Jim Meehan is a modern bartending legend. He’d honed his craft around New York, including stops at Gramercy Tavern and Pegu Club, before opening his own place in 2007. That bar, PDT (Please Don’t Tell) is widely recognized as one of the best in the world, the winner of the 2012 James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar Program and four Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards. Its wide-ranging cocktail menu and speakeasy aesthetic (you enter through a fake phone booth in the hot-dog joint next door) have inspired countless imitators around the world.
Two years ago, Meehan shocked the cocktail world by announcing he would be moving from New York to Portland, Oregon. He is still a part-owner of PDT. He runs a consultancy called Mixography, Inc. in his new hometown, is a contributing editor to Food & Wine magazine and is working on a new book, Meehan’s Manual, which will be released in the fall of 2017.
So where and what does Meehan like to drink in the cocktail-obsessed hipster mecca that is Rip City? Here are three of his favorites you need to try.
Melrose Brown at Jackknife
Located in the historic Sentinel Hotel, Jackknife puts out an astonishing volume of delicious cocktails in a low-key setting. The bubbly Melrose Brown combines Banks 7 Golden Age Rum (a blend of 23 rums from seven different countries that Meehan himself helped create), Monkey Shoulder Blended Scotch Whisky, lemon juice, ginger, and Champagne. “Like the bar itself, this Scotch- and rum-based Imperial Fizz smacks of sophistication, but is deliciously approachable to a broad audience,” Meehan says.
Bloody Michelada at Teardrop Cocktail Lounge
Without hesitation, Meehan calls Teardrop Cocktail Lounge the best cocktail bar in Portland, and this complex drink is a perfect example of what he calls its “culinary high-wire acts.” It combines sotol—a mezcal-like spirit distilled from a desert plant native to northern Mexico—with roasted tomatillos, chiles, garlic, and other Mexican flavors, then tops the whole shebang with some Miller High Life. (“No shortage of irony here in Portland,” Meehan says.) The result is a cross between a Bloody Mary and a spiced-beer favorite Michelada. A fiery, savory and powerful beverage.
Barrel-Aged Negroni at Clyde Common
Ever ordered a barrel-aged cocktail? You have bartender-cum-drinks-writer Jeffrey Morgenthaler (he’s a columnist for Playboy and wrote 2014’s The Bar Book) to thank. Morgenthaler invented the technique in 2009 when he first filled an oak cask with Negronis and let them mature for two months. “It’s a privilege to be able to enjoy a modern classic served by the person who created it,” Meehan says. “Jeff’s barrel-aging technique integrates all the complex botanicals of the gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth into a harmonious blend.”
Jason Horn is a freelance writer and Playboy.com’s spirits columnist.