There’s no question beer has put Bend on the map, with everyone from the New York Times to the Washington Post to the Seattle Times gushing about the Bend Ale Trail.
But what if you’re not a beer fan? Or what if you are a beer fan, but you’re craving something else during the hot summer months? Never fear! Here are six summer sips guaranteed to have you lifting your glass in a toast to Bend’s awesome cocktail culture.
The Garden Cocktail at Anthony’s in the Old Mill District
Even if Anthony’s Home Port only served bread and water, I’d still go there regularly during the summer months for a seat on their gorgeous, riverfront patio. Luckily, they also happen to have one of the best happy hours in town. From 3-6:30 p.m. daily, you’ll find a double-sided menu packed full of food, beer, wine, and cocktail specials, most of which are just $5. They’re constantly adding new options to the cocktail section, which is how I found myself sipping their new Garden Cocktail one recent balmy evening. It’s made with vodka, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, pineapple juice, bitters, sprite, and plenty of fresh mint. It’s super-refreshing on a hot day, and perfect when paired with the ahi nachos or crispy calamari Caesar on their happy hour menu. If you don’t arrive during happy hour, the Garden Cocktail is still available for $8.
The Man Van Margarita at La Rosa
I’ve long been familiar with La Rosa’s location in Northwest Crossing, but had never ventured south toward their new location in the Brookswood Meadow Plaza. It was worth the drive! The setting is lovely, the staff super-friendly, and the drinks fresh and unique. I was particularly intrigued by the Man Van Margarita, which is a play on “mandarin vanilla” and not an indication the drink will be served by a gentleman driving a Honda Odyssey. Blended with silver tequila and flavors of mandarin, pineapple, vanilla, and La Rosa Liqueur, it has just the right mix of sweet, tart, and salty (assuming you request salt on the rim, and why wouldn’t you?)
I’m not generally a margarita fan, but I gulped this one in a hurry and then managed a few sips of the Lawn Chair (featuring mandarin vanilla vodka, hibiscus flower juice, and muddled lemon). Both were the perfect complement to their bacon-wrapped shrimp, which were a steal at $5.95 for six of them on happy hour. The happy hour price for the Man Van is just $4.95, so hustle to La Rosa between 4-6 p.m. daily. Nab a seat at the bar for a close look at their fruit infusions and more than 80 varieties of tequila, or call dibs on one of their sunny outdoor tables. Olé!
The Mello Yellow at 10 Below
While most of the places I’m listing here give you the option of sipping your drink in Bend’s breathtaking great outdoors, 10below restaurant & lounge on the lower level of the Oxford Hotel offers the opposite. It’s technically underground with no views to speak of, but that doesn’t really matter when you’re basking in the uber-hip vibe, the refreshingly well-controlled air conditioning, and, oh yeah—amazing cocktails. The first time I saw the Mello Yello on their menu, my teeth hurt with the thought of drinking something so sweet. Whipped cream flavored vodka, champagne syrup, and lemon juice? But my first mistake was thinking of this as a sweet drink, which it really isn’t at all. The lemon adds terrific acidity and balance, and it’s a surprisingly refreshing summer cocktail. My second mistake was only ordering one, prompting my gentleman friend to steal sips when I wasn’t looking (which should dispel any thoughts you may have that this is strictly a “girly drink.”) For something nibbly that’s a perfect, salty complement to your drink, order a serving of their fried green olives (no, really—you’ll thank me for it!)
The Moscow Mule at Jackalope Grill
I’m a sucker for good drink presentation, so when I read Jackalope Grill serves their Moscow Mule in an “ice cold copper mug,” I had to have one. Lucky for me, the drink is as tasty as it is aesthetically pleasing. Made with Bend Distillery’s Crater Lake Sweet Ginger Vodka, Stolichnaya Vodka, ginger beer, and fresh lime juice, this is the ultimate refreshing summer drink. It runs $8.50 normal menu, but if you stop by for their new “Stimulus Package” menu from 4:30-6 p.m., it’s only $6. Enjoy it with a side of calamari with sweet chili aioli for an extra treat, and if you’re feeling super lucky, try to snag a seat in their cozy little courtyard in back.
Peach Sangria from Volcano Vineyards
This isn’t technically a cocktail, but it’s not just wine, either. Volcano Vineyards’ “Magmita Sangrias” come in peach, straw-berry kiwi, and pomegranate, but it’s the peach version that really rolls my socks up. It’s not too sweet the way sangria often is, and it’s perfect for summer sipping on the patio. While you can try it at their tasting room on Century Drive, your best bet is to buy it in larger quantities to take back to your Bend hotel or vacation rental. Thanks to a recent change in Oregon law, you can now fill a growler with tasty sangria to share with all your pals. Stop by the Growler Guys at both the eastside or Westside location and fill ‘er up for just $18.99. Then ditch your shoes, kick back in that lounge chair, and savor your Bend vacation to the fullest.
The Farmer’s Market Special at Dojo
Until several weeks ago, this hot little restaurant on the corner of the Brooks Alley breezeway in Downtown Bend was known as Boken. A name change and an expanded dining area are among the recent changes to create Dojo, but one thing that’s stayed the same is their penchant for spectacular and unique cocktails. There are dozens of great ones to choose from, but if you’re lucky enough to stop by on a Wednesday, prepare for a real treat. That’s the day of the Downtown Bend Farmers Market when the savvy folks at Dojo set out to find fresh ingredients for a special Farmers Market cocktail. This past week, I was treated to a peach ginger lime drop with peaches so fresh, I may as well have nibbled them straight of the tree. But then there’d be no vodka, and what’s the point? For those not dropping by on Farme’s Market day, never fear. They utilize additional Farmers Market bounty to concoct things like peach blueberry sake sangria and the rosemary-infused simple syrup they use to make a seriously killer gin cocktail. Hit them at happy hour for an awesome selection of sushi rolls, spicy salads, and other delicacies that offer the perfect compliment to your zingy beverage.