I moved away from the Portland area about 22 years ago – yikes! I return once or twice a year to visit friends and family. It’s been enjoyable to keep up with the local food and drink scene every time I return. Growing up, it was mostly breweries and lobster shacks and now it’s a true foodie destination. When friends travel to Maine they ask for my recommendations. I keep this list updated frequently. My most recent trip to Portland, Maine was in June 2023. Also, if you landed on this post looking for Portland, OR, I have a guide on that as well. Please enjoy my picks for the best bars in Portland, Maine!
Updated most recently in August 2023.
- Address: 18 Exchange Street
- Hours: Friday-Saturday 4pm-midnight | Sunday-Monday 4pm-10pm | Closed Tuesday | Wednesday-Thursday 4pm-11pm
- Hospitality: 5.0, top-notch hospitality from friendly bartenders and hosts
- Atmosphere: 5.0, interior design perfection
- Drinks: 5.0, balanced and interesting cocktails, can’t wait to try more
In March 2023, the Old Port in Portland, Maine got a beautiful new bar called Papi. After visiting Puerto Rico recently, I can easily say it was like stepping into one of Old San Juan’s famed bars. Papi is a Puerto Rican Bar and Kitchen that serves incredible food and drinks. From a group of creative geniuses, including the man behind @vvoldport and @blythandburrows – @jjmiranda556. This spot is already changing the game in bars in Portland, Maine. Top list makers, get your trips booked, looking at you North America @50bestbars. The bar is gorgeous and authentic to its roots.
I enjoyed the Nopal. Made with Ojo de Tigre mezcal, cactus, Montenegro, and clarified golden milk. They also have a collection of small, shot-sized cocktails. I love being able to try as many drinks on the menu, so this is perfect for me. I had the Corpse Reviver shot. It’s made with Bacardi, banana Lillet, triple sec, anisette, and lemon. They were impeccable.
- Address: 26 Exchange Street
- Hours: Monday-Thursday 4pm-11pm | Friday, 4pm-midnight | Saturday noon-midnight | Sunday, noon-11pm
- Hospitality: 4.8, very busy bar so not much time to chat with the bartenders but they were attentive
- Atmosphere: 5.0, I would literally move into this bar it is so beautiful
- Drinks: 5.0, very well-crafted drinks that are consistently good
Nestled on Exchange Street, you might not find parking, but you’ll find Blyth & Burrows. This cozy spot is making quite the name for itself. Named after two fallen Commanders who fought in the War of 1812, the bar’s nautical decor was second only to its drinks. If you visit, don’t miss out on the chic basement or the cool speakeasy in the back behind the bookcase. (More on the latter below.) This is easily my favorite of all the bars in Portland, Maine.
The cocktail on the left is the Everybody Loves Ramos. Made with rhum, gin, genepy, apricot, matcha, coconut, citrus, orange blossom foam, and a real, tiny ice cream cone. It was refreshing and delicious. The cocktail on the right was my favorite. The Battle of Angostura features shisito & Thai basil tequila, mezcal, galliano, Dopo Teatro, caramelized pineapple, chili, lime, and angostura. Spicy and smoky with a kick of fruits and veggies, it was smooth and made we want another.
On my second visit to Blyth and Burrows in April 2021, I had a drink behind the bookcase in the bar. The Broken Dram serves up the same menu but it’s the “dive bar” companion to the main bar. I enjoyed a bottled to go cocktail and the “Ship Captain Crew”. The cocktail features Dandelion Bourbon, Rhum Montenegro Amontillado, Lemongrass, and Spruce Tip. They then hand smoke it with pecan wood chips inside a bottle. You drink the first half of the drink lightly smoked and the other half heavily smoked. This gives you two separate drinks to enjoy. It was a real treat.
