My choices are limited tonight due to the fact that my car has been brought in for repairs. As I trudge away from my car to the care of the mechanic, I do quick calculations; I can go to the Bridgeport, which has been remodeled since I was there for The Local, or I can try that new place just a few blocks away.
So I walk into the Sunshine Tavern aaaaaand I am not hopeful. The place looks empty, which, while not surprising given the time, means that my theme won’t be enacted. I step in and the place is wood and gleaming everywhere, with a couple near a window, glasses of wine on the table, one red, one white, with nobody else in the tavern except staff.
The couple is clearly doing something else. I am not to disturb them. So I wander up to the bar and sit down. A menu is produced but I quickly explain I just want a drink-and here is my problem.
The bartender gives me the initial bartender moment, wanting to suss out what I like, what my mood is. That’s precisely not the point. I try to explain a bit until finally I stumble on the idea I’m trying to convey.
“If you were sitting where I am,” I ask, “what would you be drinking? That’s what I want.”
A switch goes off behind his eyes and he nods. Rye whiskey is poured into a glass with a generous splash of red bitters. Another glass hangs out with Pernod in it, which is later tilted and slowly, slowly rotated the bright clear green liquid coating the bottom third.
“I’m making you a traditional N’Ow’ns sazerac,” he says, and I give him a quizzical look. I think he says ‘north’ at first and I don’t understand.
“They make them different all over,” the barkeep says, “but the traditional ones from New Orleans are my favorite.”
I nod, finally understanding what’s going on and smile when my drink arrives.
It’s a lovely combination of anise flavors, lemon and sweetness, reminding me of large jellybeans I got as a child during Easter. It’s also brilliantly refreshing, which if summer had decided to become fully present in Portland, would be a wonderful toxicant. I can see why this is a New Orleans drink, because it’s just the thing to shut down oppressive heat.
The bartender and I chat. He likes working at the Sunshine; it’s welcoming to kids so it truly is a neighborhood place, with people coming in to enjoy themselves and a familiar contingent from the residential apartments upstairs. The people watching on Division never ends, he tells me, and it’s easy to see why because the windows are taller than I am and wrap half the tavern.
I gently finish my drink, prolonging this moment of rest between the unhappiness of needing my car repaired and the preparing to briskly walk home, enjoying the pause and then, finally, I thank the bartender, who has been more than kind to me and walk home.
I lick anise from my teeth all the way home, looking forward to my next chance to visit the Sunshine. They haven’t been open long but I’d like to go back.