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Drinking Cocktails in Portland


Jack Rose
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I know a couple of us have discussed this in person to a certain degree, but looking for some more feedback and suggestions. Where does one go in the greater Portland area for a properly made cocktail? Any specalities or house drinks worth mentioning? So and so at (Bristol Lounge, ex.) makes a great Negroni variation.

I have tried Una without much success. Seemed popular but I think that attitude was more important than anything being mixed. Bartender(s) didn't have or understand the need to use fresh citrus juice. A raised eyebrow and sigh, combined with a maybe I can go squeeze some for you when I get some time.

Also, what I have noticed is almost a comical "quick shake" w/ the Boston set-up in a few popular Old Port establishments. Literally, one short vertical motion and then a poured out the contents of the latest fruity vodkatini of the moment. That wouldn't even remain cold in two minutes or take in any water component from the shaking. Beats me, but it looks like the barman/barwoman are putting more effort into smoking cigarettes outside or talking on their cellphone. By all means, you can do both as long as you like when you are off work, not when there is a bar three-deep of thirsty patrons trying to give you their hard-earned money. A little more effort would be appreciated and discard the nonchalance.

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I know a couple of us have discussed this in person to a certain degree, but looking for some more feedback and suggestions.  Where does one go in the greater Portland area for a properly made cocktail?  Any specalities or house drinks worth mentioning?  So and so at (Bristol Lounge, ex.) makes a great Negroni variation.

I have tried Una without much success.  Seemed popular but I think that attitude was more important than anything being mixed.  Bartender(s) didn't have or understand the need to use fresh citrus juice.  A raised eyebrow and sigh, combined with a maybe I can go squeeze some for you when I get some time.

Also, what I have noticed is almost a comical "quick shake" w/ the Boston set-up in a few popular Old Port establishments.  Literally, one short vertical motion and then a poured out the contents of the latest fruity vodkatini of the moment.  That wouldn't even remain cold in two minutes or take in any water component from the shaking.  Beats me, but it looks like the barman/barwoman are putting more effort into smoking cigarettes outside or talking on their cellphone.  By all means, you can do both as long as you like when you are off work, not when there is a bar three-deep of thirsty patrons trying to give you their hard-earned money.  A little more effort would be appreciated and discard the nonchalance.

I couldn't agree with you more re: the half-assed shakes. What's even more perplexing is what I've dubbed the "Old Port Chisel" wherein a cocktail spoon is pumped up and down rapidly for all of 5 seconds in an iced glass.

If you like old school bar technique, get yourself over to Oolong and introduce yourself to John. Tell him Fat D sent you. You may even get a decent Jack Rose out of it ;)

myers

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I know a couple of us have discussed this in person to a certain degree, but looking for some more feedback and suggestions.  Where does one go in the greater Portland area for a properly made cocktail?  Any specalities or house drinks worth mentioning?  So and so at (Bristol Lounge, ex.) makes a great Negroni variation.

I have tried Una without much success.  Seemed popular but I think that attitude was more important than anything being mixed.  Bartender(s) didn't have or understand the need to use fresh citrus juice.  A raised eyebrow and sigh, combined with a maybe I can go squeeze some for you when I get some time.

Also, what I have noticed is almost a comical "quick shake" w/ the Boston set-up in a few popular Old Port establishments.  Literally, one short vertical motion and then a poured out the contents of the latest fruity vodkatini of the moment.  That wouldn't even remain cold in two minutes or take in any water component from the shaking.  Beats me, but it looks like the barman/barwoman are putting more effort into smoking cigarettes outside or talking on their cellphone.  By all means, you can do both as long as you like when you are off work, not when there is a bar three-deep of thirsty patrons trying to give you their hard-earned money.  A little more effort would be appreciated and discard the nonchalance.

Well, I love Manhattans and it's gotten to the point for me that I don't order the drink out anymore, since I can make it much better myself. Drives me crazy when they ask "Do you want bitters in that?" It's like when I'd find myself at a friend's house years ago and I'd ask what he could make, and he'd tell me he had stuff for a Gin & Tonic, then would bring me gin, tonic and ice. No lime. Argh!

That said -- and it WAS a while ago -- I had a great Manhattan prepared by a woman bartender at the Portland Sea Grill a year ago Christmas.

She even left the shaker and strainer nearby for me drain out the overpour...

