One for the Road – Eugene Weekly

There’s art to making a cocktail. 

Sure, most of us can make a decent gin and tonic — or vodka and orange juice — but when it comes to mixing a Manhattan, martini or bloody mary, it might be best to find an expert, because a proper drink takes special ingredients and skills. 

Thankfully, the state of Oregon legalized to-go cocktails mid-December 2020. The decision is about eight months overdue for local restaurants with bars, says Bar Purlieu’s co-owner Joe Kiefer-Lucas. But  the creative juices can now flow for restaurants that offer bar drinks. So throw away that martini that even Hawkeye Pierce from MASH wouldn’t drink and explore these creative options — such as playing with kimchi, selling mix-it-yourself kits, perfecting cocktail drinks and offering Eugene classics. 

Bar Purlieu 

Kiefer-Lucas says he doesn’t like snobbery or pretentiousness in bartending. “I make dumb drinks for smart people,” he says. “I’m not here pulling my moustache looking down at you for not choosing the right drink.” 

That’s what Kiefer-Lucas says drives him to give his drinks names such as Cat Video or Brown Fedora. The names harken to what the drink (Brown Fedora references Brown Derby) was inspired by, but it adds some fun to it, he says. 

Before cocktails to-go, Bar Purlieu sold cocktail mixes when the restaurant reopened for takeout early in the pandemic. It was a way to re-enter the bar world during the pandemic, Kiefer-Lucas says. They still offer the mixes, which provide customers with instructions on how to make the drink, allowing them to be the bartender. 

But for those who are looking for a drink to accompany their meals, Bar Purlieu now has some of its unique cocktails for sale. Kiefer-Lucas says the cocktail menu targets returning customers while not offering anything too weird for new people. “Because if you don’t like your drink, you can’t send it back like you could normally,” he adds. 

But there’s still a sense of exploration available at Bar Purlieu. Back in the days when we could safely drink at bars, you could try out different liquors with your cocktail, and Kiefer-Lucas says the bar has brought back that spirit with its build-your-own Manhattan. It’s a way to try a liquor with the commitment of around $18 for a nine-ounce drink — which is better than sinking around $80 on a bottle of something you might not like. The build your own Manhattan ranges in price, depending on your choice of liquor, from $11 to $18. 

For a more high-end take on the Manhattan, Kiefer-Lucas says he recommends names like Pikesville Rye or Van Winkle or George T. Stagg. But he says they also have some high-end special edition bottles, “some stuff that you just wouldn’t be able to find in a liquor store yourself.”

Bar Purlieu is at 1530 Willamette. Hours are 4 to 8 pm Wednesday through Sunday. Visit…

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