On a Guinness-beer kind of afternoon, with a foot of snow in the evening forecast, I’m at the Pint Pot Public House, an Irish bar on 17th East Avenue in Eugene. I ask the bartender, Andy Guillen, who’s been bartending for about two years, to make me his best Irish whiskey and ginger combo.
“This is Clontarf,” he says, presenting the bottle. “A hidden gem. A cheaper Irish whiskey but it’s very good.”
He then mixes the whiskey with house-made ginger syrup and some bitters. It’s garnished with a lime wedge. Guillen says if you’re mixing Irish whiskey, stay away from peated varieties or anything finished in a rum cask. Otherwise, since most Irish whiskey is triple-distilled, it’s easy to mix, he says.
“Irish whiskies are pine-y, a lot more floral,” he says. Less sweet than American whiskey, or Scotch. “Irish whiskies are more user friendly. You can mix them with pretty much anything.”
Guillen’s drink is light and refreshing, a go-to for a warm summer or spring day — or an Oregon afternoon like this, when it’s been raining for hours, with snow in forecast — and you’re snug in one of Eugene’s best bars. The giant plate of poutine topped with corned beef was up next, and I rose to the challenge. — Will Kennedy
Pint Pot Public House 165 East 17th Avenue
Izakaya Meiji Company
The white male journalist’s maturity cycle often includes hero-worshipping journalist-turned-authors like Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and Hunter S. Thompson, along with their bad obsessions — namely alcohol and drugs. Yet, I somehow missed out on developing a taste for whiskey or bourbon. I decided to finally branch out of my comfort zone of wine and try my hand at bourbon by visiting Izakaya Meiji Company.
As an absolute beginner in bourbon — and wanting to avoid a lower shelf misrepresentation of the drink — I asked Meiji bartender Andrew Hardt to guide me through the menu to find something that will balance well with the restaurant’s house-pressed gingerade. We decided on a Medley Brothers 102 Proof, which has photos of some serious Southern gentlemen on its label so you know it’s authentic.
Anxiety consumed me as Hardt mixed drinks. I was worried that if I didn’t like the drink, I’d be stuck with it because of my refusal to waste alcohol. When my drink comes to me, I take a sip — no whiskey face. The drink has a sweet nature to it that masks any of that alcohol taste that can make someone like me run away from the bar. And it plays well with food. Japanese pickles, sweet with a spicy kick, were washed away well with a bourbon and ginger; an order of the ever-so salty vegetable miso onigiri inspired a thirst that was easily quenched with the drink.
As I closed out my tab, I told Hardt I was wrong about bourbon. He shot back with a joke that I’d be back next week to have straight bourbon. Maybe he’s right. — Henry Houston
Izakaya Meiji Company 345 Van Buren Street, 541-505-8804
McShane’s Bar and Grill
Years ago, before I became a journalist, got stressed out and started drinking, I was at a bar in LA with some friends, and I didn’t know what drink to order. Rather than actually admit to my lack of beverage sophistication, I remembered the one time I’d had a cosmopolitan at a party and found it at least drinkable. Except, I didn’t actually remember what it was called; I just remembered it was a major metropolitan area. So I ordered a Manhattan and found it to be quite OK. Turns out I liked whiskey.
I gradually made my way through various whiskey drinks over the years — old fashioned, whiskey sour and often just neat. But whiskey ginger has become my mixed drink. So when we decided to highlight that drink in town, I went with my favorite: the whiskey ginger at McShane’s Bar and Grill.
McShane’s manager Forrest McHarry knows my friend Leslie and me well — he has our tall whiskey gingers waiting as we walk in the door, and I swear sometimes plunking down on the bench at the sketchy-looking but warm and safe bar is the highlight of my week. Refreshing and cool, the drink has got enough bite to taste good even on cold, dark days.
Imagine my surprise, though, when I found out that my favorite whiskey ginger has no ginger in it.
When I asked McHarry for his recipe, he cheerfully told me that like many bartenders, he actually uses 7Up, not ginger ale. For Leslie and me, the recipe is whiskey, 7Up and bitters, but other versions of the mix swap out the bitters for a lime.
I don’t know if this means I’m still not an adult-beverage sophisticate, but I do know what I like, and that’s the McShane’s version of a whiskey ginger. — Camilla Mortensen
McShane’s Bar and Grill 86495 College View Road, 541-747-4031