5 creative cocktails you’ve gotta try in Bend
Anyone who’s spent time on the Bend Ale Trail knows Bend has a reputation as a beer town.
Creative cocktails are popping up everywhere in Bend, not just in distillery tasting rooms like Oregon Spirit Distillers’ Barrel Thief Lounge and Bend Distillery’s new Crater Lake Spirits Downtown Tasting Room (though those are both excellent spots to get your drink on). You’ll find them in unique places like Worthy Brewing, which not only boasts awesome beer, but the mix master who won the 2017 Bartender’s Brawl.
So where else can you find super-creative and inspired cocktails in Bend? Here are five of the most unique offerings you’ll find around town!
The Smoked Bos Manhattan at Bos Taurus
A relative newcomer to Bend’s drinking and dining scene, Bos Taurus is a boutique downtown steakhouse that boasts a custom cast-iron slab designed for the perfect sear on all their meats.
But it’s the Smoked Bos Manhattan that sets them apart on the cocktail side of the equation.
The drink features Bulleit Bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters, along with a healthy helping of cherry wood smoke served up in a cool-looking cork vessel that holds in all that beautiful smoke.
In a nutshell, it looks freakin’ cool.
Pop out the cork and splash it into a tumbler garnished with lemon peel and a big ice cube. Cheers!
The Duck Fat Sazarac at Drake
Yes, you read that right. A Sazerac made with duck fat. Well, there’s more to it than that.
Order this unique concoction at Drake and you’ll be treated to a mind-blowing cocktail made from a blend of duck fat-infused rye bourbon, absinthe, sugar, and bitters with a twist.
To answer the question, yes, you really can taste a difference between this and a standard Sazarac. The duck fat adds a unique richness of flavor and an oh-so-subtle texture that had me grabbing it back from my husband several times and saying, “let me try that again.” He declared it one of the most unique cocktails he’s ever had.
For those who want a backup drink that’s unique but not as bold, try the Drakeside made with Earl Grey-infused gin, mint, and lime. Be sure to order some nibbles here, too, since the culinary offerings are out-of-this world. Their shrimp and grits are my favorite, or try the tasty salt-roasted marrow bones with carrot jam, salsa verde, and toast if you’re on a roll with sampling something new.
The Flaming Strawberry Lemon Drop at Level 2
If Bo Taurus hits it out of the park with a drink that features smoke, Level 2 nails it with one that’s actually on fire.
The Flaming Strawberry Lemon Drop features 11 vodka, strawberry puree, fresh lemon juice, triple sec, limoncello, and a flaming float of 151 rum. It’s sort of like a normal strawberry lemon drop, but with flames. Did I mention fire?
(Here’s where a cooler blogger would insert a gif of Beavis and Butthead saying, “fire’s cool.” You’ll have to imagine it, okay?)
Going back to the drinks, I’ll confess that my original plan was to spotlight the Bubblegum Lemon Drop at Level 2, since they make their own house-infused bubblegum vodka (Double Bubble gum, in case you’re wondering) with fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, and a sugared rim. It’s definitely unique, and tastes just like a mouthful of Bazooka Bubble Gum. A little sweet for my taste, but worth a try if that’s your jam.
Order the Ahi Tuna Poke (served with sticky rice, sesame soy vinaigrette, wasabi cream, macadamia nuts, fresh pineapple, and crispy wontons) to give you something to nibble.
The Red Mosquito at Rockin’ Dave’s Backstage Lounge
The unique cocktails at Rockin’ Daves Backstage Lounge take on a more subtle quality with unique twists on classic cocktails and housemade infusions.
The Red Mosquito is a play off a traditional Old Fashioned, but it’s made with Dave’s house-infused hot cherry bourbon in place of regular bourbon, then mixed with sugar, bitters, orange, and a cocktail cherry.
Another great option is the Yellow Ledbetter, made with their own house-infused spicy cucumber gin mixed with dry vermouth and an orange twist.
Bonus points here for the intimate location outside the hustle and bustle of Downtown or the Old Mill, plus their happy hour and nightly specials kick some serious butt. Order the deviled egg trio or a half-pound of their bacon wings with Jamaican habanero sauce to make your tummy happy.
Uh . . . pretty much anything at Dogwood Cocktail Cabin
I know this is kind of cheating, but there’s virtually nothing you could order off the menu at Dogwood Cocktail Cabin without your taste buds perking up and saying, “oh my—what was that?”
For the first year this funky, urban cocktail lounge was open, I made it my mission to sample everything on their uber-creative cocktail menu. I soon learned this was impossible without (a) destroying my liver, and (b) having to start all over again because they’re always adding new and unique drinks.
But a few of my faves include:
The Beetnik: Beet-infused vodka with ginger and lemon served up. This one’s for you, fans of earthy-tasting infusions.
Mr. Pink: Pink peppercorn-infused vodka (yes, you really, really do taste those peppercorns and they’re fabulous!) with peach, peach bitters, and cava, served on the rocks.
Shiso Thirsty: Sake, pickled soybeans, and shiso leaf (it’s a little like mint, but more grassy and herbal. A unique flavor for sure!)
The Herban cowboy: Black pepper-infused bourbon, Fernet Branca, pomegranate, molasses, black licorice, and orange peel. If that’s not a flavor explosion, I don’t know what is.
They’ve got a pretty rockin’ happy hour from 5-7 daily with drinks and snacks at 25% off, so order a round of their crispy Brussels sprouts and a plate of surf-n-turf tacos and plan on sampling a couple cocktails.
Pro tip: Go with friends and make everyone order something different so you can all try sips of several different cocktails.