1. Thor Slaughter (Akira) 359 Mill St. 458-205-8288. AkiraEugene.com.
2. Steve Salazar (barTini bistro) 1203 Willamette, ste. 130. 541-359-1235. Facebook.com/bartinibistro/.
3. Abby Young (Nelson’s in the Whit) 394 Blair Blvd. 541-844-8404; NelsonsInTheWhit.com.
It’s a packed night at Akira, one of Eugene’s hottest restaurants and cocktail lounges. Finding a tiny nook in the upstairs lounge, my wife and I look over the cocktail menu, most of which has clever pop culture references from KHANNNNNNNNN!!!!, a reference to Capt. James Kirk’s exasperated exclamation in Star Trek: Wrath of Khan, to The Golden Martini, a callback to James Bond. And the man behind these drinks is the ever-popular Thor Slaughter, a bartender who attracts attention from his bar patrons for his personality — but most importantly for the amazing drinks he concocts.
What’s impressive about Slaughter’s drinks is his simplicity and minimalism. The KHANNNNNNNNN!!!! is Japanese whisky, prickly pear syrup, lemon and soda. It’s a combination that doesn’t drown the whisky, but doesn’t have the spirit jump out too strongly, and the drink is so easy to drink that you have to have the willpower of a saint to not keep ordering it. Slaughter says he learned the key to a good drink — simplicity and minimalism — while visiting Japan years ago. In our mass information age, where our minds are overwhelmed by social media and smartphones, it’s nice to sip a well crafted simple drink, and EW readers agree.