Since opening four years ago, Sonny's has become one of the hippest spots in town to grab a cocktail. It has any extensive infusion program, with the colorful jugs on display behind the bar. These liquors are mixed with freshly-squeezed juices, house syrups and fresh herbs to make some innovative and tasty drinks that make up an impressive, ever-changing cocktail menu. Bar manager Christina Klein says, "Our bartenders have a lot of knowledge of classical cocktails, but we like to have a little fun with it. We offer original takes on the classics."
Along with infused liquors like chili pepper tequila, cucumber gin and jalapeno-strawberry vodka, fresh fruit and herbs are at the core of the cocktail philosophy. In between the lunch and dinner hours, a bartender was cranking away on the juicer, getting fresh lime juice ready for the night. "We have a clientele that wants some really good, really well done drinks, and they want them fast," Klein says.
Sonny's new neighbor, the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club, is being called Portland's first craft cocktail bar, and Klein doesn't disagree with that statement. "They are meticulous with their drinks. I love that they are there and am inspired by them." She says that Sonny's can do craft cocktails, and do them well, but that they aren't necessarily the focus. At Sonny's, things are a bit more free-form. She says she "kind of grew up in bars." She's from Wisconsin and "there's a whole different way of doing an Old Fashioned there. I like the idea that you can take any drink that's a classic and turn it into what you want."
While the infusion trend has started to fade a bit recently ("People seem to be getting more into spirits and old-school cocktails"), Klein finds infusions to be a great way to add another layer of complexity to a drink. "You can really play with those and have a base ingredient that has a lot of flavor," she says.
The bartenders at Sonny's are constantly trying new recipes, bouncing ideas off one another and collaborating on the next drink to put on the special board or menu. "Herbs have been a big theme lately — basil, cilantro, mint, sage," Klein says. Still, there are some menu staples that won't be going anywhere. The Pinky Tuscadero (fresh mint, strawberries, Brut Bubbly and St. Germain) and the Hot Pepper Margarita (made with infused chile tequila) are two of the most popular choices.
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[Photos by Tom Minervino]