It's both the curse and blessing of a to-go cocktail: You can't sit at the bar, but at least somebody who's much better at making drinks than you did the work.
With Kachka's Baba Sima Tonic, though, there's also a job for you.
If you've finished all of your pandemic jigsaw puzzles, here's a drink that's also an activity. What you get when you order the Russian restaurant's "famous flaming brandy and tea cure-all" along with your borscht or dumplings is a six-part package, including Earl Grey-infused brandy, a sugar cube, orange zest and a small plastic squeeze capsule of Hamilton 151 Overproof Rum.
Then you set the drink on fire.
First, you pour the brandy into a heatproof vessel—at Kachka, they use a traditional metal-crystal tea glass, while mine was a White Stag-inspired "Portland, Oregon" glass mug from Tender Loving Empire. Then, you balance a spoon across the top, put down the sugar cube, and hit it with the rum, while also spilling some into the glass. Break out your lighter and—settle down, Beavis—FIRE! FIRE!
The blue flame dances high above the spoon, caramelizing the sugar, after which you hover with the zest, express the oil—though I'm afraid I didn't do that aggressively enough to produce the promised sparks—and top off the drink with boiling water, which also kills the flame.
And then the sixth part, as prescribed by Kachka co-owner Bonnie Frumkin Morales's babushka: a stirred-in blob of raspberry preserves. "Baba Sima" made the drink with vodka, tea and jam; the substitution of Earl Grey-infused brandy definitely makes it more hot-toddylike, its booziness balanced by the tea's floral notes, with the jam adding an extra hit of fruity sugar.
In Kachka's 2017 cookbook, Frumkin Morales wrote that the "verdict's still out" on the tonic's medicinal properties. But if we get another winter storm, or you've somehow managed to catch a cold despite all the mask-wearing, it's definitely what you want.
DRINK: Kachka Lavka/Kachka to Go, 960 SE 11th Ave., 503-235-0059, kachkapdx.com. Market 9 am-6 pm daily, restaurant 5-8 pm daily.