What is in this article?:
- Portland Penny Diner infuses cocktails with diverse flavors
- Spoon Drinks and innovative cocktails
Brandon Wise makes innovative cocktails by putting a fresh spin on old favorites.
Brandon Wise, bar manager of Portland Penny Diner.
The bar repertoire of the Portland Penny Diner ranges from spiked soda fountain classics to novel Spoon Drinks, customizable Old Fashioneds, and traditional cocktails tweaked with novel touches like sage-peppercorn syrup and hickory-smoked vermouth.
Diverse flavors “give us more colors to paint with,” said Brandon Wise, bar manager of the re-imagined diner in the Hotel Lucia in Portland, Ore. It is the newest venture of Vitaly Paley, whose holdings also include the Imperial restaurant in the hotel and the long-established Paley’s Place Bistro & Bar.-owner
Wise, a Michigan native, honed his skills in Chicago watering holes before migrating to the Rose City in 2010. He went west with a love for old-time soda fountain creations like egg creams, phosphates and Boston coolers, which he adapts into contemporary adult beverages. He did not have to look far for inspiration because his mother, aunt and uncle worked in a Detroit soda fountain years ago.
Thus a drink like the Woodward Avenue Cooler, a grown-up ice cream soda made with rye whiskey, ginger soda, bitters and vanilla ice cream, has layers of meaning as well as flavor. The drink takes its name from the Detroit thoroughfare where his kinfolk worked in the soda fountain.
A boozy, fizzy drink like that “lets us be big kids,” said Wise, who added that he enjoys watching guests’ faces light up when they re-experience a childhood taste memory.
Along the same lines is the Portland Egg Cream, a riff on the classic New York egg cream of milk, chocolate syrup and seltzer. Curiously, the traditional recipe contains neither egg nor cream. Wise’s version features housemade chocolate syrup, a dash of cream and a shot of Fernet-Branca. The bitter, herbal Italian amaro is so popular locally, especially among hospitality industry guests, that the diner serves it on tap, priced at $5.
One might ask who understands an egg cream in Portland, which is a long way from Brooklyn?
“There are a ton of East Coasters here,” replied Wise. “A lot of people remember it from childhood. If not, they are really open to the story.”