Back in 2012, West End cocktail bar Kask was a new concept. It was so explicitly designed as a fancy waiting room for now-closed Grüner restaurant, it might as well have put back issues of The Economist on the bartop. But after closing in 2015 and reopening this year under the owners of Ox, the new Kask (1215 SW Alder St., 503-241-7163, superbitepdx.com/kask) feels more like the main event—if the main event is a light affair with your side piece.
While everything at neighboring SuperBite is hyperambitious and groomed, Kask is a brick-walled hidey-hole so dim that the step-up between the door and bar acts as a particularly vicious eye test keeping the geriatric at bay.
The mood is loose, the crowd insouciantly professional. Our bartender, who looked a little like the famously unkempt dude from those Trivago commercials, was nonetheless one of the most pro pourers I've witnessed in town. He threw down a killer tequila-coffee-vermouth Tijuana Speedball ($11, unfortunately soon going off menu)—complete with a precarious garnish of three coffee beans balanced atop a lemon peel—with such precision and alacrity you'd think he'd just downed a speedball himself.
The Kask-classic Alexander Wept ($13), which combines variations in cherry with variations on whiskey, was likewise note perfect, while the food menu casually picks up some of the SuperBite kitchen's can't-miss fare without slowing down the cocktail slingers. It's like a downtown Expatriate for people with buttoned shirts: everything perfect, a little bit sordid, and kept like a secret.