The Voodoo Bucket from the Brunswick in Old Orchard Beach
Summer in Maine is full of firsts. After our long winters we savor the first day that’s warm enough for shorts, the first boat ride, the first swim in the lake, and the first cocktail on a patio as we watch the sunset. At the Brunswick in fun-loving Old Orchard Beach, regulars look forward to the season’s first Voodoo Bucket, sipped at the largest patio beach bar in Maine.
Definitely not your grandfather’s warm-weather cocktail, the Voodoo Bucket is a fruity, rum-laced libation conceived 15 years ago as a summer promotion by the Brunswick owner Tom LaCasse and longtime manager and jack-of-all-trades Jimmy Stack (who, like everyone who knows the bar and restaurant well, refers to it as the Swick). “We were looking for a signature drink. Someone came in with the buckets, and we mixed up some rum and juices—we thought it would be a one-time thing,” Stack says. “Now it’s like going to a Chinese restaurant and getting a scorpion bowl; you come to the Swick and get a Voodoo Bucket.” The Swick’s five bars—two outside and three inside—serve some 10,000 of the 32-ounce, tiki bar–inspired drinks each summer.
After 14 years at the Swick, bar manager Nikki Nolette can mix up a Voodoo Bucket in less than 30 seconds. Holding four bottles—two in each hand—above an ice-filled plastic bucket, she streams in a three-count pour of pineapple-coconut, banana, mango, and coconut rums, then tops the drink off with pineapple and orange juices before adding a final splash of cranberry juice from the soda gun. I take a sip and immediately understand the drink’s appeal. The juices add a tart note to the sweetness of the rum, and I can imagine how easy it would be to knock back one of these potent punches on a warm summer day while looking out at the wide beach and the sparkling blue Atlantic, listening to live music. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, bands play the Brunswick’s oceanfront outdoor stage every afternoon and evening, seven days a week. “One of our mottos is ‘Miss a day, miss a lot,’” says Nolette.
Vintage photos of the Brunswick show that the more than 100-year-old building originally had a large wrap-around porch on the first floor. By the 1930s, part of the porch had become a dining room with louvered glass windows, and a photo from the early 80s shows the restaurant had by then been enlarged, and a concrete patio with a pool added to the front. When LaCasse bought the business 17 years ago, he added the patio and deck bars and expanded the wood-paneled interior, replacing two small horseshoe bars with long expanses of polished wood. He employs between 130 and 140 people in the summer, and most of the seasonal workers return to the Brunswick year after year. “It’s not the bar you go to see; it’s the people. We’re all about our staff,” says LaCasse. Even on a busy night, when a popular Maine band such as Motor Booty Affair can draw a crowd of 4,000, the Brunswick’s friendly and efficient bartenders keep things moving. “More is less if people can’t get to the bar,” LaCasse says. On this quiet afternoon a month before Memorial Day, there’s already anticipatory energy in the air as a few regulars chat at a bar inside while repairs are being made to the deck. “Our other motto is ‘HFY’—‘Here For You,’” says Nolette with a warm smile. I’m already looking forward to my first Voodoo Bucket this summer—one perfect sunny day on the patio at the Swick.