People who grew up west of the Mississippi often have wildly disparate notions of what Florida is actually like. Some envision a posh, pastel-soaked paradise, others a tacky, sweaty dystopia.

Orlando-born brothers Micah and Matthew Ellis deny nothing about their homeland's confounding reputation. At their neon-hued micro-lounge, Sweet Nothing (4330 N Mississippi Ave., 503-841-8345), the art deco tourism posters and wall-sized painting of a glowing sun make the intended vibe obvious. But don't expect Jell-O shots or Vengaboys on the stereo. This is a Florida-themed bar, not an homage to Spring Breakers.

Considering the palm-leaf wallpaper and soundtrack of gentle tropicalia, Sweet Nothing will inevitably earn comparisons to Palomar, the Cuba-meets-New Orleans spot that opened on Southeast Division in the spring. But Sweet Nothing's diminutive size does wonders to strip away the highfalutin air that suffocates Palomar on a busy night. You'll end up chatting with the bartender about that one weird guy you knew who dropped out of college to repair roofs and do a bunch of coke in Pensacola, and that bartender will probably recommend a subtle deviation on the fantastic house daiquiri ($10), which uses a proprietary rum blend to add a gently smoky finish to a drink that's profound in its simplicity.

The menu is replete with highbrow adaptations of trashy delights, alchemizing gauche ingredients—including a housemade approximation of Southern Comfort—into gold. The Green River ($12) is a magical concoction that uses Midori, Hpnotiq and fresh cucumber to cool the astringent burn of aquavit and Lillet Blanc. It's a combination as bizarre and colorful as the Sunshine State itself.

(Jim Abeles)
(Jim Abeles)

You'll probably drink one drink too many, which is fine, because Sweet Nothing also sells stellar drunk food, like a beef citrus ropa vieja ($14), a Caribbean mac-and-cheese pie ($8) and a housemade interpretation of Taco Bell's Crunchwrap Supreme that drifts on and off the menu at random. It may feel like a mistake the next day, but anyone who's actually been to Florida knows damn well you're not doing it right unless you regret most of it shortly after.