First Look: Cocktails at Portland Penny Diner in Portland, OR

[Photographs: Katie Burnett]

Brandon Wise has teamed up yet again with chefs Vitaly Paley and Ben Bettinger for their third Portland project, the Portland Penny Diner, a re-imagined soda fountain located directly next to the recently opened Imperial.

"This is the most fun I've ever had opening a bar or restaurant," says Wise. "We researched the soda fountain culture and techniques—this is really an homage to a slice of American history. I wanted to create drinks that evoke a time and place and harken back to earlier days and the carefree feeling of being a kid."

Wise sought to re-imagine classics such as the NY Egg Cream, Italian soda, and the Boston Cooler. The menu is divided into Bracers, Warmers, Cocktails, and a number of non-alcoholic beverages. Bracers, as described with a quote from Charles H. Baker, Jr., are "Picker-uppers...which can not only enable us to greet the new day undismayed but may—on occasion—save a life." Wise includes on this list the Portland Egg Cream, made with Fernet Branca, chocolate syrup, cream, and soda. Warmers include the decadent anise-scented Fifty-One, a mix of hot chocolate, green Chartreuse, Bols Genever, and whipped cream.

The menu also spans from classic cocktails such as the Bijou to modern drinks like the Patent Pending, a spiced tropical cocktail comprised of funky Smith and Cross rum, Batavia Arrack, Aperol, spiced vanilla syrup, and Amargo bitters from Portland bartender Brian Gilbert.

Brandon Wise

Presiding barman Brandon Wise prepares a Montauk Riding Club Cocktail.

Portland Penny Diner will also feature a seasonal house soda program, a few cocktails on tap—and a tap dedicated to Fernet Branca. "We're not wearing paper hats, but we are tapping into the fun of the soda jerk culture," says Wise. "Watching Chef Paley making grilled cheese sandwiches on the line and ringing the counter bell is a fun and memorable experience for everyone."

Take a peek at the Portland Penny Diner's cocktails in the slideshow above »

Portland Penny Diner

410 SW Broadway, Portland, OR (map) 503-238-3777;

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.

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