Born to bartend

Portland's premier mixologist shakes things up

A smooth, sweet avocado daiquiri, a chocolate martini, and a champagne cocktail with white peach purée: Just one look at the menu, and it's clear that Portland's Elephants Delicatessen is not your normal bar.

But what really distinguishes these cocktails-among-the-cold-cuts is that they're all created by Lucy Brennan. She's the English-born drinks diva whose delish menu of 40 original cocktails packs 'em in at her highly regarded Mint restaurant and its adjoining 820 Lounge. Her eagerly anticipated cocktail recipe book, published by Chronicle Books, will be out in spring 2006. And now she's offering classes to teach the rest of us how to mix a great drink.

"I never thought, Oh, I want to be a bartender," says Brennan about her rise to the pinnacle of Portland's mixologists. "I fell into it."

She started out as a room-service waitress at San Francisco's Park Hyatt Hotel and eventually became the hotel's beverage manager. When she moved to Portland 11 years ago, she decided to try her hand at bartending. At Saucebox Café & Bar she became renowned for her innovative use of fruit purées and herbs. "I definitely bridge the kitchen and the bar."

Anyone can succeed as a bartender by mastering just four basic drinks, she says: the margarita, the sidecar, the cosmopolitan, and the lemon drop. To make any other kind of cocktail, "you just change the components." ―S.H.

INFO: Cocktail classes at 820 Lounge the last Sun of each month ($50; 820 N. Russell St., Portland; 503/284-5518); Elephants Delicatessen (115 N.W. 22nd Ave.; 503/224-3955).