Rarely does an unmarked, darkened staircase lead to anything good. But Refuge, an intimate cocktail bar in Montrose, makes the precarious climb worthwhile. Once inside the windowless upstairs bar, you’re quietly led to a booth by someone with a lamp, as if you’re traveling through an unknown medieval cavern by torchlight. Table servers ply you with tiny bar snacks, cloth coasters, and careful attention so you can stare into your date’s eyes instead of flagging down a bartender. The cocktails riff on common classics, but add in esoteric twists with an array of ice cube shapes and less-often seen liquors and spirits, like Pineau des Charentes or St. Lucian rum. It’s a bar without time, or overhead lighting, which is great for before (or after) a date, or a chic start to a night out. Walk-ins are welcome, but it’s better to snag a reservation for a seamless evening.

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