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Abigail Hall’s Annual Tribute to Women’s History Month

In 2017 on International Women’s Day, when Holler Hospitality co-founder Jennifer Quist had 24 hours to conceptualize a bar, she knew she wanted to pay tribute to a strong female figure. At the time, the hospitality group, which also operates the Portland Woodlark Hotel’s restaurant Bullard Tavern, got the opportunity to take over the building’s bar space.

Abigail Hall’s Female-Centric Foundation

When it was the Cornelius Hotel in 1907, the space where bar Abigail Hall is now was a ladies reception hall. “I was like, you know, this hotel has a certain femininity to it that Portland hadn’t seen at the time yet,” says Quist. “That was a big part of the concept of the hotel. Bullard is this really masculine restaurant, and I wanted to create a [complementary] concept of a strong female.” 

Abigail Hall
Bartender Hanna Jo Thomas with her Coal Miner’s Daughter cocktail.| Photo by Ilana Freddye

After researching and homing in on Portland suffragist Abigail Scott Duniway, Abigail Hall was born. “I could just picture Abigail coming into it from the streets of downtown Portland at the time,” Quist says. So when it came time to commemorate Women’s History Month beyond the bar’s foundations, “I knew that had to be a really big thing for us that first year out,” she says. 

The result was the annual release of the limited-edition “All the Ladies” cocktail menu. Now in its fourth year, the menu features drinks inspired by important figures in women’s history. This year’s menu features a range of trailblazers, from Maya Angelou and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Sarah Vaughan and Jane Jacobs. A portion of proceeds from the drink sales, combined with a portion of proceeds from the restaurant, benefit Raphael House, a nonprofit organization that supports women and children survivors of domestic violence.

Running through March, this year’s edition is an especially collaborative process. Abigail Hall’s beverage director Derek Jacobi worked with the team to develop their cocktails. ”He really learned about each woman on this menu,” says Quist. “He would sit down with each person and talk about that woman and bounce ideas back and forth.” 

Cocktail Highlights

  • Sailing to the Summit Drawing from Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg’s geographical location, the cocktail employs Scandinavian ingredients, such as aquavit and dill, while incorporating a spicy kick of chili oil and peppercorns. “She’s a little bit spicy. She doesn’t mind telling people what’s up,” says Jacobi. The drink’s name comes from Thunberg’s emissions-free sailing journey from Sweden to New York for a climate summit.
  • Coal Miner’s Daughter Inspired by Country Music Hall of Famer Loretta Lynn and one of the menu’s most popular cocktails so far, this twist on a Sloe Gin Fizz by bartender Hanna Jo Thomas consists of two types of gin, lemon, egg white, and rosemary-infused honey syrup, along with “a dry effervescent sparkling white wine to give it a feminine touch.” Thomas tops the drink with edible activated charcoal hearts to honor “the gritty nature of being a coal miner’s daughter, but to also have a refined nature with the hearts.”
  • A Smoking Gun Jacobi’s cocktail is inspired by gun violence activist Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. This strong “take-no-shit kind of cocktail,” combines a potent mix of scotch, an alpine amaro, Irish whiskey, and Fernet. 

When Cocktail Research Doubles as a History Lesson

In addition to working one-on-one with each Abigail Hall employee, Jacobi also spent time researching and producing write-ups about each chosen figure. “It allowed me to learn more about people that may have been on my radar but that I didn’t know much about,” says Jacobi. “It’s fair to say that these people are now part of my education—all of the things that they have contributed to the world and society. It was amazing.”

“He legitimately dove in,” says Quist of Jacobi. “We’ve had three bartenders do this, and they’ve all been fantastic. But I really appreciate how much he took this on and is so driven by every person and how they feel about the female they selected.”

In addition to the “All the Ladies” menu, the Woodlark Hotel is hosting an array of events that support female-identifying entrepreneurs in Portland. Check out their Instagram for the remainder of events this month.

A Smoking Gun

1 1/2 oz. Irish whiskey (Abigail Hall uses Bushmills Original)
1/2 oz. scotch (Abigail Hall uses Ardbeg)
1/2 oz. Pasubio
1 tsp. rich demerara syrup (2:1)
1 tsp. mint syrup
1 tsp. Fernet-Branca

Tools: mixing glass, barspoon
Glass: Nick & Nora
Garnish: mint leaf

Add all of the ingredients to a mixing glass with ice. Stir to chill, strain into a chilled glass. Garnish.

Derek Jacobi, Abigail Hall, Portland, Oregon

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