Ok, so I realise that it’s probably a misnomer to refer a party held *at* Portland’s Century Bar as *the* “Party of the Century.” (Portland historians will no doubt reserve that appellation for the The Great Californian Auto-da-fe of 2018.) But I’m making that joke now, because in a year, when Century is a Super Big Deal and at least five of your thematically-challenged friends have chosen it as the location for their “Birthday of The Century” parties, you’ll remember that I made that joke first and that I WARNED YOU THIS WOULD HAPPEN.
But regardless: this year’s Negroni Social was pretty f**king cool.
For those of you who missed our coverage of last year’s Negroni Social, a quick recap:
THE NEGRONI (noun): A classic cocktail, traditionally made with Dry Gin, Sweet Vermouth, and Campari.
THE NEGRONI SOCIAL (proper noun): A celebration of said classic cocktail, created in 2011 by Portland industry titans Douglas Derrick (Bar Manager at Ava Gene’s) and Nicholas Suhor (General Manager at Nostrana), with proceeds from the Social going to support local charity.
Every year, the conceit of the Negroni Social remains the same: have everyone dress up according to a theme, throw a massive, invite-only rager, drink most of the Campari in the known universe, give the proceeds to charity. This is a pretty solid recipe, and it remains static.
However, what doesn’t remain static is the scope of the event, which has gotten larger and more ambitious with each passing year. For their sixth outing, the team at Negroni Social presented us with “Negronis in the Garden of Good & Evil”, a sprawling heaven-and-hell themed bacchanal at the soon-to-be-opened Century Bar (more on that in a second) in Southeast Portland. The event was sponsored by Campari America, with proceeds from going to local charity OutsideIn.
As the sun went down on Monday night, the evening’s festivities drew (presumably) the Social’s largest crowd to date, with some of Portland’s best known bartenders, industry insiders and cocktail enthusiasts decked out in their finest. Costume-wise, three primary motifs seemed to rule the day: “Angels/Devils,” “The Garden,” and “Screw you, it’s still 85 degrees outside.”
Inside the event, guests were welcomed with a deliciously mellow amphorae-aged Negroni (developed by Douglas Derrick and available now at Ava Gene’s), before fanning out to the venue’s four bars to sample as many of the dozen Negroni variants as their Campari-soaked hearts desired. I don’t think many people tasted all twelve, but most of us gave it the good ol’ college try.
Ultimately, the real star of the evening was Century Bar, the much-anticipated new offering from the folks at the recently christened Lightning Bar Collective – or as they’re better known, “whoever owns all those bars” (specifically Bye & Bye, Sweet Hereafter, Jackknife, Victoria, and now Century Bar).
Since popping up on social media over a year ago, Century has been stuck in “Coming Soon” territory for quite some time, but Monday night marked Century’s first foray into the public eye, and the reception (as far as I could tell) was overwhelmingly positive.
While it’s hard to get a feel for a venue from one packed gala event, there were a few things readily apparent about the venue: the spacious patio and great view from the rooftop deck; the richly finished interior and expansive stadium seating in the main bar (perfect for viewing sporting events), and a quaint lounge area tucked away on the second floor. And, of course, there’s a photo booth.
There are some things that remain unclear about Century. First and foremost is when they’ll actually open (word on the street is “sometime this summer”), and we’ll have to see how the space works when it’s being used as a sports bar, instead of an event space. Will the rooftop deck be open year-round? If it’s used at all, will people be able to find the the second-floor bar? (The stairway, located past the kitchen, almost makes it seem back-of-house and off-limits.) What are the odds that my Tinder date will end up dumping chili-cheese fries all over those beautiful wood benches?
Whatever the answers to those questions are, though, I’m looking forward to Century’s opening almost as much as I’m looking forward to next year’s Negroni Social.
For those of you who missed out on Monday’s festivities, Campari also sponsors Negroni Week which runs 6 – 12 June at bars across the globe. Check out the Negroni Week website to find a participating bar near you, or if you want a PretentiousPDX recommendation, I’d suggest checking out Interurban (pictured at the start of this article) , Americano, or Bit House Saloon.
Until next year, kids.
Negroni Social (negronisocial.org)
Negroni Week (negroniweek.com)
6 – 12 June 2016
International; see website for participating bars
Century Bar (centurybarpdx.com)
930 Southeast Sandy Boulevard, Portland