Quick Spin: Bartender Jordan Felix of the Multnomah Whiskey Library

Jordan Felix, Multnomah Whiskey Library [DAILYBLENDER.COM]

The Multnomah Whisk{e}y Library, the long awaited cocktail destination from Alan Davis of Produce Row Cafe, is everything you’ve heard it to be. The selection of over 1500 pours from around the world, handpicked by resident whisk(e)y expert, Tommy Klus, is breathtaking, lining a full wall six shelves high. A rolling ladder is used to access it all, bottles of every color and size flooded with a warm yellow light that draws your attention despite the beauty and detail of the entire room. Every gathering around a table is punctuated with plush and leather seating, couches and chairs, tall custom drink trays awaiting your next choice off the extensive menu. The stained glass is custom, the artwork is local, and the attention to detail is beyond anything Portland has ever seen. It is a nod to the days where evenings were spent with good friends, great drinks, and a cigar in hand.

Amidst all of the beautiful things in the Library’s main room (a cozy tasting room with ‘spirit lockers’ for members only is just off the southwest corner) is a staff that keeps this hot spot hopping. Along with service manager Jake Heil, and executive chef Derek Hanson, you’ll also find a tall, dark-haired ‘tender with an Australian accent and a way with spirits.

Jordan Felix fell quickly in line when he arrived in Portland in 2011, working under Jeffrey Morgenthaler at Clyde Common for two years before accepting his new role behind the gorgeous bar of the Multnomah Whiskey Library. Felix’s dedication to cocktail making is obvious as he peers into the spirit he’s pouring, carefully measuring, carefully mixing before passing his drink along. His passion for crafting a great cocktail, a passion shared by all on staff, is just the icing on the already dreamy MWL cake.


Q: So, tell me about how you got started as a bartender. Have you always wanted to be one?

A: I’ve always wanted to be a bartender.

I visited the US four or five times from Australia. I was a server down in Melbourne, but had a chance for an extended stay and my first bartender experience happened while I was in New York at Danny Meyer’s Blue Smoke in 2004. I jumped right in. It was one shift and I produced a horrible margarita that was really bad, but I loved it. I realized I could really get creative with this sort of thing.

Then when I went back to Australia, I started managing a Japanese restaurant and found myself gravitating more and more towards the bar. I wanted to be involved in what was happening at the bar. When I moved out of that place. I moved straight to an Asian speakeasy. New Gold Mountain. We didn’t really know what we were doing, but we just wanted to make stuff that tasted great. None of our cocktails had names – they just had numbers. We broke up the list – half cocktails, half sours. I ran that place for a year and a half, but I knew that I wanted to go and take on New York again.

When I headed back to NY in 2010 to manage, I was 29 years old. Things didn’t work so well on the second round – we were in the middle of the financial crisis, I didn’t agree with the owners on what they were doing. My Dad coincidentally had moved to Eugene, so I came out here to help him with wine harvest, and I started working at a small bar for a few months. I was impressed with the cocktail list and knew that I wanted to make the move to Portland, so I ended up with a guest bartending shift at Teardrop Lounge. It was amazing and awesome. [Owner] Daniel was great, and I ended up working with Ricky Gomez. I stayed at his house, and we got up the next morning, and he introduced me to Jeffrey Morgenthaler, who had written the cocktail list at the bar where I was working in Eugene. And that’s how I fell into Clyde Common. A spot opened for me, and Jeff invited me in. And I can’t say enough good things about Jeff, Junior Ryan, and Beckaly Franks.

Q: What was it like working with someone as well known as Jeff?

A: The one thing I got from Jeff was that this is the reason why we do it. You know, have some sort of responsibility when you create a cocktail. Why did you use that instead of this? Why did you use that particular syrup? Why did you use that particular spirit? Why did you use that particular citrus? And I started to have this ownership of cocktails. He would explain each one of his cocktails – and that’s what was missing from my arsenal. I knew I could make great drinks, I just wasn’t sure how I was making great drinks. [Laughs.] I finally understood the mechanics of a cocktail.

Everyone here at MWL is really collaborative, and I love this environment. We have classics, but we have fantastic spirits to play with. These are tried-and-true classics.

Q: How different is the environment here at MWL where it’s more of a cocktail club than a cocktail bar? People aren’t pushed up against the bar, barking orders. Everything’s more refined, more relaxed.

A: There are definitely plusses for both [types of bars]. I think we were all challenged by the more traditional bar atmosphere, but here, we’re all essentially working as servers, sometimes pushing the cocktail carts out to people to make tableside drinks. It’s really interesting to strip that bar away. But we’re really all about presentation. We are spirit forward here, not cocktail forward. We’re about our back bar. Someone says, “I love this bourbon and I’d like it in an Old Fashioned,” and the cocktails just fall into place. Everyone’s been hired for their personality and talents, which makes for a great environment.

Jordan Felix, Multnomah Whiskey Library, Portland [DAILYBLENDER.COM]Q: What’s a signature cocktail of yours?

A: I just love plays on classics. The Improved cocktail is just a wonderful play on an Old Fashioned. A little bit of maraschino, a little bit of absinthe. It’s just accentuating the spirit. That’s what we want to do. We want to make that spirit shine.

Q: What bartenders are you watching?

A: Dale DeGroff is definitely someone I look up to. Jim Meehan is another great one. I like Sean Kenyon out of Colorado. I really appreciate his integrity. Erick Castro out of San Diego – I really appreciate his blunt opinions on the industry. Obviously Jeff as well. I appreciate Daniel Shoemaker’s integrity and finesse.

Q: Do you stay on top of what’s happening down in Australia?

A: I haven’t much. I feel as though they’re straying away from the classics, sometimes going a little more flair, and I really wasn’t impressed with the balance of the cocktails I tried while I was down there. At the same time, however, I feel like the folks at Black Pearl and Eau de Vie in Melbourne are really putting the focus on the spirit. Making it just a great product, making people want to order cocktails. Right now, wine and beer still outsell cocktails down there, hand over fist. Ready to drink cans are still huge in the culture as well.

Q: When you sit down at a bar, what’s your go-to drink?

A: I still just really like a scotch and ginger ale.


~Jennifer Heigl

*Photo credit: Jennifer Heigl / Daily Blender

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