Portland Hunt & Alpine Club
When it comes to mixed drinks, I have two standards that must be met: A) all cocktails should be strong enough that I feel a slight buzz at the last sip, and B) a proper cocktail should never hit just one note (unless it’s a martini served bone dry, in which case, I allow the second requirement to be subjugated to the first). A good cocktail is strong enough to make me blush and interesting enough to keep me sipping slowly. Now that The Portland Hunt & Alpine Club has opened their doors to the public, I have a new favorite place for strongyet delicatelibations and low-key socializing.
In case you hadn’t heard, the “Club” has been building anticipation for the past few months with semi-private “Hush, Hush” events in which bartender Andrew Volk teams up with a local chef to create themed cocktails and mini plates at a speakeasy-style bash. They’ve been courting the press aggressively, and it has worked. Every boozehound and barhopper I know had been waiting with bated breath for this opening. And on Thursday, September 5, we finally got to see (and taste) what all the fuss was about.
The Grand Opening Party was very well attended. With a line out the door and a waiting list, it seemed like everyone in Portland was dying to see inside the sleek white space. Since The Portland Hunt & Alpine Club conveniently shares a building with the Maine magazine offices, I was able to snag a seat at the bar before the place filled up. While I waited for my first drink, I took a minute to enjoy the decor and check out the short food menu, listing items like The Hunter, which is a fitting name for their stacked charcuterie plate, The Skier, which lets dairy take center stage, and The Fisher. You can guess whats on The Fisher. Like the minimalist (and leather-bound) menu, the bar feels slightly Scandinavian, dominated by white paint and dark wood, offset by the occasional antlered piece of art. With a heavier hand, it would feel like a mens’ club, but whimsical touches like map-printed coasters, keep this bar from venturing into overplayed territory.
For the next few hours, I proceeded to taste test several cocktailsall while stealing sips of the drinks purchased by my coworkers. A follow-up visit allowed me to try the rest of the house cocktails, so it is with some authority that I can say this: White Noise is the best beverage you’ll have this month, maybe even this year. Made with St. Germain (quite possibly my favorite liquor of all time), Cocchi Americano, and grapefruit zest, it’s light and effervescent. It’s fruity without being sweet, and strong without being overpowering. The St Germain adds a lovely floral scent, and the Cocchi Americano gives it depth and richness. In short, this is one fantastic cocktail.
Honorable mentions go to the Fratelli Stinger and the Late Night at OOB. Made with applejack, Fernet, and bitters, the Fratelli Stinger is both a perfect fall cocktail and a mixologist’s dream (both Fernet and applejack are having a moment lately, so if you want to impress your bartender friends, order one of these). The Late Night at OOB is made with “rum, other things, shame.” After I finished laughing at the ingredients list, I tried this frothy, fruity cocktail, and found it very satisfying. If you really need to know what’s in it, ask the bartender. Otherwise, just sip and enjoy.
75 Market St | Portland |207-747-4754 | huntandalpineclub.com