If you live in Portland, chances are that you are not a frequent participant in our lively bed and breakfast scene. We recommend dipping your toes into that B&B life every now and again; once inside, intermingling with the tourists in their natural habitat, it’s almost like you’re the one on vacation, a welcome sensation any time of the year. In search of that staycation feeling, we hit up the new and controversially named Opium inside the Danforth Inn.
When news of Opium’s impending opening got out in early spring, the backlash was immediate. People questioned the sense in naming a bar Opium in a city with an increasingly alarming opiate problem, but the owners stood by the name, explaining that their inspiration was derived from the opium dens of the early 1920s. Upon opening in 2017, it’s clear that the name, along with the den-inspired decor, will be staying.
Questionable name aside, Opium is indeed a very fancy cocktail bar. I felt quite underdressed in a tank top and jeans but was nonetheless allowed entry. The interior is dark and moody with white couches and purple lights lining the room, accenting various decorative items of note. Small tables tucked here and there are decorated with antique inlays and cool candleholders. All together, the vibe is very den-like; they nailed it.
The cocktail menu – an experience in and of itself – adds to the decor. Inside what looks to be a treasure chest is a silk pouch, and inside that pouch is a deck of cards, each containing a description and watercolor painting of the cocktails available. The menu will give you a good idea of what you might be getting yourself into, as each of the carefully curated beverages come in different and increasingly elaborate vessels.
The Jim Thompson ($15), my beverage of choice, was served in an antique teacup; a relatively tame receptacle given the other options on the menu. The combination of jasmine-infused gin, Dolin blanc vermouth, lemon, Combier rosé, rose air and rose petal was sweet and delicious. I don’t know if it was the rose petal on top or the rose air (?) nearby, but the drink certainly tasted like roses.
My companion ordered a 1924 Intercontinental ($15), which was served in a glass and a tiny house. Comprised of Bols Genever barrel-aged gin, Batavia Arrack, Galliano, lime, cinnamon and passion fruit, it was tropical, fruity and a little bit tart.
While the drinks are a little on the expensive side, ranging from $12 to, wait for it, $48, Opium is a fun place to go just for the experience. Even though it’s right on Danforth Street, once inside, you certainly don’t feel like you’re in Portland anymore.
WHERE: 163 Danforth St., Portland
HOURS: 4:30 p.m. to midnight daily
AMENITIES: Fancy cocktails, small plates, swanky decor, cozy couches, moody ambiance, impressive cocktail presentation
BOTTOM LINE: Opium in the Danforth Inn is an upscale cocktail bar perfect for date night. Go here for elaborate drinks and ingredients like rose air and smoke, and make sure to sit near the bar if you want watch the bartenders do their thing.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes