Local bars reimagine vintage happy hour classics

By Joanna O’Leary

Classic cocktails are a great way to add a little spring in your step this season. Or, better yet, how about a fresh take on your favorite tipple? The cocktail renaissance of the 1990s, which centered on fresh ingredients and interesting infusions, has evolved in recent years to focus on a fondness for classic drinks of the 1950s onward, with just a wee bit of added whimsy. Evidence of this trend can be seen across Greater Bangor, where bartenders are revamping vintage cocktails with upgraded ingredients and new preparation, giving rise to perfectly quaffable adult beverages. 

A Reimagined Old-Fashion

Downtown Bangor hotspot Happy Endings prides itself on its lineup of playful martinis and mixed drinks. Many sport storybook-inspired monikers,  such as the Rumplestiltskin and Big Bad Wolf, and this selection includes some retro refreshments with novel (get it?) twists. Their take on the Miami Vice, which, as its TV show namesake suggests, was highly popular during early 1990s, swaps the standard combination of pina colada and strawberry daiquiri in favor of a more elegant composition of Malibu rum, strawberry and coconut purees, strawberry vodka, and pineapple juice. And try the Black Walnut Old-Fashion, which acquires additional nutty dimensions by way of the inclusion of black walnut bitters alongside Maker’s Mark, sugar, orange, and cherry. 

A Tom Collins Tune-Up

At Timber Kitchen and Bar, patrons are offered an autumnally inflected Cranberry Thyme G&T, constructed with Hendrick’s gin, freshly pressed cranberries, agave nectar, orange juice, tonic, and garnished with a fragrant spring of fresh thyme. And move over, Tom Collins. Timber has taken the traditional combination of gin, lemon juice, sugar, and club soda to the next level with two stellar innovations. Their Rhubarb Collins utilizes rhubarb shrub (a maceration of rhubarb, sugar, and vinegar) to impart a tart, earthy depth to the traditional recipe. Their Cucumber Rosemary Collins adds Persian lime juice for a unique botanical twang. 

Transformed Tiki Traditions

Beverage director and bartender Cody Osborne of Mason’s Brewing Company in Brewer has found putting a new spin on vintage drinks a rewarding challenge. 

“In recent years, we have seen many of our customers order old-school cocktails like cosmopolitans and Long Island iced teas,” Osborne said.  

And while he is more than happy to cater to these requests, Osborne often plays around a bit with the formulas for these concoctions, which result in drinks that are simultaneously exciting and familiar. 

Osborne’s creations can be seen in the Brewery’s latest menu, which includes the Fungi Between The Sheets (mushroom and miso-infused Hennessy, Bacardi Silver, Pierre Ferrand, and lemon juice) and a transformed tiki tradition in the form of the Kinky Zombie (Plantation pineapple rum, Plantation Barbados five-year rum, Paul Masson mango brandy, Kinky liqueur, lime, and pineapple). 

Zero-proof options

And if the new year has you abstaining for any reason, and there are so many good ones, mixologists in Greater Bangor aren’t about to let teetotalers go thirsty. Osborne has tapped into the zero-proof spirit trend via his playful Na Na Na Na Na Whiskey Sour, a buzz-worthy collaboration of Ritual zero-proof whiskey, lemon, and simple syrup. And his aptly titled Squirrely Tonic (Ritual zero-proof gin, lime, tonic, and pomegranate) is fruity and flirty enough to satisfy even the most ardent of booze hounds. 

This “old made new” trend enables libation enthusiasts to get the best of both worlds: a healthy dose of comforting nostalgia and the opportunity to try something different, and maybe even discover a version of their favorite drink they like even better than the original.