Winter is imminent, and nightfall is inching earlier by the day—which really just means it’s socially acceptable to start drinking earlier as well. Why wait for 5 p.m. when the sun’s behind the West Hills by 3:30?
With the end of the term right around the corner and the weather bending toward the colder end of the spectrum, there’s no compelling reason to not spend many of your waking hours in a festive, seasonally appropriate bar setting.
No matter the form of holiday cheer you’re seeking—lights, decoration, warmth, ambiance, alcoholic beverages or just good cocoa—Portland’s got your festive, holiday season drinking needs covered. Here are a few establishments to warm your heart and tummy over the long, dark weeks of winter break:
Pied Cow: 3244 SE Belmont St.
The Pied Cow Coffeehouse (which, as the name indicates, is not a bar, but whose menu offers boozy options alongside an epic $50 sundae and pretty dank fondue) is a year-round delight. Its charm isn’t diminished the slightest in the winter months.
In fact, Pied Cow comes with the extra seasonal perk of being within walking distance of Peacock Lane, a Portland Christmas lights landmark, and is the perfect place to warm up before and/or after visiting the lane.
This establishment is set in an old Victorian home with a satisfying level of Portland quirk and has intimate, low-light indoor tables, as well as a covered patio complete with heat lamps so you can breathe the fresh winter air in comfort.
Slammer Tavern: 500 SE 8th Ave.
The Slammer, located right on one of Sandy’s notoriously hairy six-pointed intersections, is a holiday Mecca disguised as a dive bar. It’s like all the Christmas decorations within a two-mile radius teleported inside this compact building, which contains a three-sided bar, Skee-Ball, and a bajillion strings of lights. For real.
If you want to know what it feels like to live inside a Christmas tree or a rave-themed snow globe, visit the Slammer. The dive bar prices and atmosphere make it an easy place to settle in. Bring all your awkward holiday family complaints and get ready to make friends with the person on the next stool over.
Binks: 2715 NE Alberta St.
“Binks is for lovers,” say the coasters here, and it’s not an empty claim. From the indoor fireplace nook, to the covered smoking patio that boasts heated benches, to the pool table in such close quarters that you can’t really help but squeeze close to those you’re with, there are plenty of places at Binks to cozy up to someone special. And hey, if you’re there alone, there really are a lot of built-in elements designed to keep you warm.
The Spare Room: 4830 NE 42nd Ave.
The Spare Room, once upon a time, was a bowling alley, hence the clever name, and it still weirdly smells like one. Don’t let that deter you, though. The inside is delightfully divey, resplendent in holiday cheer and hugely spacious, allowing for shows, dance nights, karaoke or just a big ol’ group of friends there for the lights and video poker. The Spare Room will also be open on Christmas for those of you without Portland fam, tired of being alone in your onesies around 2 p.m. on the holiday, and needing some human interaction.
Rontoms: 600 East Burnside St.
Rontoms is the classiest joint on this list. Sleek lighting fixtures, low tables, tea lights… Like I said, fancy. They have a pretty solid covered and heated outdoor area, complete with Ping-Pong tables, but what really clinches them as a solid winter-drinking location is their epically huge and satisfying fireplace. It’s glassed in, enormous and goes a long way toward making you feel the holiday cheer.