The first sip of icy espresso martini is a doozy. Gotta say, didn’t think it’d go down quite like this.

The Regency Hotel has an invaluable location, ornate exteriors and a smiling, professional staff. If this class act has tightened me in the shoulders, I breathe some relief taking a hard right at the bottom of thick crimson- carpeted stairs. A single door entry leads to a very dark cave of wonders.

The old library sex-panther musk that hangs in the low-glowing cavern is palpable, and made manifest in the Forest City Dwellers, an authentic acoustic blues duo I have the good timing of enjoying tonight. It gives the lounge a nice naughty edge, a regal hotel’s compartmentalized dark side.

Now, a bit after 7 p.m., it’s filling up, and it’s still hard to see anything. This seems quite deliberate; a welcomed privacy-protection measure. Behind me, a group of loafered sailor dudes are trading tales of libation on the high seas. That is, of course, if the words “sloop,” “jib” and “booze” are any indication.

Well, fellas, I don’t have the rolling swells, but I do have this elaborate martini menu to use as a map to get where you are. The “Peared Up with Basil” ($10, Grey Goose Pear, basil-infused simple syrup and pear puree) comes recommended, as does the well-named Gin Blossom ($10, Bombay Sapphire with St. Germaine Elderflower liqueur, fresh lemon juice and a splash of champagne).

Despite the top-shelf cocktail options, though, it all comes back to this rustic blues duo, now two verses deep in an honest translation of “Hey Joe.” Cheers to the Armory for indulging honest musical folk with a night’s wage. Sure beats prototypical hotel lounge easy jazz. It shows that the Regency has its feelers out in the community, trying to throw some musical talent a bone. Great move for corporate karma.

It comes down to the Armory being a Portland bar first and a hotel lounge second. Even at the well-manicured Regency, they’re shaking loose in the lounge where jovial, honest music rings out. Sounds like Maine’s heart on its sleeve to me.

 

Mike Olcott is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.