Get the Sucker Punch inside the Regency’s Armory Lounge or outside at its Garden Cafe. Photo courtesy of the Armory Lounge

Many well-known cocktails began in hotel bars. After people discovered new cocktails while traveling, they’d ask their bartenders back home to recreate them.  Two examples include the martini (created when Martini di Arma di Taggia, bartender at the Knickerbocker hotel in New York City, made it for John D. Rockefeller) and the Black Russian (invented by Brussels’ Hotel Metropole bartender Gustave Tops when U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg Perle Mesta came to stay during the Cold War).

With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to look into specialty cocktails at hotel bars in Portland. Portland has at least 10 hotel bars, but not all of them have reopened. Some are licensed only as bars, so they cannot legally reopen yet, and others are licensed as restaurants but have chosen not to reopen for the time being. Several, however, remain an excellent option for locals and visitors alike.

Best background story goes to Top of the East, the spacious indoor bar with panoramic views on the top floor of the Westin Portland Harborview. Its $12 signature cocktail, a take on a classic Harvey Wallbanger, is called Roosevelt’s Revenge in reference to when Eleanor Roosevelt was denied a room at the Westin (then called the Eastland Hotel) because she was traveling with her dog. Mix 1.5 ounces Ice Pik vodka with 4 ounces orange juice, serve in a tall ice-filled glass, and float half an ounce of Galliano (a sweet herbal liqueur) on top. Garnish with an orange wheel.

The Peaks Island Iced Tea from Level 5, the new rooftop bar at Holiday Inn By the Bay. Photo courtesy of Holiday Inn By the Bay

An exciting newcomer is Level 5, the recently-opened rooftop hangout on the top level of the Holiday Inn By the Bay’s parking garage. The large, open-air space leaves plenty of room for socially distanced dining and drinking, with some terrific panoramic views of the Old Port. Their favorite cocktail is the $9 Peaks Island Iced Tea, a spin on the classic Long Island Iced Tea, made with triple sec, gin, vodka, rum, tequila, sour mix and blueberry puree.

Another local twist on a classic cocktail is the $12 Maine Maple Old Fashioned at the Portland Harbor Hotel’s BlueFin Bar. It’s available indoors at their intimate bar setting or outdoors at the fire pit in the garden courtyard. Combine 2 ounces New England Distillery Gunpowder Rye, 0.5 ounce Maine maple syrup, and 2 dashes of bitters, served over a large ice cube and garnished with orange peel and a cherry.

Another local company stars in one of the favorite cocktails at Glass, the Hyatt’s hotel bar. The $14 Smoking Glass Manhattan features locally owned Owl & Whale persimmon bitters, Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Regan’s orange bitters, Angostura bitters and Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, served using a coupe filled with smoke from smoldering Breville Cherrywood chips.

The ACGT at the AC Hotel is served in a hand-blown glass designed to magnify its taste and aroma. Photo courtesy of AC Hotel

Going a bit more international is the AC Lounge, the AC Hotel bar known for its gin and tonics, a popular drink in Spain, where the hotel chain originated. The $11 ACGT is served in a hand-blown glass scientifically developed to heighten the taste and aroma. The substantial glass bottom keeps the contents colder for longer, while the narrow glass minimizes the loss of carbon dioxide to keep the tonic bubbly. Garnished with lime and orange twist.

Another option is the $12 Sucker Punch, a fan favorite at the Regency Hotel’s cozy yet large library-themed Armory Lounge (but also available at the hotel’s outdoor Garden Café). Combine 1.5 ounces Jimador Silver tequila, 0.5 ounce Malibu rum, 2 tablespoons blood orange puree, 1 tablespoon Coco Lope, and a splash of fresh lemon juice, served over ice, topped with club soda, and garnished with an orange slice.

Regular travel might not be possible right now, but these welcoming hotel bars can help us forget that. Bon voyage!

Angie Bryan is a former diplomat who is enjoying getting acquainted with her new home in Portland, one cocktail at a time.


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