New Deal Distillery started up in 2004 with New Deal Vodka, closely followed by 88 Vodka and Hot Monkey pepper-flavored vodka. True to the micro-distillery spirit, New Deal continues to produce small-batch liquors using local ingredients -- right down to the water that flows down from Bull Run.
Business has gone well enough for New Deal to justify an expansion in February of 2013 into a new, bigger space around the corner from its original Southeast Portland location.
Vodka remains New Deal's backbone, with Mudpuddle chocolate vodka adding to the varieties. Two gins join the lineup with New Deal Gin No. 1 and Portland Dry Gin, Recipe 33. Two exquisite, sweet, intensely-flavored liqueurs -- Ginger and Coffee -- round out New Deal's offerings. The Distiller's Workshop provides the New Deal staff with an opportunity to experiment on the micro-micro-level and produce tiny batches in new directions, with recent liquor productions such as several rums, a Barley Cane "Moonshine" and a Farmer's Grappa.
New Deal Distillery is a member of Distillery Row -- a group of micro-distilleries in Southeast Portland that has banded together to create a regional hub to benefit each participant. Be sure to read more about the members of Distillery Row, as well as a round-up of some of the other top distillers in Portland.
Vodkas are at the center of New Deal's offerings, and there are several varieties available. New Deal Vodka is super clean, as a vodka should be, and it has a nice warm finish. A proprietary botanical infusion adds to the subtle flavor and further smooths out the taste.
The distillery bills its Portland 88 Vodka as the younger cousin of the flagship New Deal Vodka. It comes in as 88 proof, compared to New Deal's 80 proof, and it's crafted without the additional botanicals.
Mud Puddle Chocolate Vodka has an intense cocoa flavor up front, but unlike other chocolate-infused liquors, isn't sweetened at all. The fair trade organic cocoa nibs come from local chocolatier Clio. The nibs are lightly roasted and added to the vodka for just a few days of infusion to create the finished product. Try it straight or as a mixer where strong chocolate is at home.
Five different Southwestern chiles bring fire to the spicy Hot Monkey Vodka. Add it to pineapple juice to mix sweet and spicy, use it to bring kick to a bloody Mary, or pour it into hot cocoa for an alcoholic Mexican style hot chocolate beverage.
Gin 33 features a clear, bright crisp flavor. The only botanical added is juniper -- and that flavor is therefore quite prominent and almost minty. The overall taste is surprisingly smooth, and it mixes quite well into a gin gimlet, gin and tonic, or with any citrus flavor.
The No 1 Gin comes off of a still designed to retain more of the oils and tannins. It makes a great martini.
Both the Coffee Liqueur and the Ginger Liqueur are sensational and feature prominent, intense and sweet overall flavors. They each come in at 50 proof.
Like many micro-distilleries, New Deal often experiments with different combinations. We were able to try Coffee Liqueurs made in partnership with both Public Domain and Water Avenue coffees -- two local roasters -- and the creations were both excellent, but had significantly different flavors from one another. Neither was overly sweet, and the differing coffee flavors were both intense. Mix the coffee liqueur with Mud Puddle Vodka for white or black Russians, or drink it straight up.
The Ginger Liqueur has an intense ginger kick with cane sugar and agave to sweeten it. Add to a whiskey or a brandy for a wonderful hot toddy.
The Tasting Room
Tastings cost $5 (or purchase a Distillery Row Passport to taste at all of the affiliated micro-distillers plus some bonuses for $20) and include five samples of your choice. Share your tastings with a friend and your 10 shots will more than cover all of the offerings. Tastings come in reusable -- rather than disposable -- glasses, which is a nice, environmentally friendly feature of New Deal. Each tasting also comes with a New Deal shot glass you can bring home.
New Deal's mission is to bring affordable liquors to the local population, and like several of Portland's micro-distilleries, the bottles are cost-competitive with many mid-level mainstream brands. Head into your local micro-distillery, check out some unique, small-batch, craft creations, and support the local economy in the process.
New Deal Distillery Essentials
- New Deal Distillery has moved around the corner from its previous location. Effective February 9, 2014 find New Deal at 900 SE Salmon Street (cross street is SE 9th).
- Website: newdealdistillery.com; New Deal Distillery Website: distilleryrowpdx.com/new-deal-distillery
- Phone: 503-234-2513
- Average tab per taster: $5/tasting, or purchase a Distillery Row Passport for $20
- Tasting room hours: Saturday & Sunday, Noon-5:00 p.m.; Wednesday - Friday, 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. Retail shop is open most days. Group tours call 503-234-2513