If you think you felt pickled after the holidays, just imagine the plight of Portland Monthly’s editorial team. While reporting this month’s guide to the city’s bars, we dutifully filed out of our offices each night into the bleak, biting dark of midwinter, a roster of watering holes standing firmly between us and our couches. Kelly Clarke, our newly arrived senior editor who steered this particular feature, visited about 20 bars over the course of three weeks. (We ask forgiveness of her husband and daughter for this strange ritual of initiation.) There are, after all, 1,891 licensed bars in Portland—someone had to make the rounds.

Mornings in the office were filled with a din of commiseration and glee as we reported our findings: “What kind of self-respecting establishment serves muddled oranges and cherries in an old-fashioned?” “Have you ever witnessed the bizarre glory of Baby Ketten Karaoke?” “It was like some kind of soft-porn Slurpee!” “I’m telling you, I wanted to make out with this cocktail—it was that masculine.” But as we all sipped our way through town, slowly whittling down our list, we found ourselves thrilled with the 25 bars that endured, warming our bones and hearts on those cold nights. 

As you peruse our selections, you’ll find a haunted old dockworker hangout in Linnton rubbing elbows with candlelit cocktail labs, psychedelic tiki havens, and timeless dives. Strange bedfellows, but they all share that intangible essence of a great bar: when you walk in, you feel a sense of arrival. The rest of the world fades away and you can curl up, beverage in hand, maybe next to a fire, maybe in the glow of a karaoke screen, and “savor that little piece of time between one thing and the next.

After this boozy romp through Stumptown, you might be ready for some sobriety. We were. Fortunately, this issue’s other features combine to create one of those pleasingly odd pile-ups that make working for a magazine not merely hazardous to your health but also quite fun. What could be more sobering than death? And yet Nancy Rommelmann’s sprightly story of a local undertaker who’s reinventing her little corner of the funeral industry invests that subject with Portland-style optimism and DIY spirit. Then our annual report on the area’s schools swings us in yet another direction, offering in-depth, by-the-numbers profiles of more than 600 public and private institutions dedicated to educating people far too young to even think about craft cocktails—let alone memorial planning. 

So whether you’re seeking a suitable school, a backyard burial, or the perfect destination for your next night out, we’ve got you covered. Maybe by now, your New Year’s resolutions have faded away and you’re ready for a little fun after a healthy respite. I, for one, am still off the sauce. That’s one more bar stool for you.