Portland, Ore.’s Scotch Lodge is the latest offering from Tommy Klus, who’s perhaps most famous for curating the Multnomah Whiskey Library’s world-class spirits collection. From there, he went on to open local favorite Franco-Belgian bar and restaurant La Moule. Tucked in the back of a historic brick building in southeast Portland, Klus’ newest endeavor is a subterranean cocktail lounge decked out with floral wallpaper, marble countertops and latticed window coverings. It’s an appropriate venue for the bar, which manages to elevate the city’s already impressive cocktail scene with its stunning space, upscale bar food and its playfully serious drink program.
“There’s a bit of wanting a place to call home, to take all the things I’ve been working on and put them in one bar,” says Klus on the bar’s concept. “We’re trying to make Scotch Lodge a place where you can come and try things you’ve never tried before and try other things in ways you may not have thought about before.”
To that end, Klus brought in a team of industry veterans, including bar manager Aaron Zieske, lead bartender Myles Worrell (formerly of The Esquire Tavern in San Antonio) and bartender Jessica Braasch (formerly of Bible Club, a popular Portland speakeasy). Chef Tim Artale runs the food program, which features items like fried brie with verjus syrup, hamachi crudo with chicharrones, and maybe the best soft-shell crab sandwich in town. The result is sophisticated yet playful, learned but unpretentious, and wholly crowd-pleasing. These are three drinks that tell the story of Portland’s Scotch Lodge.
1. Burnt Orange Sherry Cobbler
Fino sherry, Suntory Toki whisky, burnt-orange juice, demerara, lemon
Served in a goblet with pebbly ice cubes and a charred orange shell, the Burnt Orange Sherry Cobbler is light and refreshing, perfect for starting off an evening. “I had been toying around with the idea of a better use for orange, since we go through so many orange peels for our Namesake garnish, but there’s not much place for oranges,” says Braasch. “But when it’s burnt, it takes on this savory, yummy quality, so we char them and juice them.”
Adds Braasch, “I think lower-ABV cocktails are trending, and people are taking it more seriously now. I’m always appreciative when there are lower-ABV cocktails available, and I knew I wanted something classic-esque for ours. I feel like a cobbler fits the vibe of this bar. I wanted something fun and accessible. It’s a lot of people’s first cocktails of the night, but the pairing of the sherry and charred orange lends itself to our food menu, and many have this while they’re dining.”
2. Daffodil’s Lament
Chamomile- and greens-infused Monkey Shoulder scotch, house-made cocktail syrup, lemon juice, egg white
Essentially a laboriously crafted Whiskey Sour, the Daffodil’s Lament is named for a Cranberries song of the same name. Once the Lament hits a table, there’s always a flurry of new orders for it. It’s bright and juicy yet robust and complex.
“It’s a really fun one,” says Braasch. “We take Monkey Shoulder scotch and vacuum-seal it with dry chamomile and seasonal greens, then sous vide it for about 15 minutes. It often changes with whatever greens we can get, and they add a little bit of a kick. The first was mustard flower; now it’s crown daisy greens. Next one I want to do is a winter chard, with a little bitterness that will play well with the chamomile. At the end of the day, chamomile is such a bully that it will keep it at bay, and it adds a little roundness and richness. Instead of a simple syrup, we use a cocktail syrup: three kinds of sugar, salt, and citrus peel, then citrus and egg whites.”
As for the flowery garnish, the team uses whatever works, which is usually a pansy. “Isn’t a pansy just a daffodil’s lament?” asks Klus.
Scotch Lodge, the bar, is Klus’ own cocktail, a stirred beauty for those who like their drinks rich, bold and complex. “To me, it drinks like a textured Boulevardier,” says Braasch. “There’s a little brightness from the Combier and a perfect amount of bitterness from the Cynar that gives it chewiness and body, and the Bowmore gives it a bit of smoke. It comes on a big cube, and with dilution, you start to unlock new flavors. It changes and evolves as you drink it, with those fruity characteristics opening up along the way.”
The Namesake is actually a take on another cocktail Klus created years earlier in his career, the Black Lodge, which substitutes rye whiskey for scotch. “It’s a ubiquitous cocktail in Portland, and different iterations of it have existed in many bars for a long time,” says Braasch.
“Adding the scotch sparked my love affair of Scotch whisky in cocktails and taking a more playful, less serious approach with it,” says Klus. “It’s not just sipping 30-year-old scotch in a country club.”
“It’s one of my favorites on the menu, for when you’re feeling dark and broody,” says Braasch.