The largest city in the U.S. state of Maine, Portland has much to offer with its most visited areas being the historic Old Port and Arts District. After seeing the sights, kick back with a drink the city’s coolest cocktail bars.
The Portland Hunt & Alpine Club offers a small, modern setting featuring small plates of Scandinavian-inspired fare along with both classic and creative cocktails. Choose from a collection of ‘bords’ like the Hunter, the Fisher, the Skier, or the smorgasbord. They are all presented artfully with seafood, meats, cheeses, and aquavit (a flavored Scandinavian spirit). Or, try a spread of small snacks like the house pretzels and popcorn. Cocktails range from the refreshing Sailor’s Warning made with dark rum and house-spiced ginger beer to the brown and bitter Grandfather made with bourbon, applejack, and sweet vermouth. Try a classic cocktail like their House Old Fashioned or be adventurous with something like the Bonecrusher, a spicy mix of mezcal, lime, agave, and red pepper. The Portland Hunt & Alpine Club offers pleasant and attentive service, a creative menu of cocktails, wines, and brews. Here you get a taste of the Scandinavian northern lands.
The North Point is a casual hangout spot with an exposed-brick setting offering specialty cocktails and a selection of 23 wines to pair with a menu of meat, cheese, flatbreads and crêpes. Sit on their outdoor patio and enjoy a refreshing Mango Peach-a-tini or D’anju Pear Martini, made with Absolut pear vodka, d’anju pear puree, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Another favorite cocktail is the Maine Wild Blueberry mixed with vodka, fresh Maine blueberry puree, and lemonade. Pair any one of these with a BBQ pulled pork flatbread, made with tender, slow-cooked pork and creamy coleslaw, fresh mozzarella, and blueberry BBQ sauce. Or go for the Maine Mushroom, stuffed with caramelized portabella mushrooms, truffle oil, feta, mozzarella, roasted shallots, and sun-dried Maine blueberries. With a comfortable atmosphere and good old-fashioned service, The North Point is a perfect place for incredible cocktails, savory bites, and pleasant conversation.
The Bearded Lady’s Jewel Box is a small, underground cocktail bar with a dark and intimate setting serving up a spread of cocktail specials that change from week to week. Owned and operated by Nathaniel Meiklejohn, the idea for this hip hangout was started in his very own living room where he hosted word-of-mouth and donation-only cocktail nights. Now situated on Congress Street in Portland’s Arts District, the cool and classy bar with its candlelight, decorative trinkets, mezzanine, and funky pink bathroom will have you feeling out of time. It’s almost like you are on the set of Mad Men. Sit on a comfy bar stool with a Mezcal Sour and enjoy some jazzy music. You can also admire their mural of two bearded ladies sitting down together surrounded by a galaxy in the background, beaded curtain, and two cats. The upstairs mezzanine with its velvet lounge and chandelier embodies another era altogether. For a step back in time to the days of the speakeasy, The Bearded Lady’s Jewel Box will take you back to a time where having a good time was a special occasion.
Bar of Chocolate is a cozy place to settle in for any after-dinner sweet tooth cravings, desserts and drinks alike. Catering to chocolate lovers, Bar of Chocolate serves a list of items like the chocolate maple walnut cake, chocolate espresso torte, chocolate torte with fresh fruit and chocolate bourbon torte. There’s also chocolate cake with sea salt caramel frosting, German chocolate cake, and even a torte sampler with complimentary sauces to try with each torte. When it comes to drinks, the selection is no less decadent. Offering include the chocolate martini, peanut butter martini, Irish coffee martini, hot chocolate and mocha drinks, cosmos, and a list of wines. With great service and a comfortable atmosphere, Bar of Chocolate is all you need for an end-of-the-night chocolate therapy session.
Central Provisions is situated in a historic brick building serving up a selection of small plates, about a dozen creative cocktails and several dozen wines. There is also a handful of local beer options on tap as well. Its name pays tribute to the building itself. This building was once used by the East India Trading Company to store provisions like cotton, silk, indigo dye, salt, saltpeter, tea, and opium. Its location right on the wharf, made unloading goods easy for ships until the building eventually housed a wine and bitters shop, a barrel top and burlap bags. Finally, it became the home of E. Cory who sold local blacksmiths and wood workers tools and materials. Keeping with its history, the decor of the place mirrors the previous usages of the building while serving some of the best food and cocktails in Portland. Choose from drinks like the Corpse Reviver, Glass Slipper, or the Lion’s Tail made with gunpowder rye, pimento dram, fresh squeezed lime, and angostura bitters, or even one of the temperance cocktails for the non-alcoholics. Pair any one of these with the extensive lunch or small bites menu and you will be coming back with to Central Provisions, no matter how long the wait.
An establishment with an interesting history is Vena’s Fizz House. This place got its name from a Portland woman named after her father, Irvine, who took the Maine Women’s Christian Temperance movement by the horns in the 1920s. Irvina’s great-granddaughter took her ancestor’s nickname, Vena, to name her bar that specializes in hand-crafted sodas and mocktails. Alcohol, however, was indeed added to the evening menu. What started as a mocktail bar and retail shop has evolved to encompass so much more. It offers an educational experience of bitters and flavor enhancers as well as a grand ole time. The array of ingredients and knowledgeable staff makes the place more of an apothecary. This allows you to sample complex concoctions and take those fine ingredients home to experiment on your own. With items like Hair of the Dog, Green Tea Fizz, and Vena’s Vengeance, you might find yourself entranced for hours sampling bits of this creative menu at Vena’s Fizz House.