If you're into cocktails you've probably heard of Maine's Portland Hunt + Alpine Club, a James Beard semi-finalist, or their sister establishment Little Giant, just named by GQ as one of the best bars in America. Maybe you already have plans to visit.
Until you can get there, however, you can preview the delights in store thanks to one of the coolest food and book drinks about New England ever published: Northern Hospitality, by Andrew and Briana Volk, who opened both of the extremely alluring spots.
The beautifully-designed book, just published by Quarto Books and now available to order on Amazon, is filled with gorgeous photographs by the ultra-talented Peter Frank Edwards. The cocktails are not staged studio shots but rather photographed in and on the bar at Hunt + Alpine, where you can walk right in and order them yourself.
However in the meantime thanks to the copiously annotated recipes in the book you can also try your hand at making some of them at home: the Firecracker, for instance, with vodka, chile-infused simple syrup, fresh lime juice and soda water, or In Cold Blood, with rye, bitter Cynar liqueur from Italy, and sweet vermouth.
While hipsters have long been in hot pursuit of "authenticity," and usually end up mangling it in the process, in places like Portland, Maine it's just the way things are. If the food and drinks you serve aren't of the highest quality and integrity, you'll go out of business no matter how pretty your bar is.
And for the Volks, everything they do at Hunt + Alpine and Little Giant is an extension of the way they live and entertain at home, and they would no more think of serving something sub-par or that only looks good to a paying guest then they would to a member of their family. It's an important first principle for anyone who aspires to be a good host, and it shows the minute you walk into the Hunt + Alpine Club and Little Giant.
Northern Hospitality, as the name might imply, focuses on fall and winter, when getting cozy by the fire (or in your best-loved bar) with all your favorite things to eat and drink ready to hand is essential. Aside from cocktail recipes, there are several food recipes in the book ranging from Swedish meatballs to deviled eggs filled with smoked trout, and green chile popcorn.
"With Hunt + Alpine, we wanted to bring our favorite things about Maine into the space: a love of the outdoors, the cold, good drinks and the community that is fostered around those things," Briana Volk writes in her introduction. Her heritage is Finnish, and a Scandinavian ethos for the interior and the menu – hearty fare that takes advantage of the seasons' bounty – makes a lot of sense, and has been a big draw since opening day.
We'll let you explore further with your own copy of Northern Hospitality, but we'll leave you with the toast that greets every patron at Hunt + Alpine under the cover of the leather-bound cocktail menu: "If you're going to lie, lie to save a friend; if you're going to cheat, cheat death; if you're going to steal, steal a pretty girl's heart; and if you're going to drink, drink with me."
Words to live (and drink) by....