Jeffrey Morgenthaler, a bartender and “mixologist” from Portland, OR, nearly walked away from his career and his passion. For years, Morgenthaler battled a painful foot ailment called plantar fasciitis, a disorder that turned bartending into a daily challenge. Now equipped with Dansko clogs, Morgenthaler continues to serve the Portland bar scene, serving one mixed drink at a time. We caught up with the west-coast bartender to learn more about the job he loves—and to borrow a recipe for a perfectly sweet summertime cocktail!
Q: The moment you knew you wanted to tend bar:
A: Bartending was supposed to be just a summer job for me. Fortunately, I kept at it through college and eventually fell in love with it.
Q: First job behind a bar:
A: I worked for a very blue collar bar in Eugene, Oregon. The place has been around since Prohibition ended. I poured beer, served chili, and tended to an older group of customers every day.
Q: With a full bar at your disposal, you would drink:
A: I like simple drinks, so either an Old Fashioned, or a Daiquiri, depending on my mood and the season.
Q: Qualities of the perfect cocktail:
A: Balance, balance, balance, in every way. Perfect recipe, perfect ingredients, and perfect technique are what I look for in a drink.
Q: Most frequently requested drink by customers:
A: At our bar we make a lot of classic cocktails. I probably made a hundred Manhattans and another hundred Old Fashioneds tonight.
Q: Most unusual drink request you’ve ever received:
A: Every time I think I’ve received every possible drink order under the sun, someone surprises me. I worked at a bar years ago that had a regular who drank Beefeater Gin and Pepsi.
Q: How does the bar/food scene in Portland compare to the scene elsewhere?
A: Pound for pound, there aren’t many cities in the United States that can boast better food than Portland. We have so many options here that sometimes it’s daunting.
Q: Favorite Portland restaurant?
A: I have three favorite restaurants here: Little Bird Bistro, which is a pitch-perfect French bistro. Nostrana, which is the best Italian food in the city, and Pok Pok, which has incredible Thai street food. I could live on those three for the rest of my life.
Q: Can you name three behind-the-bar essentials?
A: Whenever someone asks me what the most indispensable bar tool is, I always recommend shoes. I’m on my feet for 10-12 hours a day, and my body would be a wreck without the proper footwear. But outside of that, I could probably make 99% of the drinks out there with just a chopstick and a Mason jar.
Q: Why do you demand comfortable footwear at work?
A: I’ve been doing this for nearly twenty years. A little over ten years ago, my feet started falling apart and I was at risk of not being able to do what I love. Someone recommended Dansko to me and they restored my ability to be on my feet for as many hours as my job demands. I don’t know, I guess I would say that I demand good footwear, because without it, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.