Happy Hour: The Atlantis Lounge

11 05 2012

In Portland, it’s not unusual for a bar to exist as an attachment to a larger business. It’s one of the things I love about the area. Chinese restaurants, mom-and-pop diners, music venues; you’re never far from a stiff drink in Portland. While in some cases these drinking establishments might seem to exist as an afterthought, they occasionally develop into the primary reason you decide to leave the house.

These bars tend to be low-lit, intimate, and hidden in the back. Quite often, they play host to a stable of staunchly loyal patrons that are more than ready to pull the needle off the record player the second a new face accidentally stumbles through the door. These are the places I love to hang out in, but only when the regulars are more inviting. The Atlantis Lounge inside Mississippi Pizza is one such place.

Back in the late 90’s owners Philip and Stephanie Stanton were one of the first entrepreneurs to take a chance on the then struggling neighborhood. Today, Mississippi Pizza thrives as a community hub for food and entertainment. The pizzeria caters to singles, couples and families. They host live music, bingo, trivia nights (Quizissippi), and even the occasional spelling bee. I’ve attended all of these functions at least once, and they’re great. But our attention on this particular evening was on drinks; and more specifically, the Atlantis Lounge.

Tucked neatly into the rear of Mississippi Pizza is the nautically themed Atlantis Lounge. It possesses all the character and ambiance you want from a hole-in-the wall dive hidden in some inner-city alley. It also comes with the coziness and safety that you might expect from, well, a pizzeria on Mississippi Avenue. We were met by the owner of Mississippi Pizza, Philip, bar manager, Nikki, and tender of bar, Adam.

The Atlantis Lounge emphasizes fresh squeezed fruit juices. We were served up a sampling of drinks that uphold that ethos well. The first of these was the Atlantis Margarita. Sauza blanco tequila, GranGala, lime, fresh orange, and prickly pear, served on the rocks. The drink was fresh, stiff, and crisply sweet.

Next was the Titanic. Comprised of Monopolowa vodka, triple sec, lime, and fresh squeezed grapefruit, served up. If you like a good Greyhound you already know that grapefruit juice and vodka are two great tastes that taste great together. This drink is no exception. The lime and triple sec round out the citrus flavor of the grapefruit solidly.

Next up was the Noble Pear. This drink features local Clear Creek pear brandy, GranGala, and lime; shaken and served up, with a sugared rim. Perhaps it’s just my locavore tendencies, but I love me some Clear Creek brandy and this drink utilizes it perfectly. The pear brandy remains the standout, being ever so slightly complimented by the GranGala and lime.

We finished with a nice cold-weather beverage, the Merman’s Hot Toddy. This straight forward warmer utilizes Maker’s Mark and lemon in a ginger toddy. The glory of the toddy is that warm tummy sensation. If it’s done right, you’ll question how much of that warmth is produced by the temperature of the beverage and how much is produced by alcohol content. Adam nailed that balance. Always put your faith in guys named Adam.

Massive thanks to Philip, Nikki, and Adam for providing us with wonderful drinks and conversation. I look forward to slipping into and enjoying every cozy nook the Atlantis Lounge has to offer.


Happy Hour: Samurai Blue

3 05 2012

Samurai Blue is new. Not toddler new, infant new. At just about six months old, the place hasn’t been on Mississippi Avenue any longer than I’ve had my current bottle of ketchup. But clearly, owners Tommy and James didn’t need much time to get their legs underneath them. Serving contemporary Japanese cuisine, Samurai Blue has already garnered a reputation for having some of the best sushi in Portland. The dining area at Samurai Blue is subtle and clean. It’s a comfortable space that’s as suitable for casual lunches as it is for date night. But on this particular day, Kassidy and I were there for drinks.

The drinks at Samurai Blue shouldn’t fly under anybody’s radar. They’re good. Lead bartender, Zachariah, has produced a menu of creative, Asian inspired mixed drinks that are as tasty as they are potent. House infused liquors and fresh ingredients are the focus. Zachariah was cordial, quiet, and self-effacing, but don’t let that fool you. Anybody that has a tattoo of an Osterizer blender on their forearm is probably serious about their drink-makery.

Zach started us off with a Cucumber Martini comprised of house infused cucumber vodka, cilantro, lemon, and a few drops of Tabasco. By the way, the Tabasco gave it a nice back end without making the drink spicy. It was also about this time that Tommy produced the Tuna with Goat Cheese plate. The two primary ingredients are plated with sesame oil, sun dried tomato, balsamic vinegar, basil, Fuji apples, and honey. It was as delicious as it sounds; savory, sweet, and satisfying without being filling. I would later be very happy we had it.

Next we had a Ginger Mojito made of house infused ginger-rum, mint, sugar, lime, and soda. One more time, house infused ginger-rum. Put it on your Christmas list.

We were then we were given a Black Belt. The drink features house infused blackberry vodka, house made blackberry syrup, cranberry juice, and rice milk. This drink was sweet, fresh, and a prime example of Zach’s willingness to experiment.

Then Zach brought in the closer, the Samurai Tai. This fancy number had rum, house made grenadine, orange liqueur, fresh lemon, fresh lime, and pineapple. In typical fruity drink fashion, it tasted like god’s fruit punch. It would also render your limbs useless and make you forget you had children if you drank more than two.

Thanks to Tommy, James, and Zachariah for their time, and for providing us with outstanding food and drink. I need to pitch a story idea about sushi to somebody.

Happy Hour: moloko

24 04 2012

I read somewhere that photography and alcohol don’t mix. That may be true, but I think writing and drinking pair off nicely. I was recently given an assignment from Northwest Travel Magazine to cover the happy hour scene on Mississippi Avenue. By the way, that’s a story idea I pitched to them. If you know me at all that shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

Since I sincerely believe that in-depth research and subject immersion are the keys to insightful writing, I have taken it upon myself to visit as many of the bars along Mississippi Avenue that will have me. This coalition of the willing includes newer places, older places, upper end hot spots, and borderline dive bars. Last night I had the privilege of visiting moloko.

Going on 6 years old, moloko is owned and operated by Christian Fitzpatrick. What he’s created is a comfortably eclectic place to hang out. It’s modern, it’s vintage, it’s soul and hip hop. It is also mesmerizing fish tanks. It’s where George Jetson and Common might meet up for a drink; and then be joined by a handful of regulars.

My mixologist for the evening was James. Despite the burden of being distractingly good looking, James was able to pour a series of creative and spot-on drinks. In addition to all the standards, Moloko has a lineup of house infused liquors. I started off with a couple of summer inspired cocktails.

The Smoldering Fruit Bomb was comprised of habenero infused vodka, fresh squeezed orange and lime juice, pineapple juice, agave and soda. It was equal parts “hello there” hot and fruit juice sweet that made the beverage remarkably refreshing.

In terms of refreshment though, you’d be hard-pressed to top the Aaah Jamye. My second drink of the evening was made with muddled cucumber, jalapeno-lime infused tequila, fresh squeezed lime and orange juice, agave, and soda. Good luck finding a better warm weather drink than that. Perhaps the only downside is that the drink goes down way too easy. I suppose depending on where you stand (or wobble), that’s not a downside at all.

Since the article I’m writing might be featured in the winter edition of the magazine, James finished things off with the Gingerly. The drink has orange-ginger infused whiskey, fresh squeezed orange and lemon juice, honey, nutmeg, cinnamon, and hot water. It’s garnished with a cinnamon stick and a clove stuffed orange slice. Man oh man if this thing didn’t have me briefly pining for colder weather. Briefly.

Big thanks go out to Christian, James, and the delightful young lady at the bar who provided good conversation. I’ll be back.