New Year’s Eve is a celebration for everyone, but it tends to be the adults who enjoy it more. The little ones may fall asleep before the ball drops, while the grownups are awake, reminiscing about the past 12 months, with its ups, downs and everything in between. Parties are par for the course, and on top of hors d’oeuvres and little treats to serve up, there’s of course the cocktail, that alcoholic art form that is celebrated with great panache on New Year’s Eve.
The cocktail was first served up sometime in the early 19th century by a primeval bartender with lots of foresight. It has evolved greatly over the years — from the early days, which combined simply spirits, sugar, water and bitters, to today, when a seemingly endless array of liqueurs, infusions, mixers and more are available at any grocery store.
To produce a list of year-end libations fit for an unforgettable party, we enlisted the help of some bars and restaurants in Maine that are renowned for their potent potables. We strongly encourage all of our readers to be responsible this weekend, and take great care as you celebrate.
Bonne Année, Feliz Año Nuevo, and Happy New Year — let’s take a cup of time, my dear, and drink to Auld Lang Syne.
40 Paper, 40 Washington St., Camden
This Italian restaurant has a lot to celebrate this year — 40 Paper opened in first few weeks of 2011, and has already attracted a hip crowd of eaters and drinkers. The restaurant has a cocktail menu to die for, created by bar manager Wind Tracy. Tracy went the extra mile for the BDN, and created a special recipe just for this story — the Razzo, which is Italian for “rocket.”
“We wanted a drink that would utilize a liquor that we love to use behind the bar, but rarely see at home, Drambuie,” said 40 Paper owner Joshua Hixson. “Complex on it’s own, we wanted a way to balance its full flavor, without muddling some of its really unique qualities.”
To make, muddle two orange wedges, a lime wedge and a lemon wedge with ice in a shaker. Add .75 ounces silver rum, one ounce cranberry juice and two ounces Drambuie, and shake well. Strain into a tall glass filled with ice, top with club soda, and serve with an orange wedge.
Three Tides, 2 Pinchy Lane, Belfast
Three Tides, home of the the roaring fireplace and the exquisite craft beer at Marshall Wharf Brewery, is also a great place for a cocktail. Owner David Carlson goes for understated with his quaffables, and offered up the Smoky, a wintertime favorite that combines Maine vodka with smoky, peaty Scotch.
It’s [a combination of something old along with something new to signify the change in the year,” said Carlson. ”It also ties in with the sea smoke that we see this time of year as the water temp on the harbor is warmer than the air.”
You’ll need a bottle of an aged single malt Scotch whisky — a 12-year, for 2012. Carlson recommends Macallan 12, though Laphroig, Lagavulin or Tallisker will impart an even smokier flavor. You’ll also need a bottle of vodka; Carlson recommends Maine’s own Twenty2. In a shaker, pour three ounces of vodka over ice, and then pour in a heavy splash of Scotch. Shake vigorously for 20-30 seconds, and strain immediately into a chilled martini glass.
Woodman’s Bar & Grill, 31 Main St., Orono
The place that brought cocktail culture to Orono. Woodman’s from Day 1 offered up lots of different drinks for the college crowd. Abe Furth, owner and a master bartender in his own right, submitted a party punch, instead of a single drink.
“Since I’ve seen the popularity and staying power of the Woodman’s Flirtini, I’d have to go with a huge Flirtini in a punch bowl,” said Furth. “This is a great party cocktail because you mix it up before the guests arrive, and can entertain rather than make drinks during the party.”
Furth uses a half-gallon of raspberry vodka — Pinnacle is fine, though you can go higher shelf, if you wish. To that, add a liter of triple sec, four cups of fresh squeezed lime juice, four cups of simple syrup, a cup of cranberry juice, a cup of pineapple juice, and two cups of champagne. Mix the contents into a punch bowl and chill.
Furth suggests adding a bag of frozen raspberries right before the party starts, but not to add ice; rather, serve it on the side. He also cautions to not use bottled lime juice — the freshness of the limes is the secret ingredient to the Flirtini’s long-term popularity.
Luna Bar & Grill, 49 Park St., Bangor
The head bartender at Luna Bar & Grill, Hans Paul Breton, is the man behind the counter on the restaurant’s popular half-priced Martini Tuesday, so he’s made his fair share of cocktails in his time. To counteract the chilly weather, Breton offered us a recipe that speaks of beaches, palm trees and flip flops: the Tropical Sunset.
“This is a play on a drink I know very well, with a little twist,” said Breton, who replaced the rum in the well-known Tropical Sunrise drink with Hypnotiq, a blue, fruity, brandy-based liqueur. To make, combine 1.5 ounces Hypnotiq, 1.5 ounces Bacardi Limon, 2 ounces cranberry juice and 2 ounces pineapple juice in a shaker; shake well and serve in a high ball glass with ice and a pineapple garnish. You may be in Maine, but your mouth will be in the Bahamas.
The Fiddlehead Restaurant, 84 Hammond St., Bangor
The cozy environs of the Fiddlehead Restaurant in Bangor may be a wonderful place to enjoy a fancy meal with friends, but for a post-theater cocktail or kickoff to a night on the town, it can’t be beat. Bar manager and co-owner Laura Albin changes the cocktail menu around every few months, and one of the new drinks to appear this past fall was the Bangor On The Waterfront.
It’s a variation on the classic Sex on the Beach cocktail, but using pisco brandy instead of vodka — giving it a deeper flavor that’s more easily sippable. Pisco brandy is made in South America, and is readily available at most liquor stores. To make, combine 1.5 ounces pisco brandy, .5 ounces peach schnapps, and the juice of half a lime, half a lemon and half an orange. Shake in a shaker, and strain the mixture over ice in a lowball glass. Serve with an orange slice.