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January 23rd, 2013 MATTHEW SINGER | Bar Guide
 

Hottest Toddies

Finding Portland’s best take on the classic winter drink.

dish_woodsmantoddy_3912BETTER TODDY THROUGH CHEMISTRY: The Woodsman Tavern’s vacuum pot. - IMAGE: Rana Nicole Young
Baby, it’s goddamn freezing outside. OK, maybe we don’t have it as bad as most of the country. But Portlanders only complain about the weather to justify their other favorite pastime: staying inside and warming their cores with alcohol. And no drink gets us through the mild inconvenience of the season better than a hot toddy. 

On a particularly frostbitten day, even a lukewarm toddy with lemon concentrate and Fox and Moose Whiskey is a welcome respite. What is the key to a great toddy, though? 

“The first thing people mess up is the glass itself,” says Dave Shenaut, president of the Oregon Bartenders Guild. At Raven & Rose, the new downtown gastropub he manages, Shenaut pours his toddy—made with Irish whiskey and old-fashioned bitters—in a pre-warmed, thick-sided Belgian drinking glass for maximum heat preservation. He only fills it up halfway, too. “It’s important to be able to stick your nose in there and get that hot steam,” he says.

Since it’s going to be a few months before the city warms up, we surveyed five notable toddy destinations to determine which were worthy of shoving your face in.


Moloko

3967 N Mississippi Ave., 288-6272, molokopdx.com

On a crowded weekend, Moloko is often insufferable: blacklights and fish tanks and modernist furniture, and the kind of people who enjoy such surroundings. (And don’t get me started on the restroom, situated in the middle of an always-logjammed aisle leading to the patio.) During a low-key weekday happy hour, though, when the place is practically empty, the room becomes quite comfy, and that feeling is aided by one of the city’s more satisfying toddies. Made with Evan Williams bourbon—honestly, you don’t need to go top shelf on a toddy—and served in an aquarium-sized snifter, the key is the fresh-squeezed lemon juice, giving it a unique zest to match the soothing warmth. 

Price: $5.

Hot or not: Hot! It’s not especially complicated, but impressive in its simplicity.


The Bent Brick

1639 NW Marshall St., 688-1655, thebentbrick.com

At this Slabtown diner, you won’t find a hot toddy listed on the menu. Ask a bartender to make one, though, and the response is, “Oh, yeah, I’ll always make a hot toddy.” Bent Brick’s is delightfully tart, owing to its use of unripened grape juice and chamomile and Angostura bitters that hit a tangy sweet spot at the corners of your jaw without being overwhelming.

Price: $7.

Hot or not: Hot. Nothing fancy, but it does its job.


The Woodsman Tavern

4537 SE Division St., 971-373-8264, woodsmantavern.com

A question immediately springs to mind whenever one orders the toddy at Duane Sorenson’s urban ski lodge: “Why are they making my drink in an 18th-century bong?” Actually, it’s a vacuum pot—otherwise known as a coffee siphon—which heats applejack, rye whiskey and maple syrup via open flame, creating a bubbling amber concoction, then sends the mixture up a glass chamber to infuse with lemon peel, lavender and other flavorings, producing what is, more or less, a cup of hot whiskey. This method has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, it brings out the alcohol masked in typical toddies, which makes it not much like a toddy at all. On the other, now you don’t have to worry about accidentally swallowing 
a clove. 

Price: $10.

Hot or not: Hot? It mostly depends on your feelings toward having stuff floating around in your drink. Do you prefer pulp-free orange juice? Then this is probably the toddy for you.


Portland Penny Diner

410 SW Broadway, 228-7222, portlandpennydiner.com

Vitaly Paley’s new, casual downtown eatery has a no-big-whoop ambience, which goes against its owner’s celebrity-chef pedigree. Appropriately, the Penny Toddy is a low-key concoction, made with applejack, cardamom bitters and bergamot tea and served in a coffee cup. But it’s dominated by the acidic bite of lemon, giving it the taste of a Country Time thrown in the microwave.

Price: $7.

Hot or not: Not!


(WW Pick) Binks

2715 NE Alberta St., 493-4430, binksbar.com 

Full disclosure: This is where I spent this past New Year’s Day. And as you might expect, after rolling out of bed around 1 pm feeling like a refrigerator fell on me, I’m a bit biased toward the drink that brought me back to life. But Binks is damn near required to serve a top-notch toddy. The bar is the size of an average living room, complete with a fireplace. Coziness is what it aims for, and if its warm beverages were subpar, it’d practically qualify as false advertising. Binks’ deluxe toddy—it’s 50 additional cents—is particularly medicinal, made extra pulpy with mashed-up ginger, and a dash of cayenne pepper providing the kick to rev a hungover soul back into gear.

Price: $6.50.

Hot or not: Hawt! It’s enough to make you handcuff yourself next to the fireplace and hunker down until spring. 

 
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