I drink wine, craft beer, especially sours, and the occasional margarita but otherwise liqueur or cocktails are a rarity for me although my husband hasn’t given up hope that I’ll expand my repertoire. When we met, my go to alcoholic drink was Miller Lite. It was almost a deal breaker for him, but fortunately he was able to look past that particular character flaw.
After years of effort and the consistent refrain of “here try this”, my go to beer is now Allagash White and we often enjoy local craft sours together. While he’s pleased with my progress, his work is not done. He’s still nudging me towards porters, stouts and the real stretch drink experience for me: cocktails.
Fortunately, he has some support in this endeavor. Vena’s Fizz House in Portland is a wonderful, inventive cocktail bar. My first experience tasting bitters was at Vena’s during a Micro Maine Trolley Tour. Before that visit, I would have said definitively that I don’t like bitters. But, now I know that statement is untrue. Bitters done right can really elevate a cocktail.
We’ve stopped into Vena’s on various occasions to have cocktails with friends. They also offer mocktails, or non-alcoholic cocktails, which makes it a great all ages stop. My daughter is a big fan of their Fluffy Fizz which is a fruit filled concoction of cherry, lemon, lime and orange shrub topped with cotton candy. Yes, it is as sweet and delicious as it sounds.
With our current pandemic and ongoing rules requiring many businesses to remain closed or to operate at limited capacity, Vena’s is now offering a “to-go” menu. They’ve always had an onsite shop with various infusions, bitters, shrubs and vintage glassware for sale but recently they’ve begun offering contactless local pick-up too.
I am fascinated with their spirit infusions. Each pre-packaged jar comes filled with freeze dried fruits, herbs, and bitter infused sugar cubes that you mix with alcohol and then enjoy. We decided the time was right to give them a try. Maybe I could be nudged a little further towards enjoying a cocktail or two.
The ordering process was incredibly simple. We went online and picked out two infusions:
- Maine Margarita Tequila Infusion
- Shipwreck Rum Infusion
We added their pine shrub and a raspberry simple syrup from Royal Rose to our cart and selected local pickup at checkout. Within a day, we got notification that our order was ready. We headed over to the indoor pickup location. When we arrived, our order was packaged up in a brown paper bag with our name and receipt stapled to the top. We grabbed our order and headed home. The entire process was easy peasy.
We filled up each infusion with alcohol and left them to steep for about a week. The recommended infusion time is listed on the label as well as on their website. You can also do a quicker infusion by heating the alcohol on the stove and then pouring it into the infusion jar. We had plenty of time before we were going to try the drinks so we poured the room temperature alcohol into the jars, screwed the lids on tightly and waited.
Maine Blueberry Margarita
We tried drinking the margarita infusion first. Since I enjoy margaritas and blueberries are another favorite, it was a sure bet. I was excited to try this infusion. It was delicious although it did not have an overly strong blueberry flavor. We did make some substitutions to the recipe which may have impacted the taste. Since we didn’t have blueberry bitters we substituted another type and as I’ve learned bitters have a huge impact on the final results. Even so, the cocktail was delicious and nicely balanced with an underlying fruit flavor.
This rum infusion was fruit forward with strawberry, banana, mango, pineapple, kiwi, citrus, spices, organic cane sugar and bitters. It had a lovely fruit flavor. The recipe called for half a glass of the infused rum mixed with lime juice, a fruit based simple syrup and bitters. We poured our glasses half full of the cocktail and topped it off with seltzer as instructed by the recipe. I enjoy anything fizzy so this cocktail combination was perfect. This was my favorite of the two infusions although the rest of my group voted for the margarita.
- The cocktail recipes often include bitters, shrubs or simple syrups so be sure to check the recipes on the Vena’s Fizz House website before finalizing your order. They sell all of the necessary ingredients on their website.
- Have a strainer ready as once the infusion is done, you’ll need to separate the infusing ingredients from the liquor.
While I’m not going to switch to full on cocktail mode, I found the spirit infusions from Vena’s Fizz House to be delicious and I’m looking forward to trying some of their other varieties. They have some creative ones. Whatever your taste, I’m sure you’d find one that matches.
And, if you’re not in the mood to wait for your infusion to steep, they’re also offering cocktails and mocktails to go with their new Take Out Menu.
Do you enjoy cocktails? Do you have a favorite?
|things to know|
|Place||Vena’s Fizz House|
|Address||345 Fore St, Portland, ME 04101|
|Website||Vena’s Fizz House|
|Favorite ♥||Shipwreck Rum Infusion|