The drink list at the Cider House includes bottled and draft cider, as well as cider cocktails. Photos by Angie Bryan

In early August, Michael Vassallo transformed his former West End business, Good News Coffee, into something completely different – The Cider House, a rustic watering hole featuring tapas carefully selected to pair well with ciders (two on draft, seven in cans or bottles) and cider-based cocktails.

The Cider House in Portland’s West End was previously Good News Coffee.

Seating is sparse in the small space – there are four plastic stools with no backs at the bar counter (which features no purse hooks), a few picnic table benches and a cute seating area in the bay window with a cushioned window seat and three low-down stools. My drinking companions and I opted for the window seating and settled in, excited to see what our options were.

We were the only customers, but Vassallo completely ignored us. No “welcome,” no “I’ll be right with you,” nothing. After a while, we got bored, so one of my friends got up to wander around the bar while we waited to place our orders. On a side wall (not visible from the entrance or from where we were sitting), she found a menu – turns out you’re supposed to go order at the counter. I’m at a loss to understand why he couldn’t have mentioned that to us when he saw us sit down at our table, but perhaps customer service just isn’t his thing.

Once we started talking cider, however, Vassallo came to life, sharing his enthusiasm in a friendly, non-pretentious manner as he walked us through the menu. One of my friends chose the $8 Milk & Honey cider made of heirloom apples. Already a cider fan, he proclaimed it the best cider he had ever had, noting that he particularly appreciated the fact that the label showed exactly which heirloom apples it contained.

My other friend opted for the $12 Christian & Drouhin French pear cider that did not disappoint. Ever the cocktail aficionado, I chose the $7 York cider cocktail containing cider (duh), lemon and blueberry soda served in a mason jar. Light and refreshing, it was probably too watered-down for true cider lovers but would be a good gateway drink for people who aren’t otherwise big cider buffs. The menu had three different cider cocktails ranging from $7-$9, as well as an $8 cider sangria.

Given my love of ordering whichever beverage on a menu sounds the most disgusting, I also tried the $8 Stormalong Red Skies at Night, an apple-based cider with hibiscus and passionfruit. It turned out to be my favorite drink of the entire group. It had a gorgeous color and wasn’t nearly as sweet as we had feared. I’m not a big hibiscus fan, but it had just the right balance.

My friends and I were pretty hungry, so we also checked out several of the small plates. Most of the charcuterie items are $4. We particularly loved the $5 shishito peppers sautéed with sesame and lime zest, the $8 warm St. André cheese with apple on baguette and the $8 grilled cheese with Pecorino and pickled onion. On the shelves near where we were sitting, we spied Cards Against Humanity, cribbage, Scrabble and more – perfect for a rainy weekend afternoon.


Angie Bryan is a former diplomat who is enjoying getting acquainted with her new home in Portland, one cocktail at a time.

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