Portland's Most Influential Bartender Opens a Bar and Restaurant

Portland's Most Influential Bartender Opens a Bar and Restaurant
Courtesy of Eater Portland

It is a "love letter to the West Coast" from Jeffrey Morgenthaler's Pacific Standard.

An important figure in Portland's cocktail community effectively retired last year.

During that time, Jeffrey Morgenthaler's decade-long home, Clyde Common, which had won seven James Beard Awards, closed its doors permanently. Morgenthaler took the opportunity to quietly exit the bar scene by closing its sister bar, Pépé le Moko. He did not announce the closures. In 2021, he worked with Eugene Brewing Company to launch his own canned cocktail brand and consult other beverage professionals.

Eventually, though, he got an offer he couldn't refuse from ChefStable restaurant group. Also, he and Benjamin "Banjo" Amberg decided to open their own business in late June.

Courtesy of Alex Kwan

Their "love letter to the West Coast" is Pacific Standard, a restaurant located in the lobby of the KEX hotel. Morgenthaler serves a dozen specialty cocktails, interesting twists on classic "lobby" drinks, local beer and wine on draft, as well as dishes inspired by his childhood growing up in Central California and his 30 years living in Oregon. 

Morgenthaler and Armstrong worked out a licensing agreement on the project, where they own the concept, brand, and ideas, but not the actual tables and chairs. Morgenthaler said this allows him to start his own business without putting his house on the line. Additionally, Pacific Standard can open locations elsewhere, something they already intend to do in the future.

Morgenthaler decided to focus on cocktails that could be enjoyed all day long by all kinds of people to design the drinks menu at Pacific Standard.

As an example, he tackled a Bloody Mary, a drink that tends more toward meals than hotel lobby bars.

By adding citric acid and MSG to the Bloody Mary recipe, he transformed it into a savory, light drink.

A brown sugar-molasses syrup, fresh cream, and local coffee were paired with Jameson for the Irish coffee. Micheladas, strawberry-rhubarb Aperol spritz, Passionfruit Ramos fizz, and espresso martinis with Spanish brandy are among the other cocktails served. With rosé vermouth from Spain, gin, Bitter Bianco, sea salt, bitters, and lemon peel, his Negroni variation is clear.

As with burger joints, he displays the ABV of each drink on his menu, something he hopes will catch on elsewhere.

Finally, Pacific Standard offered the team the opportunity to create a food menu. Morgenthaler was inspired by his family's Pacific Coast heritage. He wanted to counter the notion that farm-to-table cuisine and Alice Waters are synonymous with West Coast food. 

In addition to dishes such as Puget Sound mussels poached in cider, French onion dip, steamed artichokes with mayo and garlic butter, and Osetra caviar, Pacific Standard serves warm chocolate chip cookies made from Morgenthaler's recipe.

From its previous status as an open-floor restaurant, it already had reclaimed wood infrastructure and a library-like décor. Morgenthaler said he merely had to rearrange details like the banker's lamps on the bar top in order to put his degree in interior architecture to good use.

A team hopes to soon expand Pacific Standard's hours to start at 8 a.m. and finish at 2 a.m. every day.

There will be slushy machines and buckets of beer available for sale at the Sunset Room bar on the KEX rooftop later this summer.

For someone coming out of retirement, it sounds like a lot to handle.

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