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Portland Bar Scene: Bobby Boucher at the Sunshine Tavern

Bobby Boucher at the Sunshine Tavern
Bobby Boucher at the Sunshine Tavern
Hoke Harden

Sometimes you just want a good stiff drink.

Not because you need a drink. That’s never a good reason. Sometimes you just want a drink, one with a good spirit-driven backbone and some alcoholic authority that boldly declaims its flavors, because that’s what you like.

There’s no frou-frou, no tropical juices, no exotic flavors---except for what’s already in the booze, which, you know, should be enough if it’s good booze, right?

That’s the kind of thing the Sunshine Tavern is good at, giving you a straightforward experience, whether in food or drink, with assertive aromas and flavors and not much fooling around. And that’s exactly the kind of drink the Bobby Boucher is.

There are lots of different kinds of cocktails out there. Some are elegant and refined; some are juicy and fun; some are simple; some are so complicated you get confused about what you’re supposed to be tasting. The Bobby Boucher is neither elegant nor refined; it’s not particularly juicy since there’s no juice in it, just spirits and wine, and pretty flavorful wine at that, but it is fun. And simple, yes, with not too many ingredients, and all nicely balanced so you can pick up what you’re tasting.

First there’s bourbon whiskey, with smoke and oak and vanilla and caramel. Then there’s the winey tang of sweet vermouth, that lovely aromatized wine that goes so well with most spirits. Then the lift of Cherry Heering, that Danish delight, to give up the rich fruit flavor. And finally there’s the unmistakable herb and spice brew of Benedictine, so intriguing and engaging it has been tantalizing taste buds of travelers for over five hundred years (and isn’t that staying power?)

Mix them all together in the perfect balance and you’ve got the Bobby Boucher. You don’t even need any garnish, because, usually, the drink doesn’t stay in the glass long enough to need one.

So fight your way through the traffic jam construction zone of Division. Enjoy the slow parade of stop-and-go on one of the most congested (and it’s getting worse) strips in our fair city. Stare longingly at the winding line of people out the door of Salt & Straw (and don't fret; you can go back there for dessert.) Creep past the crowd standing like patient food-zombies at Pok Pok, go right past the Whiskey Soda Lounge, don’t get caught by Block + Tackle, and you’re there at the Sunshine Tavern, munching on the eminently healthy French fries drizzled in bacon gravy, and enjoying a Bobby Boucher.

You know the food's good; Sunshine Tavern is a more casual venture by noted Chef Jenn Louis from Lincoln restaurant on North Williams. Jenn is a Food and Wine Star Chef, and she puts down some upscale tavern food.

Oh, and the Tavern also has the wonderful custom of $3.00 bourbon and rye shots, featuring a different bourbon or rye every day, most of them prefaced by the word “Old.” They like that word in Kentucky, and it seems to fit just fine when it accompanies Forester, Crow, Grand-Dad and a few others.