by: TRIBUNE PHOTOS: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - The Quartet bar complements a steak house and live music setting in a picturesque spot along the South Waterfront on the Willamette River.You can tell a lot about a restaurant from its bar. And when the price of dinner for two is going to be $100 or more, I think a test drive is in order.

With this in mind, I recently stopped by two new and ambitious establishments: Raven & Rose downtown and Quartet on the South Waterfront. In both places the bar is worth a trip of its own.

I’m really excited about the cocktails at Raven & Rose. Chief bartender Dave Shenaut has taken it upon himself to rewrite the cocktail Bible, starting with the Manhattan and working on through the lesser-known sours, crustas and punches.

As Shenaut notes, the Manhattan was the most popular drink in America in 1883, the year the building that houses Raven & Rose was built. It’s an elaborately trimmed and gabled structure that looks a little out of place on Broadway, like a wedding cake at a board meeting. It’s where city father William Sargent Ladd kept his horses and carriages, and it’s been restored to exacting historic and green building standards.

Inside, it feels new. The upstairs Rookery Bar is spacious and handsome, if you can overlook the TVs. The bar downstairs in the dining room is cozier, with gas burning lamps glimmering in the background.

The downstairs cocktail menu isn’t as extensive as the one served upstairs, but it’s still a pretty good world tour of cocktails that have stood the test of time: the Singapore sling, the French 75, Sazerac, Pisco Sour and margarita. Then, in the seat of honor, there are the whiskey drinks, featuring three single-barrel bourbons selected by Raven & Rose tasters.

As bourbon is aged, each barrel develops a little differently. Normally the distiller blends the different barrels together to achieve a consistent product, but in this case Four Roses, Eagle Rare and Elijah Craig gave the restaurant team an opportunity to pull out unique barrels and call them their own.

So my Tilton Sour was made with a bourbon chosen specifically to pick up the citrus from lemon juice, and not overwhelm the egg whites and bitters. It was a perfectly balanced and perfectly textured drink.

by: TRIBUNE PHOTOS: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Raven & Rose's bartender Dave Shenaut has rewritten the cocktail Bible, with drinks such as the Pisco Sour.The Sim’s Old Fashioned was even better, with muscovado sugar bringing out the full flavor of a robust Eagle Rare. The team is testing rums, tequilas and brandies, and other famous cocktail recipes are being obsessed over.

Speaking of flashy buildings, somebody finally took over the sparkly polyhedron on the west bank of the Willamette River that used to be Lucier. Lucier closed in 2008 after less than a year in business, leaving behind the shell of a high-end restaurant, designed in such a way that it really couldn’t be anything else.

Things have changed on the South Waterfront since then. People actually live there now, and Quartet, the new tenant, is betting that many of them have the time, money and inclination to become regulars at a contemporary steakhouse that features filet mignon and lobster, wine and jazz, and sweeping river views.

One warm spring night, I sat at the bar, watching an acid orange moon rise between the girders of the Marquam Bridge. A musical combo was packing up their instruments, and a waiter was flaming an order of Bananas Foster for the last lingering group in the dining room.

It felt quiet for a Friday, with the bar less than half full, although there was one large and boisterous party. Lights reflecting on the river are echoed in mirrored pillars, low tables underlit in neon red, and rows of wine bottles — and a glass of wine might be your best bet. The house cocktails are crowd-pleasers, big and sweet. The Goosebumps combines Grey Goose infused with lemon, elderflower, watermelon and mint, and part of the proceeds go to fight breast cancer. The Quartet ginger sour is Maker’s Mark with lemon, lime, ginger, brown sugar and soda, and it tastes like soda pop.

This is a place that always has been about atmosphere. It’s a glittering, opulent spot where dinner for two could easily run into the $150 to $200 range — a late happy hour bill of $15 makes a very acceptable preview.

Raven & Rose, 3:30 p.m. to midnight Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. to midnight Saturday-Sunday, 1331 S.W. Broadway, 503-222-7673,

Quartet, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 3 p.m. to midnight Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday, 1910 S.W. River Drive, 503-222-7300,

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