- Address: 75 Market Street
- Hours: Friday-Saturday noon-1am | Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday 2pm-11pm | Monday 5pm-10pm
- Hospitality: 4.8, very busy bartenders
- Atmosphere: 5.0, gorgeous space with a very lively and friendly crowd
- Drinks: 4.9, very good cocktails
Opened in 2013, the Portland Hunt + Alpine Club is a not-to-miss bar in the Old Port. With an impressive cocktail menu, the food menu also holds its own. I enjoyed an incredible bowl of popcorn seasoned with green chili powder, butter, and parmesan. The couple that owns and operates the establishment even wrote a book about Northern Hospitality. This is a very popular location and most bartenders I know would say that this is one of their top bars in Portland, Maine to visit.
I enjoyed sipping on this rather perfect cocktail, while snacking on my popcorn and talking to some folks at the bar. The Bonecrusher is made with mezcal, lime, agave, and red pepper (the spicy ones, not the veggies). It was smokey with the perfect amount of spice. The bar gets busy so reservations are helpful.
4. ViA VECCHiA
- Address: 10 Dana Street
- Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, Sunday 4pm-9:45pm | Friday-Saturday 4pm-10:45pm | Closed Mondays
- Hospitality: 5.0, the service was honestly almost better than the cocktails, which is saying a lot
- Atmosphere: 5.0, the place is GORGEOUS
- Drinks: 5.0, honestly, I was speechless after sipping my first cocktail, it was that good
The owners of Blyth & Burrows opened ViA VECCHiA in June 2020. This incredible Italian restaurant is located in Portland, Maine’s Old Port district in the historic 10 Dana Street building. While the focus is in the delectable small plates, fresh pastas, and pizzettes, the cocktail program is outstanding. The menu is broken into Fresh/Savory, Bitter, and Almost Classic drinks. After just one visit, I was hooked. It is definitely one of my favorite bars in Portland, Maine. I’ve been back four times and every visit is unique. They add new cocktails to the menu and the food is delicious.
I had two amazing cocktails and an apéritif. The Dark Passenger (left) is savory and spicy. It was so incredible, I could barely speak after my first sip. (I realize this sounds very dramatic, but I have tasted a LOT of cocktails. This flavor combination was truly something special.) It is made with añejo tequila, Sfamato, black mole cordial, Tajin Negra, and chili threads. My second drink was equally as impressive with a totally different flavor profile. The Smoking Mirror is mezcal, Zirbenz, Pasubio, passionfruit, and vanilla foam. Both were such a treat.
5. The Danforth
- Address: 211 Danforth Street
- Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 5pm-midnight | Friday-Saturday 4pm-midnight | Closed Sunday-Monday
- Hospitality: 4.8, great service from a team of professionals
- Atmosphere: 5.0, beautifully renovated space
- Drinks: 5.0, top-notch cocktails with impressive flavor combinations
When I heard that the team behind Death & Co. was opening a restaurant in Portland, Maine, I was originally a bit skeptical. For one, Mainers love local businesses, and outsiders can be regarded as trying to “change things too much.” And secondly, I had visited one of their other ventures in Charleston last summer, and it was just okay. After walking into The Danforth, and sipping my first cocktail, my hesitations disappeared. I grew up driving past the building, so I was excited to see how beautifully they renovated it, keeping the charm in tact. I was also blown away by the delicious cocktails and food. The Old Fashioned, in particular, was one of the best I’ve ever had, which is saying a lot.
- Pearly Gates Fizz: cognac, barley, coconut, macadamia, lemon juice, egg white
- Monorail: coconut gin, dry & sweet vermouths, absinthe
- Jukebox Highball: scotch whisky, cherry, toasted oat soda
- Hyperion Old Fashioned: bourbon whiskey, mezcal, corn, strawberry, molé bitters
- Address: 41 Wharf Street
- Hours: 7 days a week 5pm-1am
- Hospitality: 4.6, a busy bar without chit chat
- Atmosphere: 4.5, definitely a cozy dive bar feel
- Drinks: 4.8, solid cocktails
In April 2023, Portland, Maine got a new bar that people can’t stop raving about. Room for Improvement is a place where other bartenders go for a drink, which is always a good sign. The basement space is cozy and the patio is perfect for people watching. One of the owners was the bar manager at Baharat which used to be on this list before it sadly closed. The laid-back, modern dive bar serves up some delicious classics, new drinks, beer, wine, and hot dogs (along with some other snacks).