Edited by CSASphinx (log)

"Democracy is that system of government under which the people…pick out a Coolidge to be head of the State. It is as if a hungry man, set before a banquet prepared by master cooks and covering a table an acre in area, should turn his back upon the feast and stay his stomach by catching and eating flies." H. L. Mencken

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The comment about the "Old Port Chisel" had me laughing for most of yesterday morning. Playing in the Cribbage Tournament last night, I was able to observe it in action again, were talking two quick pumps with the end of the spoon and about a second and a half max. I saw it with my own eyes three times throughout the night.

I wholeheartedly agree that it is almost at the point of not ordering a cocktail when out at bars. The bar has been set so low and the vast majority of those who are working behind the bar are utterly incompetent (I refuse to use the word barman or mixologist), why bother anymore. In the past few months, I have been told that they had never heard of a Manhattan, persisted with they didn't have the ingredients. Pleasantly, I told them that I would walk them through and they could learn a drink in the process - after which I was handed a drink list and told that these were all they could make. For sake of propriety here, I am not listing the establishment. A second episode at a hotel bar in downtown Portland, had me receiving Seagram's 7 and some odd well sweet vermouth and a splash of maraschino cherry juice (talking, poured out of the removed container of a condiment caddy and held back the cherries with fingers). No questions asked, no mention of bitters, and as the drink sat there untouched for twenty minutes while waiting for a companion to finish. Incredulously, presented with the check for over twenty dollars and never a mention of the untouched drink. Not willing to make a scene, I paid and left. I am not trying to ridicule here, just relating an incident and why likely beer is so poplar here in Portland.

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All,

If it gets too much to bear, drive down to Boston and go to Number 9 Park. Sit at the bar and marvel at the artistry of John or Ryan. I can personally recommend their Old Fashioned (ask for an O.F.O.F.), Manhattan, Pisco Sour, Mint Julep and Ryan's Mojito.

BTW, if Andy's behind the bar, wait for John or Ryan! :biggrin:

I know it's a good distance for a cocktail, but it sounds like desperation could set in...

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All,

If it gets too much to bear, drive down to Boston and go to Number 9 Park.  Sit at the bar and marvel at the artistry of John or Ryan.  I can personally recommend their Old Fashioned (ask for an O.F.O.F.), Manhattan, Pisco Sour, Mint Julep and Ryan's Mojito. 

BTW, if Andy's behind the bar, wait for John or Ryan!  :biggrin:

I know it's a good distance for a cocktail, but it sounds like desperation could set in...

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Thanks for the mention of No. 9 Park, but trying to stay a little bit more local. I worked in Boston for two years as a chef and used to take drinks and grab dinner at the bar there whenever I actually got the night off - and would sometimes chat with Barbara. It is good to see that the restaurant has evolved and the drinks are on the level of the food. This was back in 2001 and none of the three mixologists you mentioned were working there at the time. A lot changes in five years though, looks like for the best.

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In the past few months, I have been told that they had never heard of a Manhattan,

Jezuss, Jack!

If we'd met ten years ago I could have steered you to more satisfying conclusions than that but I don't get out much anymore.

Make sure you try Katahdin on Friday or Saturday night for a beautiful Martini (and great food). The lady there (forgot here name) has been at it for a very long time. Their bar is small and in the middle of the action there but she's been named "Portland's Best Bartender" several years in a row.

Report back next week! :wink:

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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I have heard positive things about drinks at Katahdin and thanks for the reminder. Evidently, the bartender is named Winnifred Moody and is also the manager/part-owner. She has been doing it for years for the restaurant opened in 1991, although I am not sure she has been there the whole span. I know that cocktails served "up" are served with the remainder in a small iced carafe next to your drink - a nice touch and one that has been used in serious cocktail bars and hotels for a number of years.

I have to get in there and sample the goods for it is located less than a five minute walk from my house in the West End. I always that their menu was a bit "kitsch-y" and a little too home-spun. At least for me, does one really need to go to a restaurant for salmon with asparagus and rice pilaf - cannot this just as easily be prepared at home with a quick stop at the local grocery store before hand. Yet, a huge section of customers dine out in lieu of cooking and may want simplified fare. Katahdin seems like it has a loyal group of regulars and always has some tables full, no matter the day or the weather when I pass by (realize we are in the middle of winter, albeit a mild one at that). Although, I heard that the food was uneven and a bit overpriced, I should try it and draw my own conclusions.

