Mixing It Up

Bartender Chino Lee on Portland’s Cocktail-Savvy Drink Scene

You’ll find cocktail savvy drinkers in Portland bars, according to Bit House Saloon’s Chino Lee. (Photo: courtesy Chino Lee)

Bartender Chino Lee, one of Portland’s top bartenders, likes a little cocktail competition. When he’s not serving tasty, innovative cocktails at Bit House Saloon in Portland, OR, he’s upping his bartender game with friendly mixing challenges, and it’s his recent bourbon concoction that wowed judges to crown him the winner of Marriott Hotels’ Bourbon Battle at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront. The talented mixologist gives us the 4-1-1 on Portland, its vibrant bar scene and his best bourbon-infused cocktail.

chino lee marriott hotel bourbon battle
Chino Lee, triumphant at Marriott Hotel’s Bourbon Battle held at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront. (Photo: courtesy Marriott Hotels)

What was your winning cocktail? What did the judges like about it? Is this something you serve at your bar?

My winning cocktail was the Jasper Sour named after Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel, the founder of the Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey distillery.

The judges liked the depth of flavor created with the spices in my shrub. The Jasper Jack isn’t on the menu at Bit House Saloon, but I would gladly add it. Try it for yourself!

The Jasper Sour Recipe

2 oz. – Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel

1 oz. – spiced apricot shrub

.75 oz. – lemon

.75 oz. – egg white

.5 oz. – marionberry liqueur

Describe your bar’s scene? What is the most popular drink? What’s your favorite cocktail to make?

Bit House Saloon feels like a comforting corner bar with all the amenities of a world-class cocktail bar. We strive for world-class drinks and spirits, while also providing mindful and honest hospitality.

The Old Fashioned is probably our most popular drink, but my favorite drink to make would probably be a classic gin martini. It’s a timeless classic.

What are your favorite places to sip bourbon in your city? Where should bourbon drinkers go for a truly local experience?

There are so many bars in Portland that it’s hard to choose a few favorites. Raven & Rose, Multnomah Whiskey Library, and Paddy’s Bar & Grill are just a few places to go for a good bourbon cocktail. Brooklyn Park Pub is a great neighborhood bar with an extensive whiskey list. And their secret sauce for the chicken tenders and fries isn’t so bad either.

Describe the cocktail scene in your city? What are the big trends at the moment?

Portland’s cocktail scene is amazing because it has a large number of professionals in the food and drink industry, which makes for a smarter and savvier customer base.

With trends… there is a movement towards low-proof drinks. Now, people want to enjoy more drinks with less payoff; while spending more time at the bar with friends and family. In fact, this new trend has sparked the creation of our very own blend of sherry and vermouth.

Does your city have an official drink? What is it? How do you serve it?

If I had to choose an official cocktail for Portland, it would have to be the Spanish Coffee. This cocktail’s ingredients include 151-proof rum, Kahlua, and triple sec mixed with fresh coffee. I serve it with fresh whipped cream with caramelized sugar, toasted cinnamon and nutmeg.

What’s your advice for first-time bourbon drinkers?

For a first-time bourbon drinker, I would start off with something a little sweeter, such as Maker’s Mark, which has more corn in the mash bill or more corn the ingredients used in its brewing.

Where would you recommend people go if they are visiting Portland for the first time? How do you get to know the city?

I would pick a bar in one of our fine hotels if it’s your first time visiting the city. Have a drink and chat with the bartender. Ask for his or her favorite bars and or must-see recommendations. It’s a great way to mingle with the locals to find out the best ways to explore and experience Portland.