1200 SW Morrison St., 503-922-3933, shiftdrinkspdx.com. 4 pm-2:30 am Monday-Friday, 5 pm-2:30 am Saturday-Sunday.
Established: May 18, 2015
Shift Drinks always seems smarter than other downtown bars. Maybe it's the sciencey graduated flasks co-owners Alise Moffatt and Anthony Garcia use for precise drink pours, or the fact the bar looks like a high-ceilinged minimalist museum devoted to black-and-white photography of elegant ruin. Shift Drinks' slow-rotating array of stirred, all-booze cocktails will ruin you with equal elegance, pulling complexity and aromatics not from mixers but from bitter herbal liqueurs like Amaro Nonino or Cynar. The Omaha Nightblade ($12), a beer cocktail mixed with Aveze and Montenegro Amaro, is an expertly arranged bouquet of bitter garnished with lemon. It could also be the fact that Shift Drinks' happy hour runs all day; rather than at restricted times, the bar makes a rotating menu with the best liquor the bar found on the cheap, like a $7 Tipperary made with Hell-Cat Maggie Irish, Chartreuse and Carpano Antica vermouth.
The wine list is not a phone book, but rather a tightly curated palette of flavor chosen by Garcia, one of Portland's few advanced sommeliers. The food, even, is a conspiracy of the simple—bruschetta and panini made with ingredients much lovelier than usual. The bar's minimalism leaves it nowhere to hide, and so the only recourse is to do it all better than everyone else.
Bar story: The entire bar was designed based on the Tumblr obsessions of Moffatt and Garcia. The pair went flipping through image after image online, and when the time came they enlarged their favorites to 8-foot-tall, grainy black-and-white, just like the murder in Antonioni's Blow-Up.