By Karen On February 19, 2020

High-Proof Creative’s Top Portland Area Bars – Winter 2020

We rounded up our favorite bars in Portland for winter 2020, just in case you don’t follow all of us on Instagram.

Karen Locke, Founder 

Tulip Shop Tavern, 825 N. Killingsworth Street 

Tulip Shop Tavern doesn’t receive accolades in my book because it’s in my neighborhood, or because I used to patronize the two separate bars that occupied the space before it. Speaking of the previous bar, thanks to Tulip for not keeping that massive guitar-shaped table. Any dark bar with a decent well that opens at 3 PM and serves solid cocktails around $10 is already in the running for my top pick. Tulip Shop Tavern gets better than its hours, lighting and pricing, though. Other qualifying attributes include, but are not limited to: the excellent staff, a tap list with $3 Canadian Kokanee, plus the occasional locally made Basque-style cider, Jello shots, and the $6 Tavern burger. Combine all of these attributes and I’ll gladly over-patronize* this bar year-round. 

*A made-up euphemism for overstaying your welcome at the bar. 


Ryan Stevens, Content Strategist 

McCools Pub & Grill, 12066 Sunnyside Rd., Clackamas

Set among the soccer mom vans and copious amount of chiropractors and dentists offices of Clackamas, McCools Pub & Grill is more than just a place to grab the best wings I’ve ever had. Behind their well-honed range of local spirits and approachable ice-cold beers, it’s the staff that truly makes this place shine. They’ve created a community that spans from singles and barflies to families and local distillers. I’ve spent enough time here to not need a menu and watch young distillers showcase their signature cocktails. Hit up Tuesday Trivia, a St. Patrick’s Day that doesn’t require a cover (but begs for a car bomb), or hang out on the patio with your dog. McCools has exactly what makes Portland great: food, friends, and f*cking strong drinks. 


Lauren Gantner, Creative Strategist

Dóttir (the bar at KEX), 100 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Portland, OR 97232

When it comes to feeling cozy, Dóttir (the restaurant and bar inside KEX off of MLK Blvd) has stolen my heart this winter.* From the Portland Nordic nosh to the intricate and boozy libations, everything in this hand-crafted, hygge haunt screams of a wint’ry rom com—one where the lead stumbles in drenched from the rain (after desperately searching for nearby street parking) and meets their soulmate, who happens to be a brain-warmingly glitter-filled cocktail called the Northern Lights. The bar itself is always buzzing with the most clean-cut of the new-school Portlanders, from the groups of good looking, fresh-faced patrons that float around comfy leather couches (probably after waltzing over from a self-care day Knott Springs) to the chic young employees doused in earthy chambrays and aprons who look like they’ve just stepped out of a Kinfolk photo essay. Overall, Dóttir has floated to the top of my list of places to stop and warm up on the recent cold days… maybe I’ll even cozy up next to a warm body instead of a warm cocktail on my next visit.

*Editor’s Note: Lauren’s heart isn’t easily stolen.  


Rachel Morrison, Public Relations

Ecliptic Brewing,  825 North Cook St. 

Palomar, 959 SE Division St. 

Since living the classic cliche of moving to the ‘burbs and having a baby (4 months old, Henry, adorable, thank you so much) I don’t go out much anymore, but when I do, I make sure it is really worth my while. I need well-crafted cocktails, a solid beer list, and good food (efficiency reigns supreme these days). Luckily, there’s no shortage of bars that fit this bill in Portland. Some of the best food in this town comes from its bars and best drinks from restaurants. I’m bending the rules on this assignment and shouting out Ecliptic Brewing as my go-to spot this year. The beers are absolutely excellent (a well-documented fact), the food is also very good (I will remember the warm kohlrabi salad forever, which is a big deal, considering it’s a salad!), and the cocktails are delicious and inventive (try the Dark Matter – an actually good beer cocktail made with Wild Roots Marionberry Vodka, marionberry puree, and lime juice – so yummy). The menus — beer and food — change seasonally so there’s always something new to try. All that said, if I’m following the assignment directly – Palomar. Boozy slushies, bright colors to fight winter doldrums or welcome spring, tasty snacks, and an absolutely gorgeous, inviting space. Either way, Cheers!


Kelsey Curtis (@copper.spoon), Food Photographer + Stylist

Expatriate, 5424 NE 30th Ave.

Happy hour 5-6 pm daily

As you walk into the mysteriously dark and cozy candlelit space of Expatriate, you’ll often find a DJ spinning records in the back corner. Here you can find a snack menu titled, “Biggie Smalls” with items like, “Who The Fuck Is David Chang” and a “James beard Butter Onion Sandwich”. If you are familiar with the restaurant Feast, Expatriate is the bar of Beard Award-winner Naomi Pomeroy. But the drink menu, created by Pomeroy’s husband, Kyle Webster, is equally impressive in comparison to their tasty Asian style bar snacks. The cocktail menu is composed of many fruity tropical flavors, arriving at your table in colorful vintage glassware. My personal favorite is the Jazz Piranha consisting of gin, Korean pear, fresh lemon, yellow chartreuse, oolong tea, and angostura bitters. Happy hour is from 5 pm-6 pm, so be sure to get there early!


Karen Locke is Founder of High-Proof Creative. She has written about booze for magazines like GQ magazine, Bon Appétit, Thrillist, Sip Northwest, Chilled, and more. Additionally, Karen has many years of creative, and marketing agency work in Portland. She believes the darker the bar, the better.

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