. And we agreed that that is definitely the kind of drink that could get you in a lot of trouble because it is delicious and too easy to drink if you're not careful.
In related news, I plan on making my own version this summer. Spritzy, tangy and whiskey-y... Everybody wins.
So there you go - the number one way to get a heavily-bearded, big truck-drivin', Ariat-wearin' hunk of man downtown.
It's pretty effective.