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Cocktail geeks and newbies alike will find something to love at Hunt & Alpine
Cocktail geeks and newbies alike will find something to love at Hunt & Alpine
Portland Hunt & Alpine/FB

14 of Portland's Most Essential Bars

From bespoke cocktails to the city's most beloved institutions

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Cocktail geeks and newbies alike will find something to love at Hunt & Alpine
| Portland Hunt & Alpine/FB

With its booming craft beer scene and craft spirits following closely behind, Portland is a great place to get a drink these days. Some Forest City bars specialize in having a deep draft list, while others court the Insta set with specialty cocktail lists. Most Portland imbibers have a favorite spot to tip back a pint, be in the neighborhood spot that rarely sees tourists or a hoppin' Old Port bar that regularly draws a crowd.

This guide to Portland's essential watering holes encompasses bars of all stripes, representing Portland's working class roots and its more recent nationally-acclaimed food scene. With these 13 essential bars, from longtime favorites to relative newcomers, drinkers are sure to find a cold beverage that suits all tastes.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Woodford Food & Beverage

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660 Forest Ave
Portland, ME 04103
(207) 200-8503
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This Woodfords Corner restaurant has quickly become a neighborhood favorite and that's in part due to the bar program. Snag a seat at the retro bar and enjoy classic and original cocktails, an approachable wine list, and local beer on tap.

2. The Front Room

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73 Congress St
Portland, ME 04101
(207) 773-3366
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While the bar at this Munjoy Hill restaurant is only 10 or so seats, they’re constantly full during prime hours due to some of the best happy hour specials in town. With many local beers on tap and an extensive wine list, this casual neighborhood spot has been satisfying drinkers for years.

3. Tomaso's Canteen

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18 Hampshire St
Portland, ME 04101
(207) 536-1285
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The reincarnated Sangillo’s maintains some of the shuttered dive bar’s edge, but now with a better beer selection and a sizable menu of pub food. The relaxed atmosphere and happy hour specials have created loyal followers of this neighborhood bar.

4. Eventide Oyster Co.

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86 Middle St
Portland, ME 04101
(207) 774-8538
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While known for its inventive preparation of New England seafood classics, Eventide’s bar program is not to be overlooked. With playful riffs on lowbrow beverages like Twisted Tea and a scorpion bowl for two, the cocktail menu offers original and inventive drinks alongside the city’s best oysters on the half shell.

A raw bar full of oysters is in the foreground of the photo, with people working at and dining in a casual restaurant in the background. Bill Addison/Eater

5. The Portland Hunt + Alpine Club

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75 Market St
Portland, ME 04101
(207) 747-4754
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With its opening in 2013, Portland got its first cocktail-centric bar in Hunt + Alpine. An ever-changing list of original and classic cocktails, wine on tap, and punch available at happy hour make this bar a cocktail lovers dream.

6. Novare Res Bier Cafe

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4 Canal Plz
Portland, ME 04101
(207) 761-2437
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The draft list is deep at this Belgian beer bar, highlighting local brews and a bottle list that spans the globe with over 200 selections. Drink them all within a year and earn a chalice, a special cup that comes with discounts and other perks. Special events throughout the year see beers not served anywhere else in the state.

7. Vena's Fizz House

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345 Fore St
Portland, ME 04101
(207) 747-4901
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While it began as a soda bar, the addition of a liquor license quickly made Vena’s an essential Portland bar. Owner Steve Corman’s inventive menu relies on housemade syrups, shrubs, and bitters of all flavors to create retro and original cocktails.

vena's fizz house ext Adam H. Callaghan

8. Rosie's Restaurant & Pub

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330 Fore St
Portland, ME 04101
(207) 772-5656
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Rosie’s is an all-occasion place, from rowdy late night spot to chill sports bar. The beer specials and free popcorn have earned Rosie’s a loyal following, and its extensive dinner menu delivers solid bar food classics.

9. Central Provisions

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414 Fore St
Portland, ME 04101
(207) 805-1085
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Central Provisions’ bar program made waves when it opened in 2014 with its pre-Prohibition cocktails served in the casual, first floor bar. The frequently changing drink menu continues to delight with its unusual combinations and nice selection of local draft beer. Their thoughtful “temperance drinks” take the mocktail game to the next level.

central provisions bar Tom Minervino/Eater

10. J's Oyster Bar

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5 Portland Pier
Portland, ME 04101
(207) 772-4828
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Those searching for a taste of “Old Portland” need look no further than this iconic waterfront seafood joint, where the chowder is thick and the beers on tap are made by the grandfathers of Portland’s beer scene. Order up a bucket of steamers and contemplate the simple life, before Bon Appetit and James Beard came to town.

11. Downtown Lounge

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606 Congress St
Portland, ME 04101
(207) 773-1363
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The unassuming DTL is one of Portland’s grungier holdouts, being the perfect spot to grab a pre-show drink or to end your night with some cooldown beers and burgers. The dim lighting, cracked vinyl booths, cheap beers, and decent bar food earns DTL devoted fans.

12. Bramhall

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769 Congress St
Portland, ME 04102
(207) 805-1978
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This longtime neighborhood favorite got an extensive facelift under new ownership in 2014. While there’s now speciality cocktails and a menu of pub food, the spirit of the old Bramhall still remains with its speakeasy vibe and regular Jerks of Grass gigs.

