Pandan is the little leaf that could.
The tropical Southeast Asian flavoring is best known for its signature bright green hue and flavor that's a little bit grassy, a little bit vanilla, with a dash of toasted rice and coconut. It's everywhere right now: infused into cheesecakes, sprinkled on mochi doughnuts and layered into pastries—and it was always what made the water at Pok Pok so damn good.
At the new Bit House Collective, it's being stirred into the inventive cocktails by Natasha Mesa, formerly of acclaimed cocktail bar Deadshot, who joined Pono Brewing and Filipino restaurant Magna in reviving the historic bar on Southeast Grand Avenue.
When ordering takeaway, go with Mesa's twist on an old fashioned: the Padam, Pandan, Pandan O.F. ($11), a stiff little elixir in a square bottle and cork top. Made with vodka, bourbon, pandan, blueberry, galangal root and bitters, the green of the pandan is beat out by the violet blueberry, but the flavor is still very much there.
Deceptively smooth and served straight up, it's good for sipping right from the bottle, with the base of pandan playing with the sweet-tart blueberry and citrusy galangal. It's a lot of liquor, but it never gets cloying. (If you're eating on the premises, pandan also shows up in a gin-based drink with tapioca bubbles and a coconut cream on top, but it doesn't travel as well.)
Mesa's cocktails are clearly designed to complement chef Carlo Lamagna's Filipino drinking food, which state law insists you must order along with any cocktail to go. Grab some crab fat waffle fries—the Philippines' answer to poutine—and an order of lumpia, and feel those island vibes cut right through the gray of late winter.
ORDER: Bit House Collective, 727 SE Grand Ave., 503-954-3913, bithousesaloon.com. 4-11 pm Tuesday-Saturday, 2-9 pm Sunday.