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Cocktail Menu – Clyde Common, Portland, Oregon

Submitted by on June 2, 2011 – 1:11 pmOne Comment

On the Memorial Day Weekend of 2011, I and a big part of the MixPourSip.com staff took a trip to Portland Oregon to see what this city has to offer to the world of cocktails.  We stayed in the warm and loving home of very close friends.  It was a very memorable weekend and one I will not soon forget.  We learned that Portland is a world class cocktail city and one that should be mentioned alongside New York, San Francisco and London.  This is the first article in our seven part series: State of Drink: Portland, Oregon.  We hope you enjoy.  Cheers!


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Clyde Common window

A few years back, I took my future wife out for a very special dinner at the highly regarded Jardinère restaurant in San Franisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood.   We looked forward to that dinner for quite a while.  Traci des Jardins is one of the most creative chefs in the world and, as a life long cook, I was eager to sample the fruits of her creative adventures.  Once it arrived, the whole event did not disappoint.  The service was exceptional, both seemless and personable.  Two and half hours later we rose from our chairs having just sampled six carefully crafted courses each with matching sommeliers suggested wines.  It was the best meal either of us has had before or since.  I have not looked forward to a restaurant or bar  that much since until recently.  I was about to travel to Portland, Oregon and would be writing a cocktail menu review at the highly regarded bar of Clyde Common.



Among the bars known to cocktail and booze enthusiasts everywhere (Anvil Bar & Refuge, Alembic, Milk & Honey, Drink, Vessel, The Edison and others) Clyde Common is iconic.  It is the bar that Jeffrey Morgenthaler helped make famous.  Both the restaurant and bar here have garnered wide spread acclaim.  At the bar Jeffrey Morgenthaler is the man.  He has been named one of the ten best bartenders in the U.S. by Playboy Magazine, has been written about in newspapers, magazines and blogs coast to coast, has had his drinks included in gaz regan’s ANNUAL MANUAL for BARTENDERS, 2011 Cocktail Menu   Clyde Common, Portland, Oregon, and most recently, was a featured speaker at the 2011 Manhattan Cocktail Classic in New York.


I know Jeffrey Morgenthaler. Which is to say that I have met him twice and both times very briefly.  Both times he was gracious with his time, convivial, employing a firm hand shake and sincere eye contact that together enable him to come come across as a gentleman.  I also know of Jeffrey Morgenthaler.  He is that bartender from Portland who has that web site that teaches you how to make everything from scratch, the barrel aged cocktail guy, the one who seems to be in a different city at some different cocktail event nearly every week. That guy.


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Morgenthaler at work in his office



While I know of him and have tried my hand at a few of his recipes, I had never sampled his wares nor seen him work first hand.  As a cocktail writer I wanted to visit Clyde Common as part of my quality cocktail pilgrimage.  Some men travel across the country to see baseball games in every Major League stadium.  Me, I want to visit the iconic bars and sip from the glasses of the masters while maybe finding a few new ones along the way.


I visited the place twice over the weekend; Friday night after 11 pm and Saturday night before 7 pm.  Friday night, my group and I sat at one of the communal tables in between the kitchen and the bar.  We had a round of cocktails and had a nosh off the late night food menu.  We had the house pickeled vegetables, french fries with harissa and seasonal grilled cheese all of which was very good.


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Bottles at Clyde Common



The space has a recycled warehouse feel to it due to its use of white walls, ample concrete, weathered metal rails rods and fixtures and amber stained woods.  The main space is framed by the open small kitchen on the left and the well visited bar on the right.  Dining space lay between them  and in the small balcony that appears suspended from the ceiling.  Simple black stenciling on the walls and on the main pillar supporting the roof direct you around the space adding to the industrial feel of the place.


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The food menu is clever and demonstrates a natural curiosity that exists is all good cooks and is only loosely bound by theme.  Clyde Common subtitles themselves as being the best of “Domestic and Foreign Cooking” which is evident by the flavors and ingredients here from all over demonstrating the free hand Chef Chris DiMinno has here to create.  There is everything here from pork rillettes to house made papardelle to pierogis and fried calves brain.  While this menu does not conform to any one regional classification it does, generally, seem to come from more Northernly climes.


The back of the menu lists everyone associated with the place from the cooks to the front of house staff to the bartenders.  It is a personable touch that makes the experience seem slightly more intimate.  This isn’t about the name chef or even the star bartender, it is about a collective “us” taking pride in everything they do.  I find it rather enlightened.


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St. Stevens Sour from Clyde Common



On Saturday night, we visited at just before 7 pm and took the only two open stools open at the bar.  There appeared to be two bartenders and one apprentice/bar back working the busy bar.  Morgenthaler was working the station to our right with a seriously professional bartender named Shannan Shute  working her magic before us.  While I came to watch the famous guy work, I was treated to the efforts of Ms. Shute.  This culinary institute graduate and New Hampshire native found her way to the bar at Clyde Common after working in their kitchen.  Her work as a chef shows in her movements at the bar.  She is efficient and elegant and without a wasted effort.  Contrasted to Morgenthalers’ big male steps to greet a new guest or to grab a back shelf bottle, her moves were small and tight like those of someone experienced in working in tight kitchens.  Simply put, she is the shit.  She is a great bartender who is smart, creative and efficient.  It was a treat to have her making drinks for us and a pleasure to meet her.


