Portland’s infamous gray, damp weather is practically the polar opposite of tropical, which is all the more reason to give the city’s beloved IPAs a rest and plan a tiki-drinking escape for the holidays. Swapping hot buttered rums for flaming cocktails served in fish bowls is the first step. Next thing you know, you’ll be having a Blue Christmas with a colored drink in hand to match. Here are 10 bars around the city where you can find the best in tiki, from classic to creative.Read More
The Best Tiki Bars for Your Make-Believe Tropical Christmas
Rum Club doesn’t bill itself as a tiki bar, though the black stylized bird wallpaper and vintage glassware evoke the spirit — plus when you namecheck a sugar cane liquor, you best deliver on tropical drinks. The Mai Tai, made with a secret blend of three rums, might jump out at first, but ignore the flash and go with a perfectly simple daiquiri that features BACARDÍ 8 Años rum, lime juice, and demerara syrup for a deeper, almost caramel flavor.
This bar teeming with bamboo, flaming beverages, and a rainstorm soundtrack is ground zero for tiki nerds — and rum aficionados, in particular. Hale Pele stocks over 300 rums — yes, 300 — and if you drink 50 from the “Fire Drinkers Guide,” available at the bar, you’ll be inducted into the Loyal Order of Firedrinkers (a group that not only garners accolades but discounts too). The cocktails are handily coded by strength from “lightly delightful” to “KA-BOOM!!” Many drinks are from the classic tiki canon, complete with source and date citations, but share a little holiday cheer with an original like the communal Volcano Bowl (rum, citrus, pineapple, tropical spices) that can serve up to six.
The Alibi Tiki Lounge
In North Portland you’ll find the city’s only remaining first-wave tiki bar. It’s impossible to miss since the blazing neon advertising lottery and karaoke would seem more at home in downtown Vegas than the Pacific Northwest. This dark dive that is long past retirement age — it turned 70 this year! — is fairly well-preserved in all its thatched roof glory. Try the Banana Hammock, which blends tropical rum, banana liquor, curacao (sadly, orange not blue), and coconut cream, then is finished off with a plastic monkey garnish and a dash of tiki bitters, a cinnamon-and-allspice nod to 21st-century mixology.
No Bones Beach Club
A vegan tiki bar is the type of mashup that might make outsiders sigh, “Only in Portland,” but they would be wrong. (The original is in Seattle.) Hula and surfboard decor lend to the beachy vibe in this bilevel space. Flautas may include jackfruit and nachos are drizzled with cashew queso, but the cocktails are highly traditional. Say aloha to a Painkiller (dark rum, orange juice, cream of coconut, topped with grated nutmeg) that arrives in a ceramic shark head with a paper umbrella sticking out of its mouth.
More moody mid-century than tiki kitsch, this dimly lit bar in the Hotel Deluxe has survived mostly intact as the hotel has changed hands and upscaled over the years. The cocktail menu features mostly original creations rather than relying on the past, though some drinks are updated with flourishes, like the flaming Negroni. The Water’s Edge, using both dark rum and BACARDÍ rums, lemon juice, and demerara sugar, is topped with a perfect Portland-meets-Polynesia rum barrel-aged coconut stout from local Santiam Brewing.
Pépé le Moko
This subterranean bar beneath the Ace Hotel is part of the new wave attempting to make passé drinks good again. In fact, bar manager Jeffrey Morgenthaler might deserve credit for starting this trend. Thought and care has gone into modernizing cocktails like Grasshoppers and Long Island iced teas into concoctions 21st-century drinkers would actually order, so naturally, they serve a Blue Hawaii (light rum, vodka, pineapple and lemon juices, blue curacao) that’s basically a lagoon in a glass.
Yes, this is a strip-mall restaurant with a seemingly conflicted identity. The grand unifier of food served from Jamaica, Hawaii, Thailand, and New Orleans (and more) is near-tropical climates, emphasized with palm trees and a vague pirate theme. You will care less about the culture clash when you get your hands on a slushy Lava Flow consisting of a thick pineapple and banana base spiked with BACARDÍ rum and swirled with a strawberry layer.
This sprawling, clubby holdout made its name on Pan-Asian fare, and sure, you can get a lychee-tini but why would you when there is a perfectly good tiki section on the menu? Choose between the Halekulani Mai Tai with its blend of BACARDÍ rums, lemon and orange juices, plus orgeat over crushed ice, or a stiffer Zombie served appropriately in a tiki glass. (Some bars limit Zombie orders to two per person — that’s not the rule at Saucebox.) The drink combines light and dark BACARDÍ rums, passionfruit and pineapple juices, plus “Don’s Mix,” a once-secret ingredient concocted by Donn Beach, the drink’s inventor. Hint: It’s grapefruit and cinnamon syrup.
Portland has a surprising Hawaiian presence for a city that’s nowhere near Waikiki. Poke and spam musubi abound, but Da’ Hui is one of the few island-themed establishments that has a dedicated lounge. The dive is a mix of sports pub and local haunt with touches like a bamboo-clad bar and black velvet paintings of topless lovelies in leis and grass skirts (plus Elvis of course). Check in to see if it’s your lucky day with rotating drink specials that include piña coladas, Blue Hawaiis, or Mai Tais, or try something more dessert-like: The Da Hapa Haole uses Chila 'Orchata, a creamy cinnamon rum, and coffee, and comes crowned with whipped cream.
Gold Dust Meridian
One of the newer bars on this list, Gold Dust Meridian took over a mid-century office and worked with the architecture, highlighting the wood plank ceiling and beams to transform the space into the retro rec room of your dreams. Snag a black leather banquette and share a classic tiki Jungle Bird (dark rum, Campari, pineapple, lime) with friends. They call these oversize drinks with extra-long straws “Family Bowls,” so you can pretend getting tipsy is a wholesome activity.