A tropical oasis lays tucked away in an urban corridor of Portland, Oregon. Inside Hey Love, part of the Jupiter Next hotel, vines drape along the ceiling and wrap around disco balls, wide-leaf ferns peek out of corners, local art adorns the walls, and a soundtrack of soul, funk, boogie, and more permeates the space. It’s here that owners Emily Mistell, Sophie Thomson, Roscoe Roberson, Aaron Hall, Nicholas Musso, and their staff are offering some of the most inventive drinks, and unforgettable experiences, in the city.
“We started thinking about what kind of space we wanted and what was missing in Portland, and what we kind of came up with is…bars for so long have been such male-driven spaces,” says Hall. “We were moving away from all the sort of pre-Prohibition, dark wood, whiskey, heavy beer, pub burger kind of energy, and wanted to move into a lighter, brighter space. We wanted it to feel like an escape.”
“We had a friend paint this huge, beautiful piece [showing] an airplane that has set down in this tropical place, and you kind of don’t know how it got there, or how it’s going to leave again,” adds Thomson. “That feeling of being whisked away was central to our concept.”
Drinks here offer a sense of whimsy. Favorites like a mango-oolong twist on a classic Mai Tai named The Secret Life of Plants or the Tropical Contact High slushie topped with pineapple Dole Whip are served alongside subtler combinations like a Spanish-style House Gin & Tonic and bottled Martinis that incorporate fino sherry and pickled sweet peppers. Whiskey Highballs are served on tap from a Toki highball machine.
“It’s about approachability to anyone who comes in the space,” says Mistell, who is also the bar’s beverage director. “I don’t know if that would have necessarily come along so much if it wasn’t a bar in a hotel. Even the most complicated, complex of drinks—the ‘nerd drinks’ for lack of a better term—I don’t even really tell people exactly what’s in them on the menu, because I don’t want anyone to feel like it’s confusing or [be] deterred by this amaro or that vermouth.”
Ingredients often underutilized in cocktails, such as verjus, a tart and acidic unfermented juice pressed from unripe grapes, are employed to unique effect in drinks like the Trophies Unlimited. And the bar’s Mama Dúts Gimlet makes use of coconut-fat-washed gin and pandan, a staple ingredient in the Pacific and Southeast Asia that imparts aromatic, vanilla-like notes. (A portion of proceeds from the cocktail goes to support the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization, with nearly $10,000 raised from the drink so far.)
“I take a lot of inspiration from other people’s nostalgia,” says Mistell. “I love pineapple Dole Whip, so it’s on one of our slushies. [Or like our] peanut butter malt shots. It’s all these memories from all of our childhoods, and then I try to elevate them to be balanced and delicious. It looks whimsical on the
surface, but then underneath there’s actually quite a bit going on.”
Though the stereotype of a hotel bar may conjure images of weary travelers shaking off jet lag, Hey Love’s commitment to fun is what has helped set the space apart and made it a wildly popular nightlife spot for locals. Playlists are largely curated by Hall, a former program director for independent radio station KXRY, but often make way for local DJs, events like a monthly jazz night called NuBop, and more.
“We’ve often thought of ourselves as a neighborhood bar that happens to be in a hotel,” says Thomson. “We’re all from here, we all grew up in Portland and in the Northwest, so we wanted something that really served our community and added to the overall fabric of Portland, while still exploring that idea of escape.”
With its drinks, sunny service, and aura of joy, Hey Love offers the seemingly impossible: a perpetual summer in the Pacific Northwest.