I love whiskey, not for knocking back and getting drunk but for savoring. For me, sipping a good bourbon, rye, or scotch is like gazing at art or strolling through a garden or eating a damn good donut. It’s one of those activities that lets me relish life. Normally, I prefer my whiskey neat, but every now and then I desire a cocktail prepared by a talented bartender. And there’s no place with better bartenders than Expatriate.
While Portland draws some foreign tourists, it doesn’t have a significant expat community. In all the times I’ve sat sipping a drink at Expatriate, I’ve never run into diplomats, foreign aid workers, or itinerant students. According to my husband, who lived abroad, that doesn’t stop it from achieving the vibe of an expat bar, a place that transports those far from home to a comfortable spot where they can mingle with other displaced souls. The patrons of Expatriate may not live a life of self-imposed exile, but the atmosphere feeds the cosmopolitan yearnings of those wishing to leave the mundane behind.
The day’s stress melts away when I sink into my favorite seat at the bar. Perhaps it’s the Asian decor, subtle lighting or beautiful wooden furniture. Though, the eclectic music playing on the Technics turntables may have something to do with it. As soon as I’m settled, I get a warm greeting from the bartenders, all of whom treat me like a regular, which is sweet considering that my budget doesn’t allow me to frequent the place as often as I’d like. Lack of frequency aside, I’m welcome when I come, and I enjoy the conversations I have with the staff on topics ranging from the music of Rodriguez to the art of Picasso to the poetry scene in Portland.
Drinks and Food to Savor
Usually I order a Diplomatic Pouch, which means I chat with the bartender about what I am in the mood for and set him free to create. The bartenders always remember my preference for a complex, yet balanced drink that celebrates the glory of whiskey. They’ve never given me the same drink twice, and they always satisfy my craving for the sublime. But all of Expatriate’s drinks evoke the classic cocktails you’d find at an expat bar anywhere in the world, albeit with a Portland spin. They serve killer whiskey drinks, like the Bellwether and the Ornament and Crime, and unexpected drinks like the Sundowner, a vermouth, mezcal, and grapefruit liqueur concoction with a complexity of flavors that linger long after the drink is finished. They do have cocktails made with vodka, rum, and gin; I just haven’t tried them. Sorry folks, I’m a whiskey girl.
All bars in Oregon are legally required to have food, but not all bars are owned by a James Beard Award winner. Expatriate’s drinking snacks are as artful as its cocktails, including my personal favorites, the Hot and Sour Indian Spiced Fries and the Crispy Brussels Sprouts. Lots of places serve Brussels sprouts but nothing like these babies. Hmm, maybe I need to order some today.