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  • 1 month later...

Last night, eG member JackRose and I visited eG member fatdeko at his perch behind the bar at Restaurant Oolong, at 100 Commercial St here in downtown Portland. I had just awarded a trophy to the winner of our annual Community Radio Fat Tuesday Cook-off to Beale Street BBQ who in turn gave me a bucket of their Jambalaya - so what else could I possibly order but a Sazerac?

It was my first one, second one and possibly third but I don't remeber :wacko::laugh:

fatdeko swirled pernod in my rocks glass before pouring in this amazing cocktail. It was a truly magical experience. Owner and eG member Oolong stopped by and before long we were undoubtedly the jolliest crew at the bar.

It was a blast. John & Paul gave me a bottle of Peychaud bitters from their stash. I also had a whiff of the Fee Brothers bitters which was delicious. I had the best time at a Portland bar that I've had in a long time - quality cocktails and top-notch company. Go visit them sometime if you are in town. The menu (drinks and dinner) is available on a PDF from the site above.

Mr.Rose and I never got around to trying the menu but we saw some delicious things walk by (no, the food!). Mr.Oolong brought out a heap if excellent calamari at about the time we realized we were the only ones left in the restaurant. It says something when the most memorable evenings are spent with eGulleteers. Many thanks guys!

Edited by johnnyd (log)

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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I would just like to echo johnnyd's comments and thanks for a fun night of cocktails at Oolong. John Myers really is a consumate professional and a true practitioner of mixology. In a city where it is truly hard to find a well-mixed drink, be it a Manhattan or a Moscow Mule, Oolong is a veritable oasis. Residents and even visitors to the port city definitely need to visit the restaurant and sample the bar's creations for themselves.

I find myself looking over the desk calendar and trying to find a date for a return visit. Thanks again, gents.

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Does anyone have any idea when White Heart might swing open its doors or what kind of drinks the new Bandol Gastro-Pub might look to serve?

myers

I heard that White Heart is suppose to be opening this Friday. Hopefully there will not be any last minute glitches. I have not heard anything about the drinks at Bandol! We did try to stop by Ladle today but it did not appear to be opened as planned.

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The White Heart finally opened on Friday the 17th. Opening on Saint-Patrick's Day was likely not the plan, but after so many months of waiting for the construction, one would open at the earliest possible day. I have been by it a few times since then in the day but have not had an opportunity to stop in when it has been open. I am thinking about stopping in on Thursday to see it in action. The bar manager is Andrea Spencer, formerly a bartender at the Porthole and at Bull Feeney's and I talked to her a bit last month about what their focus was and she showed me a cocktail list, albeit one subject to final editing and review. The much-heralded Corpse Reviver No. 2 was on that initial list, but wondering how their adaption would turn out since they are eschewing Cointreau because of price and using a brand triple sec instead. I think her "Heart" is in the right place but there is a reason why Arrow, Dekuyper, and Leroux cordials are in the $8-12 range. I have high hopes that they can put it together and create a unique bar for Portland.

As a sidenote, I found a bottle of Al-Awadi Orangeflower Water this morning at One Eighty Ate in South Portland. May have to mix up some Ramos Gin Fizzes this weekend with the bottle of Martin Miller's that I recently procured.

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Jon went to the White Heart on Saturday night. He said that things were still a bit confused (totally understandable), but the place was really cute and had a good vibe. He brought me home one of their coasters, an elegant looking couple dancing in the spotlight under their name and address. Here's to hoping the bar lives up to the accoutrements.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I love Portland! Wish I had known about Oolong when I was visiting last year. The very worst and expensive cocktails we had were at Mim's Brasserie. They sounded good on paper and we were excited to see such a nice cocktail menu. The drinks were terrible. We didn't see how the bartender mixed the drinks, but they were overly sweet and poorly balanced. I didn't have a decent drink until we got to Primo in Rockland. We'll be back to Maine and to Portland - we can't seem to stay away! It will be great to know where one can get a well made drink besides mixing Manhattans in our hotel room! (We always have bitters.) Do you think Portland is ready for serious drinks or will there always be people working the bar who know nothing about the fine art of mixology? I really believe that customers would be willing to try something beyond beer, wine and vodka drinks if they were served a drink that was made with care.

Edited by birder53 (log)

KathyM

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