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Surprising Sips: Cocktails with Unexpected Maine Flavors

From sweet-tart wild blueberries to briny kelp, Maine’s land and sea provide an endless bounty of fresh ingredients—and inspiration—for local distillers and bartenders, who find innovative ways to integrate unexpected flavors into their libations.

Take, for instance, the Kelp on the Rocks, a Spain-meets-Maine twist on a Jerez martini offered at Regards, the award-winning, globally inspired eatery in Portland serving up seasonal dishes ranging from scratch-made tamales to artfully assembled crudo.

The Kelp on the Rocks showcases locally distilled Barren’s Sugar Kelp Vodka in all its briny glory, mixed with Fino sherry, vermouth and a bit of saline solution. As Regards chef, co-owner and 2023 Starchefs “Rising Star” Neil Zabriskie puts it: “The Fino and fresh figs lend soft honeyed notes. And the seaweed, coupled with a touch of saline solution, provides the perfect salt-kiss and light bright finish.” Top that off with a fresh fig and seaweed garnish, and you’ve got a gorgeous land-meets-sea sip.

Even Barren’s Sugar Kelp Vodka borrows its inspiration from the cold, clean ocean waters of Maine. The Camden-based distiller partnered with Biddeford-based Atlantic Sea Farms—a sustainable, woman-run sea farming company that hand-harvests its own rope-grown seaweed—to create this unusually flavored vodka. Stop by the Barren’s Distillery tasting room on the harbor to sample this small-batch spirit, as well as other creative options, from vodka flavored with wild Maine cranberries to brandy made with locally grown blueberries.

Explore more creative bars and restaurants in Maine. You never know what you’ll find on the menu.

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