"We're really just big nerds who don't know how to do any other job," says Ross Hunsinger, lead bartender at Aviary on Alberta Street in NE Portland." Hunsinger says that creativity and collaboration are encouraged and boundaries between the kitchen and bar are non-existent. "I am really lucky to have people with really great palates to bounce ideas off of," says Hunsinger. "The constant collaboration brings us all to a higher level."
When asked how he went about choosing spirits for the back bar, Hunsinger said that he essentially built what he would want for his ultimate home bar. The major difference is that Hunsinger's home bar doesn't include a full staff of top-tier chefs to provide an endless supply of inventive ingredients.
Drinkers are now more knowledgeable and willing to try new things, he said. This has encouraged Aviary to push traditional drink boundaries a bit. "I'm not the guy for ice programs or liquid nitrogen but I am very interested in interesting flavors," says Hunsinger. He's experimenting with housemade soda and brown-butter washed Buffalo Trace bourbon.
While the foundation of the drinks is not built on the the teachings of the school of molecular mixology, chemistry experiments still make their way into cocktails;for example, the glass holding a cocktail called 'One Night in Bangkok' has a dramatic-looking isomalt garnish that holds black sesame seeds as if they are suspended in broken glass.
We asked Hunsinger for some ordering tips—which cocktails are his favorites on the Aviary menu? Check out his picks in the slideshow above.
1733 Northeast Alberta Street, Portland, OR (map) 503-235-8180; aviarypdx.com
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.