Portland is known as the beer-iest city in the world — it’s home to more than 70 breweries, more than any other city — but did you know that that the Rose City has a long history of bootlegging, boozing and tapping secret codes on locked doors, too? The 21st amendment abolished Prohibition in 1933 (good call, America!) and thus the need for undercover saloons, but you can still get a taste of dry-era cocktails (legally, of course) in Portland’s slickest speakeasy-style bars.
If you feel like you traveled back in time when you step inside Bible Club, you’re only half-wrong. Just about everything in this Westmoreland speakeasy comes from the turn of the 20th century, from antique bar tools to cut crystal goblets holding cocktails with names like Scofflaw and Widow’s Kiss. Drinks rely on premium liquor, locally sourced ingredients like Bridge City Bitters and house-made flourishes — chanterelle-cinnamon syrup, anyone?
Forget beer goggles — the vintage cocktails at Circa 33 will have you seeing the world through sepia-toned glasses. Named for the year Prohibition was repealed, this speakeasy specializes in early 1900s-era cocktails and an expansive whiskey library. You’ll want to fill up on the substantial menu highlighting organic and house-made ingredients, especially if you opt for a custom flight of spirits, offered in half or full shots. Check its website for events like the annual Prohibition Party and semi-regular distillery tastings. Don’t forget to search for the book that opens an entryway to a hidden nook, complete with its own bartender.
The storefront window at Kask wouldn’t have offered much cover from coppers in the 1920s, but Prohibition drinkers would have appreciated this cozy spot’s dedication to quality cocktails. The downtown bar is less earnest than other speakeasy-type joints, infusing its menu with humor and carefully curated spirits. Just try not to smile when you order cocktails with names like Pantyriot and Freshman Fifteen, or high-meets-low food like a PB&J with foie gras.
Multnomah Whiskey Library
Whether you’re a whiskey aficionado or novice, you should seek out the unmarked entrance to downtown’s Multnomah Whiskey Library. The roomy bar, with its leather chairs and wood-paneled walls, feels like private lounge. It retains some of that exclusive ambience, especially when members skip the perennial line to access reserved seats. The wait is worth it, though. Once inside, request a recommendation from the collection of 1,500+ bottles of whiskey and other spirits. Not up for the wait? Try the Green Room, downstairs from the library.
Secret Society Lounge
If you’re waiting for a table at Toro Bravo or killing time before a show at the Wonder Ballroom, climb the stairs to the Secret Society Lounge, in the same building. Chat up the knowledgeable bartenders before ordering from an absinthe, or bone up on your cocktail history by reading the drink list. Plus, you can hit happy hour for cocktails at 20th century prices.