Shift Drinks: Bar Review

Quittin' time.

The West End’s
1200 SW Morrison St., 922-3933,
) is a dog whistle, named after the free booze that service staffers get after they punch out. Because, yes, Portland can now devote an entire bar to serving the off-shift waiters of the West End and Pearl—the sort who favor Fernet-Branca as a pick-me-up and might go for an intense vermouth described simply as “drinking tobacco” on the menu. It was begun, indeed, by two defectors from Multnomah Whiskey Library, although its style couldn’t be more different than the Library’s stab at a drawing room for cloistered old money. Shift Drinks’ monochromatic, airy space is an exercise in minimalism and knowing ironies, down to the giant black-and-white photo of drunken Batman, or another of a beautiful woman having a drink thrown in her face. If the room looks more modern art gallery than bar, its drinks come in as science, poured tableside from carefully measured Erlenmeyer flasks. Depending on who you are, it represents either the simplicity afforded by good taste or a sterile echo chamber—because, my God, the place does echo. The wine-heavy drink menu also offers Köstritzer Schwarzbier, otherwise on tap only at Stammtisch and Prost, obscure Basque and Norman ciders, and cocktails that are all booze, including a Psychedelic Quinceañera ($12) made with Agwa, a Bolivian coca-leaf liqueur. But get that drinking tobacco, or a heartbreakingly good Palermo Viejo #2 ($10) with gin, Cynar, grapefruit liqueur and mint, plus one of their richly adorned bruschettas ($8) thick as garlic bread. Show up at 7, and you’ll find office moms and contemporary-conformist design hounds taking their own shift drinks in a half-empty bar. Show up at midnight, and you’re maybe mobbed with as many bartenders and servers as you’ve ever seen in one place, all of them drinking on your side of the bar. 

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW’s journalism through our Give!Guide Fundraising page.