Bartender's Choice: What to Drink at Wildwood in Portland, OR
"The philosophy of the bar program at Wildwood is the philosophy of the restaurant, and our focus is on local ingredients," says Ryan Csanky, Bar Manager at Wildwood Restaurant in NW Portland. "I get in the kitchen as much as I can, and echo what's happening in the kitchen at the bar."
Wildwood claims to have the most comprehensive list of local spirits in Portland, boasting 53 spirits from 22 different producers. These locally produced spirits are mixed with seasonal house-made syrups, purees, and bitters to make up a monthly rotating menu of roughly 10 cocktails.
Csanky has also been experimenting with a technique of adding acidified carbonated water to a single liqueur such a Chartreuse or Galliano. "All cocktails need to be balanced and when an acidic element is needed, we generally select a citrus or a vinegar," says Csanky. "Those ingredients add flavor, and when you have a liqueur like Chartreuse, which already has 131 ingredients, using acidified water allows us to bring out the underlying flavors of the liqueur without adding new flavors."
Csanky says that he like to keep half of the menu reserved for classic and familiar cocktails and half of the menu for more obscure, experimental drinks. "I like to have cocktails on the menu that start a conversation," says Csanky.
Csanky also takes great pride in their house-made tonic syrup, sodas, and grenadine. After years of planning and recipe development, he recently released a gin with Erik Martin called Aria, which they distill at Bull Run Distillery in NW Portland. "There are lots of people who make their own gin, and lots of people who make their own tonic, but none that I know that make both," says Csanky. The gin is somewhere between a juniper-rich London Dry style and fruitier Plymouth style, and Csanky is using it in a few different cocktails at Wildwood.
We asked Csanky what which cocktails we should order the next time we stop by Wildwood. Check out his picks in the slideshow above.
1221 NW 21st Avenue Portland, OR (map)
About the Author: Greg Harned lives in Portland, OR, where he enjoys cocktails, drinking and general mischief-making in candlelit speakeasies, swanky cocktail lounges and dingy dive bars. He manages Portland Craft Cocktails where he writes about his various exploits and also dabbles in the spirits trade. You can follow him on Twitter @craftcocktails.