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Shannan "Shooter" Shute & Jeffrey Morgenthaler



The show at the bar when you are come to Clyde Common are the house cocktails.  They live up to the hype.  We sampled ten of the fourteen cocktails on the house menu and were impressed with each one.  On the whole, the menu is varied and clever and covers a wide range of styles from a daily punch to lower alcohol combinations to their signature barrel aged offerings.  There are house made ingredients throughout the menu including house ginger beer, honey syrup, raw ginger syrup, quinine syrup, and gewurtztraminer reduction.


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The Heavy Petting cocktail



I was particularly taken with the Nasturtium.  It is a lower alcohol offering combining Dolin Blanc vermouth, ginger liqueur, Bonal Gentian-Quina and lemon peel.  I sampled both barrel aged offerings that were available this last weekend, the Chrysanthemum (listed below) and an aged Negroni (that has since been replaced).  The Chrysanthemum was delicate and slightly sweet.  The Negroni shows off the mellowing potential of the barrel aging process.  This drink had less bitter bite than a regular Negroni while also offering additional depth and body.  Also of note, A Perfect Storm offers a grown up version of the old Rusty Nail and had very full flavor but much better balance than the venerable old classic.  The Irish Goodbye builds on the happy marriage of  whiskey and Lillet Blanc but adds Cynar to the mix.  It is a great drink.  I also greatly enjoyed the beverage known as the Part and Parcel.


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The Perfect Storm



In terms of Morgenthaler himself,  I have a snapshot of him that is developing slowly but clearly.  This is a man trained as an architect who ended up running a bar.  While it is trite to say that he builds cocktails in the same way he would have built a building, it does seem that the man is driven by a latent curiosity.   His endless experiments into house made ingredients beyond simple purees alone show Morgenthaler to be as much a tinkerer as a bartender.  He appears to want know to “what if” as much as “how” or “why.”  Behind the bar it is clear he enjoys his work.  He is gentile and familiar with every guest he meets and greets them all with good nature and cheer.  He treats each customer as if they are someone he has met through a close and trusted friend.    I enjoyed watching him hold court.


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The Irish Goodbye cocktail from Clyde Common


So did Clyde Common live up to my expectations.  Frankly, yes, but a conditional yes.  This place has great drinks served by creative and friendly people in a hip upscale environment.  Good personable service is not common in my experience and in places with stratospheric reputations such as Clyde Common often the service can be indifferent and stand off-ish.  That was most definitely not the case here, especially behind the bar.  The drinks certainly lived up to the anticipation.  Shannan Shute was a pleasant surprise as well.  Morgenthaler does live up to the billing as one of the most innovative bartenders in the U.S..  The creative use of house made ingredients not only reflects larger bartending trends world wide but definitely echo the spirit of the Portland area as well.  Shannan Shute was also a very pleasant surprise.  My only regret is that I did not get to spend more time with Morgenthaler himself talking about his creative process and craft.  The time available to me simply did not allow for that.  He is definitely as much of a celebrity as a bartender can be and seems to handle it well.  He exudes confidence while always appearing welcoming and sincere. In truth, he appears to me as a reflection of Clyde Common itself; a culinary destination founded on craft and curiosity that is welcoming to all who enter because they are eager to share what they have found.


I wholeheartedly recommend Clyde Common certainly to anyone traveling through Portland but especially to everyone on a pilgrimage to sample the best cocktails in the U.S..




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The Part & Parcel cocktail from Clyde Common


Clyde Common House Cocktails

Daily Punch: 7.
Today’s selection from the ever changing flowing bowl.

Andalusian Buck: 8.
Gin, Amontillado sherry, lime, demerara syrup, house ginger beer

Tuning Fork: 8.
Johnnie Walker scotch, dry vermouth, orange, honey syrup, orange peel

Nasturtium: 8.
Dolin Blanc vermouth, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, Bonal Gentian-Quina, lemon peel

B.M.O.C.: 8.
Bourbon, raw ginger syrup, Angostura, soda water

A Perfect Storm: 9.
George Dickel whiskey, sweet vermouth, Drambuie, anise, lemon peel

Bourbon Renewal: 8.
Maker’s Mark, lemon, cassis, bitters

Heavy Petting: 8.
Monopolowa vodka, grapefruit juice, Aperol, quinine syrup, lemon peel

Irish Goodbye 9.
John Powers whiskey, Lillet Blanc, Cynar, lemon peel

St. Steven’s Sour: 9.
Hennessy VS cognac, Jamaican rum, Trader Tiki’s orgeat, lemon

Part and Parcel: 8.
Tequila, Small Hands raspberry gum, lime, Punt e Mes, orange peel

East of Eden: 9.
Broker’s Dry gin, lemon, egg whites, gewurtztraminer reduction, elderflower

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The Barrel Aged Chrysanthemum




House Aged Cocktails

Aged for two months in Tuthilltown whiskey barrels

Barrel Aged Chrysanthemum: 10.
Dry vermouth, Bendictine, absinthe

Barrel Aged Remember the Maine
: 10.
Rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, Cherry Heering, absinthe




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