13. Ruski's Tavern

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212 Danforth St
Portland, ME 04102
(207) 774-7604

This West End dive bar probably has the most loyal following of any in town, with Ruski’s diehards loving everything from its boozy brunches to the live musics acts that wedge themselves into the corner of the small bar. With friendly staff, decent beers on tap, and a propensity for heavy pours, Ruski’s is a Portland institution.

1. Woodford Food & Beverage

660 Forest Ave, Portland, ME 04103

This Woodfords Corner restaurant has quickly become a neighborhood favorite and that's in part due to the bar program. Snag a seat at the retro bar and enjoy classic and original cocktails, an approachable wine list, and local beer on tap.

660 Forest Ave
Portland, ME 04103

2. The Front Room

73 Congress St, Portland, ME 04101

While the bar at this Munjoy Hill restaurant is only 10 or so seats, they’re constantly full during prime hours due to some of the best happy hour specials in town. With many local beers on tap and an extensive wine list, this casual neighborhood spot has been satisfying drinkers for years.

73 Congress St
Portland, ME 04101

3. Tomaso's Canteen

18 Hampshire St, Portland, ME 04101

The reincarnated Sangillo’s maintains some of the shuttered dive bar’s edge, but now with a better beer selection and a sizable menu of pub food. The relaxed atmosphere and happy hour specials have created loyal followers of this neighborhood bar.

18 Hampshire St
Portland, ME 04101

4. Eventide Oyster Co.

86 Middle St, Portland, ME 04101
A raw bar full of oysters is in the foreground of the photo, with people working at and dining in a casual restaurant in the background. Bill Addison/Eater

While known for its inventive preparation of New England seafood classics, Eventide’s bar program is not to be overlooked. With playful riffs on lowbrow beverages like Twisted Tea and a scorpion bowl for two, the cocktail menu offers original and inventive drinks alongside the city’s best oysters on the half shell.

86 Middle St
Portland, ME 04101

5. The Portland Hunt + Alpine Club

75 Market St, Portland, ME 04101

With its opening in 2013, Portland got its first cocktail-centric bar in Hunt + Alpine. An ever-changing list of original and classic cocktails, wine on tap, and punch available at happy hour make this bar a cocktail lovers dream.

75 Market St
Portland, ME 04101

6. Novare Res Bier Cafe

4 Canal Plz, Portland, ME 04101

The draft list is deep at this Belgian beer bar, highlighting local brews and a bottle list that spans the globe with over 200 selections. Drink them all within a year and earn a chalice, a special cup that comes with discounts and other perks. Special events throughout the year see beers not served anywhere else in the state.

4 Canal Plz
Portland, ME 04101

7. Vena's Fizz House

345 Fore St, Portland, ME 04101
vena's fizz house ext Adam H. Callaghan

While it began as a soda bar, the addition of a liquor license quickly made Vena’s an essential Portland bar. Owner Steve Corman’s inventive menu relies on housemade syrups, shrubs, and bitters of all flavors to create retro and original cocktails.

345 Fore St
Portland, ME 04101

8. Rosie's Restaurant & Pub

330 Fore St, Portland, ME 04101

Rosie’s is an all-occasion place, from rowdy late night spot to chill sports bar. The beer specials and free popcorn have earned Rosie’s a loyal following, and its extensive dinner menu delivers solid bar food classics.

330 Fore St
Portland, ME 04101

9. Central Provisions

414 Fore St, Portland, ME 04101
central provisions bar Tom Minervino/Eater

Central Provisions’ bar program made waves when it opened in 2014 with its pre-Prohibition cocktails served in the casual, first floor bar. The frequently changing drink menu continues to delight with its unusual combinations and nice selection of local draft beer. Their thoughtful “temperance drinks” take the mocktail game to the next level.

414 Fore St
Portland, ME 04101

10. J's Oyster Bar

5 Portland Pier, Portland, ME 04101

Those searching for a taste of “Old Portland” need look no further than this iconic waterfront seafood joint, where the chowder is thick and the beers on tap are made by the grandfathers of Portland’s beer scene. Order up a bucket of steamers and contemplate the simple life, before Bon Appetit and James Beard came to town.

5 Portland Pier
Portland, ME 04101

11. Downtown Lounge

606 Congress St, Portland, ME 04101

The unassuming DTL is one of Portland’s grungier holdouts, being the perfect spot to grab a pre-show drink or to end your night with some cooldown beers and burgers. The dim lighting, cracked vinyl booths, cheap beers, and decent bar food earns DTL devoted fans.

606 Congress St
Portland, ME 04101

12. Bramhall

769 Congress St, Portland, ME 04102

This longtime neighborhood favorite got an extensive facelift under new ownership in 2014. While there’s now speciality cocktails and a menu of pub food, the spirit of the old Bramhall still remains with its speakeasy vibe and regular Jerks of Grass gigs.

769 Congress St
Portland, ME 04102

13. Ruski's Tavern

212 Danforth St, Portland, ME 04102

This West End dive bar probably has the most loyal following of any in town, with Ruski’s diehards loving everything from its boozy brunches to the live musics acts that wedge themselves into the corner of the small bar. With friendly staff, decent beers on tap, and a propensity for heavy pours, Ruski’s is a Portland institution.

212 Danforth St
Portland, ME 04102