I enjoyed the “Left of the Dial” made with mezcals, pisco, fino, kiwi, cucumber, lime, and saline. It was complex and refreshing. My second drink was the Ground Control. It is made with gin, Montenegro amaro, curry leaf, carrot juice, and lemon. A drink I would like to try to recreate at home for sure.
- Address: 769 Congress Street
- Hours: Thursday-Saturday 4pm-1am | Sunday-Wednesday 4pm-11pm
- Hospitality: 5.0, so nice, very friendly bartender
- Atmosphere: 4.8, it’s a historic bar with a rich history in the community, it’s rather bare but the other guests made it a memorable, friendly visit
- Drinks: 4.8, very nice, approachable menu with delicious drinks
Bramhall was once a real 1920’s speakeasy, in the basement of Roma Café. While there’s no longer a secret password, the subterranean space is dark and cozy, illuminated mostly by candlelight. Once downstairs, you’ll find plenty of seating, a fully stocked bar, and some highly unique cocktails that celebrate Maine. It’s a unique spot that is consistently good. Some tourists I met asked me for a recommendation for a bar in Portland and this was an easy answer.
There’s a fireplace in the middle of the bar that is full of candles. (I couldn’t resist taking a photo of a drink in it.) The cocktail on the left, 3 Dollar Bill, features pisco, blueberry shrub, lemon, honey, and prosecco. It was tart and tasty. The cocktail on the right, Kid Charlemagne, is made with bourbon, coconut liqueur, and Braulio amaro. It was deep, perfectly balanced, and complex.
- Address: 50 Wharf Street
- Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 4-11pm | Friday and Saturday, 4-11:30pm
- Hospitality: 4.8, friendly and knowledgeable staff
- Atmosphere: 4.8, a nice dark and cozy bar
- Drinks: 4.7, solid drinks from a curated menu, it’s more about the whiskey collection (served up or over ice)
Tucked away on a cobblestone street, Independent Ice Co. has been around for almost three years. This whiskey bar located on a pedestrian-only street which is likely why I missed it on my last trip. I walked by it right after a delicious dinner while looking for a nightcap. This was the right place for that! When I entered, it reminded me of the Multnomah Whiskey Library in Portland, OR, review in this post.
I enjoyed the Charles Morse Smoked Rye Manhattan (pictured) and their version of a bourbon smash. Since I already like Manhattans, this was a perfect choice for me. The cocktail is made with Knob Creek Rye, Angostura bitters, Cñia Mata sweet vermouth, and is served with a Luxardo cherry and smoked with Knob Creek American Oak chips. It was a slow sipper with the perfect amount of smoke.
- Address: 60 Thames Street
- Hours: Wednesday-Sunday 4:30pm-9:00pm | Closed Mondays and Tuesdays
- Hospitality: 4.9, the bartender was great to chat with
- Atmosphere: 4.8, swanky restaurant vibes
- Drinks: 4.8, small menu but solid drinks with interesting spirits and a great natural wine selection
Helm Oyster Bar & Bistro opened in Portland, Maine in the Spring of 2021. As the name suggests, you’ll find delicious local oysters, shellfish, and crudo on the menu. I enjoyed a halibut dish, following my oysters. They are located across the street from the waterfront and the dining room benefits from a lot of natural light. I enjoyed “Needles & Pins” which is made with Bruto Americano, cranberry, pine, tawny port, and bubbles. Not only was it delicious, it also was the perfect compliment to my meal and the great state of Maine.
Any trip back home to visit the best cocktail bars in Portland, Maine is a great one. Let me know if you would add any others to the list. Cheers!