Shaken, not stirred
Troutdale martini lounge savors its James Bond-themed cocktails
According to British author and journalist, Ian Fleming, the '00' designation awarded to agents like James Bond meant a license to kill at their discretion.
At the Shaken Martini Lounge in Troutdale, the '00' is a smooth blend of vodka and gin, with a splash of soda and a lemon twist.
Shaken, not stirred.
'These aren't your father's martinis,' said Andy Gainer, owner of the newly opened lounge on the Historic Columbia River Highway. 'Those were bathtub gin mixed with sweet vermouth. Today, you can get a martini that tastes like a chocolate covered cherry. We can actually make one that tastes like a Jolly Rancher hard candy.'
Nothing about the Shaken Martini Lounge harkens back to the smoke filled, dimly lit bars from decades ago when business men sipped three martinis and called it lunch. Quietly understated with mottled red walls and wooden floors, Shaken Martini is more along the lines of a coffee-house atmosphere minus the coffee.
'People used to meet at a coffee house to visit and listen to music,' Gainer said. 'Now, they're going to lounges. This is a middle scale place to hang out. You could walk in here in high heels and a skirt and not feel out of place. Everybody's just sipping martinis and talking and laughing.'
Gainer, a Corbett resident and 1989 Gresham High School graduate, is no rookie in the lounge arena. He owned Northwest Portland's The Jazz in the early 2000s and was also involved in the, now closed, Shaken Martini Lounge in Northeast Portland. Intent on opening his own place, Gainer and business partner, Montgomery Cobb, spent several months last year looking for an intimate venue to house a lounge. A tireless search for a small, soon-to-close restaurant or bar in the metro area failed to pan out. Gainer was helping girlfriend, Ally Doran, open Ally's Dog Spa in Troutdale earlier this year and took note of the vacant space next door.
'I knew the landlord from working with Ally to open the dog shop,' Gainer said. 'We were in and out of conversations about this place after that, so I already had a working relationship with the landlord. I got my general contractor's license and began building in here the end of June.'
Gainer quietly opened the doors in early August and was formally introduced to the community with a ribbon cutting Sept. 2. But Shaken Martini, it seemed, had already shaken up the neighborhood.
'I just opened the door and told my friends to come down and visit me,' Gainer said. 'A lot of them didn't, but half this neighborhood did. The last couple weeks, all the tables have been full with people sipping martinis, talking and laughing. It's been fun.'
Several of the lounge's signature martinis are inspired by Gainer's incredible knowledge of James Bond. The menu reads like a playbill, with history on each of the actors who played 007 and the drink Gainer has named in their honor. Bond movies elevated the status of the simple martini, Gainer said.
The films changed popular belief that the drink was a bitter mix of 'rot gut' bathtub gin, watered down with sweet vermouth. James Bond made the martini a sophisticated cocktail fit for a suave lady's man and his glamorous women.
But Gainer didn't choose the Bond influence - it chose him.
'When I was doing all my research for branding the lounge, the logo and other marketing, everything led back to Ian Fleming's novels,' he explained. 'Vodka companies were actually big sponsors of a lot of the James Bond movies and there are as many brands of vodka as there are actors who played (Bond). But I like the originals - Sean Connery and Smirnoff.'
The cosmopolitan flair doesn't apply only to Gainer's martinis, however. The menu features a selection of sandwiches and salads, with unique pairings of ingredients like prosciutto and fig jam on Kalamata olive bread or chicken and tomatoes on flat bread with feta cheese. Gainer even dresses up a glass of water with slices of English cucumber.
You won't find makings for a bloody mary behind the bar, since Gainer believes the martini has taken happy hour to a new level. Quietly sophisticated like Bond, James Bond.
'There's a lot of places where you can get a rum and Coke,' Gainer said. 'But people savor a martini. They like to watch it being made, we pretty it up, and they look at it. There's a real social aspect to meeting some friends after work and having a couple martinis.'
What: Shaken Martini Lounge
Where: 101 E. Historic Columbia River Highway Troutdale
What: Wide variety of classic and upscale Martinis
When: Noon to midnight, Monday through Sunday. Happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday