It’s a cliché that hotel bars are dreary places, suitable only as venues for weary travelers to drown their sorrows in cheap plonk. Portland’s Clyde Common, however, absolutely destroys this lonely stereotype. Located in the happening Ace Hotel, the bar redefines hotel drinking.
Before we get to the goods, which would be the bar’s kickass cocktails, let’s get out the map and go over the territory. If you’re in Portland for good times, chances are you’re going to be hitting the downtown Pearl district where Clyde Common is situated, which means getting there is already taken care of. Compared to many speakeasy-themed bars of the cocktail revolution, the Clyde Common’s ambiance is airy, modern, almost stark. The large space is cheerily lit and includes communal tables, a bar to one side and an open kitchen to the other. Its wood-and-metal chic is streamlined without being cold or uninviting.
The bar is managed by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, one of the godfathers of the American cocktail revival, the founder of Repeal Day and the man who taught us to mix the perfect French 75. While all the drinks on the menu are remarkable, you can’t leave the bar without sampling Clyde Common’s house-aged cocktails. We recommend you order up a Negroni or a Martinez (or double-fist it and get both). Both cocktails have been premixed then aged for two months in oak whiskey barrels. Once you’ve knocked a couple of these back, our next recommendations are the B.M.O.C. (bourbon, raw ginger syrup, bitters, soda), the Wooden Nickel (añejo tequila, apple cider, lemon juice, Rossbacher amaro, allspice, orange peel) and the Flashing Light (gin, lime, Genepy alpine liqueur, Cherry Heering, egg whites).
If you’re not feeling decisive, try a little drinks divination: close your eyes and point at the menu. You’ll be served up a winner. Prices are exceedingly reasonable, made even more so by Oregon’s lack of sales tax, and the mixed drinks are mostly in the $8 to $12 range. Prefer your liquor straight? The Clyde Common features a selection of over 100 whiskeys.
Clyde Common is also a full-service restaurant worthy of a separate review for the food alone. It’s a delicious local Northwest take on tavern fare. We also like the brunch, but that might be due to it coming with a special brunch-only drinks list. It’s always five o’clock somewhere!
If you’re a serious fan of cocktail and bar culture, make Clyde Common your alcohol pilgrimage.