Jefferson Spirits is a welcoming oasis that serves well-crafted food and drinks in downtown Medford.

Jefferson Spirits is a welcoming oasis that serves well-crafted food and drinks in downtown Medford.

Arthur Lee and Keet Beck-Brattin, entrepreneurs with roots in the hospitality industry in California, opened the pub at 404 E. Main St. in December.

A gleaming zinc bar anchors the narrow space, which has housed a series of bars and restaurants. With comfy couches in a loft-like mezzanine over a library nook, and bar-style seating nestled against the high front windows, seating options are varied. The nicely designed space provides plenty of places to put your drink on a busy weekend or settle in for a long conversation on a quieter evening.

Stopping in on a Monday night after work, my husband and I took a seat at one of the heavy wooden tables next to a massive plank bench that lines one wall.

Jefferson Spirits offers an excellent lineup of microbrews for $5 a pint, all currently from Oregon breweries, but I encouraged my husband to get into the spirit of this establishment by ordering a cocktail. He was game to try the bartender's choice, an $11 surprise that unleashes an expert's creativity among the bar's collection of what the menu calls "fresh fruit, no sweet mixers and good booze."

Drinkers can specify a spirit, favored flavors or ingredients that are strictly off limits, but my husband turned all the decisions over to Lee, who was tending bar that night. His trust was rewarded with a spicy strawberry margarita made with Herradura tequila, simple syrup infused with serrano peppers, muddled organic strawberries and lots of fresh lime juice.

The drink perfectly expressed bar manager Ken Shearin's stated goal of making unique drinks with house-made ingredients and no mass-produced flavors.

Although the focus on quality spirits is right there in the name, and the owners reportedly dream of opening their own distillery, the food at Jefferson Spirits doesn't disappoint.

Chaz McKenna's menu stays simple and embraces local producers, including Berg's Bakery and Sunstone Artisan Bakery and occasional Rogue Creamery cheeses. Sliders make up the heart of the menu, along with a few salads and a selection of miscellaneous nibbles, including macaroni and cheese, a daily soup, crostini, a charcuterie plate and an ice cream sandwich/sundae smothered in a whiskey sauce.

The charcuterie plate we ordered for $11 would more accurately be called a cheese plate, but my husband enthusiastically called it epic, and I would agree. It included a slab of blue cheese from Sonoma, a wedge of Brie, a dollop of herbed chevre, Granny Smith apple slices, a generous bowl of mixed olives, quince paste, prosciutto slices, baguette slices and an artistic drizzle of balsamic vinegar. The cheeses were served at a proper temperature to bring out the fullest flavors.

My husband wanted to try a Main Street beef slider featuring sliced tri-tip and roasted peppers, but when he found that a different steak sandwich was being substituted, he ordered a beet salad for $10 instead. A mound of lightly dressed baby kale was flanked by roasted golden and deep ruby beet slices. More balsamic drizzle decorated the plate.

I tried the $9 roasted chicken sliders — thick slices of moist chicken breast covered in a rich, savory bacon jam and piled on tender knot rolls. A green salad, lightly dressed and drizzled with more balsamic, accompanied the pair of sandwiches. It paired nicely with a Ninkasi Dawn of the Red India red ale.

As delicious as the food and drink were, the bill brought one more pleasant surprise. On Monday, social hour (the upscale version of happy hour offered here) prices last all night, so all drinks were $1 off and food was discounted 10 percent. Social hour deals, which sometimes include special food and drink pairings, are usually limited to the first two hours after opening or the final two hours before closing.

— Anita Burke