The Maine-iest Drink from Each of Maine’s 16 Counties
Lobster beers to lobster cocktails, raw milk to milkshakes. Who's ready for a Moxie bomb?
By Will Grunewald Photographed by Mark Fleming
Androscoggin County: The Moxie Bomb
A Union native invented Moxie in the 1800s, and though it’s never been produced here, Mainers’ love affair with the bittersweet gentian-root soda earned it official status as the state soft drink. Today’s epicenter of Moxie fandom is Lisbon, home to the Moxie Festival — and to the Railroad Restaurant & Pub, where the signature drink is a shot of Jägermeister dropped in a glass of Moxie. Yum! (Yum?) 697 Lisbon St., Lisbon Falls. 207-353-6069.
Franklin County: Potato Beer
The Maine Potato Ale, brewed at Sugarloaf resort’s Bag and Kettle, is a staple of the après-ski scene, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: beer brewed with Caribou russets from Aroostook County. Amber-hued and 6.5 percent ABV, it warms the belly and goes well with a burger. But hold the fries. 21 Village West, Carrabassett Valley. 207-237-2451.
Aroostook County: Milkshake
Maine has the second-most ice-cream (plus fro-yo and gelato) shops per capita of any state, or so says a 2015 Yahoo! Life report. Seems plausible. Summers are fleeting here, so people make the most of them. Especially at Houlton Farms’ dairy bars, where it’s possible to simultaneously eat and drink ice cream, thanks to the Awful-Awful, a thick milkshake topped with an additional scoop of hard serve, all made with local dairy. Locations in Houlton, Caribou, and Presque Isle.
Piscataquis County: Raw Milk
Maine is among the minority of states utterly tolerant of raw milk, without restrictions on sales. Unpasteurized, unhomogenized, and otherwise untouched, it jibes with the state’s back-to-the-land, small-farming ethos. Although unpasteurized milk entails health risks, raw drinkers are happy to accept the trade-off, preferring the creamier texture and sweeter, grassier flavor. At Widdershins Farm, raw milk comes in two varieties: cow or goat. 843 Bear Hill Rd., Dover-Foxcroft. 207-564-7926.
York County: Seawater Beer
The gose style of beer came about some thousand years ago in a little German village with inherently salty drinking water. Today, most brewers just add the salt, but not Tributary Brewing Co.’s Tod Mott. His gose gets its salinity from a fresh dose of ocean, pulled straight from York’s Brave Boat Harbor.10 Shapleigh Rd., Kittery. 207-703-0093.
Lincoln County: Lobster Beer
A light, bright Belgian-style ale from Oxbow Brewing Company goes well with lobster dinners. And lobster, it turns out, goes well in Oxbow ales. Saison dell’Aragosta is brewed with lobster meat and sea salt, lending the tart, citrusy beer underlying notes of brine. It’s like if Maine and Belgium kissed. 274 Jones Woods Rd., Newcastle. 207-315-5962.
Sagadahoc County: Lobster Bloody Mary
Normally, Route 1’s roadside Taste of Maine Restaurant has a 700-pound, 70-foot-long inflatable lobster named Larry tethered to its roof, but not this year — the blowers that keep him puffed up are too expensive to run amid the economic downturn. Fortunately, the roof isn’t the only thing that gets topped with crustacean: the Lobster Bloody Mary comes crowned with a full piece of claw meat. 161 Main St., Woolwich. 207-443-4554.
Cumberland County and Somerset County: Martinis
A classic martini is an elegant union of gin and vermouth, with an olive or a lemon twist. E. B. White called it “the elixir of quietude.” Such estimable a drink was sure to inspire spinoffs, some only vaguely recalling the original. An espresso martini is usually vodka, coffee, and Kahlúa. Allen’s Coffee Brandy, though, has long been Maine’s most popular spirit — nearly a liter sold per drinking-age resident last year — so Portland Hunt & Alpine Club subs it in for the Kahlúa, to fine effect (75 Market St., Portland; 207-747-4754). The blueberry martini at Lakewood Inn Restaurant is Maine-y in a whole ’nother way, combining splashes of apple schnapps and cranberry juice with a double dose of bluebs: blueberry puree and Cold River Blueberry Vodka, made with Maine potatoes and wild Maine berries (76 Theater Rd., Madison; 207-474-7176).
Hancock County: Spruce-Tip Beer
Thoreau wrote that north-woods beers flavored with spruce would make a man “see green” and “dream that he heard the wind sough among the pines.” Fogtown Brewing Company — no stranger to foraged ingredients, with the likes of sweet fern, seaweed, and bog myrtle in its other beers — doesn’t overdo the spruce in its well-balanced Stud Wall. Just enough to tint one’s vision. 25 Pine St., Ellsworth. 207-370-0845.
Penobscot County: Chaga Coffee
Chaga, a black fungus that grows in hard clumps mostly on birch trees, is most often consumed as tea. Various northerly cultures have long drunk it for supposed antioxidant and medicinal properties. In recent years, it’s been showing up in other formats, like Unrest Coffee Company’s Blue Hill roast, a heady blend of organic beans from Papua New Guinea and earthy, woody chaga from Maine. Hampden. 207-561-0773.
Kennebec County: Maple Liquor
Most maple booze is just whiskey spiked with syrup, but Tree Spirits Winery & Distillery’s Knotted Maple is made from straight-up Maine maple syrup. Although it makes a fine sub for rum in a cocktail, its mellow none-too-sweetness is best enjoyed neat. Also delicious: the maple wine from which Knotted Maple is distilled.152 Fairfield St., Oakland. 207-465-3007.
Oxford County: Spring Water
Maine’s reputation for pristine H2O runs deep. In the 1800s, seekers came from far and wide to quaff the crystal-clear stuff at places like Poland Spring, as a panacea for various maladies. And while Poland Spring is still a conspicuous presence in the water biz, some smaller bottlers stake claims of special purity. Among them: Moon Tide Springs, which attributes its water’s virtue to a deep aquifer sheltered by Holman Mountain — and a bubbling source that shifts with the lunar cycle. Peru. 207-562-2254.
Knox County: Blueberry Booze
Eau de vie, in French, means “water of life” — a pure distillation of something fundamental. Usually, that something is grapes, fermented into wine, then turned into liquor. Sometimes it’s pears, apples, or peaches. Rarely is it blueberries. And the only eau de vie of wild Maine blueberries belongs to Blue Barren Distilling, made with berries from barrens that have been in one co-owner’s family for seven generations. 59 Sea St., Camden.
Waldo County: Organic, Unpasteurized Cider
Sewall Organic Orchard is Maine’s oldest organic apple operation, and its cider press only meets the freshest of apples — sediment often found in other ciders is from mushy fruit. Plus, Sewall cider is unpasteurized, protecting the deep, sweet flavor. Owing to federal rules about retailing unpasteurized products, the cider is only available straight from the cider house, at the end of a long tree-lined drive in the Camden Hills. 259 Masalin Rd., Lincolnville. 207-763-3956.
Washington County: Cranberry Wine
Cranberry farming was common in Maine bogs until the early 1900s, when a drop in demand, blight, and a few other factors put an end to commercial cultivation here. The last few decades, though, have seen a minor resurgence, mostly in Washington County, and it’s with local crans that Catherine Hill Winery makes its Cranberry Isle wine — ruby red, tart, and sweet. 661 Blackswoods Rd., Cherryfield. 207-546-3426.