1. Bar Casa Vale
215 SE 9th Ave., 503-477-9081, barcasavale.com.
Bar Casa Vale is a cozy, sultry hallway of a bar composed of odd little nooks—lit dimly by hurricane lights, southern sun and the flicker of fire. Somehow, there is something for everyone here, whether late-night happy-hour bargain hunters downing piri piri wings and $6 sherry-spiked old-fashioneds, couples on dates marveling at the sensuous textures of jamón Ibérico over glasses of aged Spanish wine, or old West Hills couples reliving their honeymoon with amontillado sherry and a truly transcendent grill-charred tendril of Spanish octopus.
1300 NW Lovejoy St., 971-533-8084, botanistbarpdx.com.
At this sleek subterranean gin bar, veteran mixologist Robbie Wilson is spreading the joys of juniper berries to bargoers west of the Willamette. For those who know little of the details that distinguish one type of gin from another, the list of about a dozen $13 cocktails serves as a safe point of entry. As basic as it is, the Botanist G&T should be the go-to for anyone who's familiar with the timeless pleasure of a simple gin drink.
Read the full review: Botanist Introduces the Joys of Gin to the Non-Secret-Agent Crowd.
3. Hoxton Basement Bar
15 NW 4th Ave., 503-770-0500, thehoxton.com.
Located behind a door with a sign that reads, "Knock knock knock," the Basement Bar at the new Hoxton Hotel is a diminutive cocktail lounge that could easily pass as an after-hours industry hang in Lower Manhattan. Skip fruity drinks like the mai tai or the whiskey sour and opt for the expertise of the bar staff, which included a Multnomah Whiskey Library alum.
Read the full review: The Best Thing at the New Hoxton Hotel Is Hidden in the Basement.
4. Pépé le Moko
407 SW 10th Ave., 503-546-8537, pepelemokopdx.com.
Portland is not a particularly romantic city. This makes Jeffrey Morgenthaler's bunker-sized Pépé le Moko, a candlelit basement cocktail and oyster bar with just a handful of seats, a kind of conspicuous outlier. On any given night, it's a den of couples tightly packed into leather-backed chairs, quietly sipping Morganthaler's exceptional takes on classic cocktails served on linen napkins. Look around and you may see a middle-aged couple holding hands over empty glasses and melting ice.
Related: PéPé Le Moko Is a Romantic Candlelit Basement Cocktail Bar.
5. Keys Lounge
533 NE Killingsworth St., 503-719-7409, keyspdx.com.
Radio Room owners Brian Alfrey and Mike Gadberry have converted an old King neighborhood key shop into a casually swanky cocktail bar resembling a graying jazz musician's rec room. It's pretty sweet.
Read the full review: Keys Lounge is a Laid-Back, Retro-Minded Cocktail Bar Your Dad Would Love