Baby, it’s goddamn freezing outside. OK, maybe we don’t have it as bad as most of the country. But Portlanders only complain about the weather to justify their other favorite pastime: staying inside and warming their cores with alcohol. And no drink gets us through the mild inconvenience of the season better than a hot toddy.
On a particularly frostbitten day, even a lukewarm toddy with lemon concentrate and Fox and Moose Whiskey is a welcome respite. What is the key to a great toddy, though?
“The first thing people mess up is the glass itself,” says Dave Shenaut, president of the Oregon Bartenders Guild. At Raven & Rose, the new downtown gastropub he manages, Shenaut pours his toddy—made with Irish whiskey and old-fashioned bitters—in a pre-warmed, thick-sided Belgian drinking glass for maximum heat preservation. He only fills it up halfway, too. “It’s important to be able to stick your nose in there and get that hot steam,” he says.
Since it’s going to be a few months before the city warms up, we surveyed five notable toddy destinations to determine which were worthy of shoving your face in.
3967 N Mississippi Ave., 288-6272, molokopdx.com
On a crowded weekend, Moloko is often insufferable: blacklights and fish tanks and modernist furniture, and the kind of people who enjoy such surroundings. (And don’t get me started on the restroom, situated in the middle of an always-logjammed aisle leading to the patio.) During a low-key weekday happy hour, though, when the place is practically empty, the room becomes quite comfy, and that feeling is aided by one of the city’s more satisfying toddies. Made with Evan Williams bourbon—honestly, you don’t need to go top shelf on a toddy—and served in an aquarium-sized snifter, the key is the fresh-squeezed lemon juice, giving it a unique zest to match the soothing warmth.
Hot or not: Hot! It’s not especially complicated, but impressive in its simplicity.
The Bent Brick
1639 NW Marshall St., 688-1655, thebentbrick.com
At this Slabtown diner, you won’t find a hot toddy listed on the menu. Ask a bartender to make one, though, and the response is, “Oh, yeah, I’ll always make a hot toddy.” Bent Brick’s is delightfully tart, owing to its use of unripened grape juice and chamomile and Angostura bitters that hit a tangy sweet spot at the corners of your jaw without being overwhelming.
Hot or not: Hot. Nothing fancy, but it does its job.
The Woodsman Tavern
4537 SE Division St., 971-373-8264, woodsmantavern.com
A question immediately springs to mind whenever one orders the toddy at Duane Sorenson’s urban ski lodge: “Why are they making my drink in an 18th-century bong?” Actually, it’s a vacuum pot—otherwise known as a coffee siphon—which heats applejack, rye whiskey and maple syrup via open flame, creating a bubbling amber concoction, then sends the mixture up a glass chamber to infuse with lemon peel, lavender and other flavorings, producing what is, more or less, a cup of hot whiskey. This method has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, it brings out the alcohol masked in typical toddies, which makes it not much like a toddy at all. On the other, now you don’t have to worry about accidentally swallowing
Hot or not: Hot? It mostly depends on your feelings toward having stuff floating around in your drink. Do you prefer pulp-free orange juice? Then this is probably the toddy for you.