When you step into Long Beach’s first (legal) distillery, you are greeted by the equipment itself. Huge metal stills that rise nearly to the ceiling in an exciting and almost futuristic way, but the process is anything but new. The process of distilling liquors is almost as old as civilization itself and for good reason; it works. Seeing the process in action directly adjacent to the bar makes for a fun and unique experience when sipping on a cocktail. The décor makes it feel almost like you are inside the hull of a hulking and well-made ship. This nautical theme runs through the interior, culminating in a dingy hanging from the ceiling as if frozen mid-bootlegging run. That is where the name of the place originates. Portuguese Bend on the Palos Verdes Peninsula was a popular drop spot for rum runners during the 1920’s. When prohibition was in full swing, Portuguese Bend supplied the majority of illegal alcohol to Southern California even coining the name Smugglers Cove.
As a homage to its namesake, the cocktail menu boasts a litany of classic cocktails. Familiar names like Sidecar, Vieux Carre, and Mai Tai jump out like old friends welcoming you to their new favorite spot. All of these incredible classic cocktails will not disappoint, but the true magic of Portuguese Bend is their originals. One of my favorites is the Rosa Collins, which is a twist on the classic Tom Collins, but made with Portuguese Bend Donna Rosa gin, Demerara syrup, lemon juice, and finished with soda water. Not only is the drink a beautiful hue, the flavors are dynamic and fresh. This is the type of drink you sip between laughs with friends on a warm patio, which was exactly what I did. Pairing this floral and tart drink with an order of the Big Island Coconut Onion Rings was an absolute hit. Huge onion rings, coated in crunchy coconut complimented the delicate flavors in the drink.
All of the food at Portuguese Bend can hold its own against the powerhouse cocktail menu. On the dinner menu is a flawlessly cooked salmon plated with mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables that worked entirely too well with the effervescent Rosa 75. Boasting Portuguese Bend Donna Rosa gin, fresh lemon juice, strawberry syrup, dehydrated fruit, and topped with sparkling brut, it complimented the salmon without overwhelming the subtle flavor of the fish. You can also order the Rosa 75 as a brunch cocktail kit if you are entertaining a crowd. The classics presented in a fresh, unique, and always tasty manor is what makes Portuguese Bend more than just a distillery, which makes incredible stand-alone spirits, but a bar and restaurant that is truly at the top of its game. You can find Portuguese Bend at 300 The Promenade North Long Beach, California and if their bottles are what you are looking for you can find them on site or online at portuguesebenddistilling.com.