A globe decanter can add international flair to your home bar. Photo by Amy Gwinn-Becker

With Cinco de Mayo taking place this week, I know several of you have had margaritas on your mind. As a native Texan, I pretty much always do. The best one I’ve had in Maine was at Bird & Co. in Portland, which is now selling them though curbside pickup, thanks to a recent change in state law.

But Mexico isn’t the only country with an iconic cocktail. Since most of us aren’t doing any international travel in the immediate future, I thought I’d put my former diplomatic career to use and take my readers on an international journey via cocktails from other countries. Why not have a themed evening featuring music, food and a cocktail from your country of choice? Sure, you can’t have any guests over for the time being, but that means that you won’t have to share your cocktail!

Known as the shipwreck capital of the world, Bermuda is home to the Gosling family, the creators of the molasses-forward Gosling’s Black Seal Rum. When they discovered how perfectly their rum complemented the spicy ginger beer produced on the island, the Dark ‘n’ Stormy – now the unofficial drink of the global sailing and boating community – was born. Portland-based rum distillery Three of Strong Spirits will happily sell you a “Maine Stormy Night” kit involving ginger beer and a lime; they will of course also sell you an appropriate rum to pair with it if you don’t already have a bottle.

First produced in a ready-made version by Finnish beverage company Hartwall in conjunction with the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, the Lonkero (Finnish for “long drink”) combines gin, grapefruit juice and either lemon-lime soda or club soda with a splash of lemon and lime juice.  You can also make it using grapefruit-flavored seltzer. It’s often available on tap in Finnish bars due to its widespread popularity there. I had a very similar drink when I reviewed The Wallingford Dram in Kittery.

Eric Way enjoys a Kir Royale on his 1890s balcony at his home in Lyon, France. Photo by Laurent Volay

Legend has it that the Kir (France’s iconic combination of crème de cassis and white wine, ideally from Burgundy) was invented when the Nazis confiscated Burgundy’s red wine supply. Catholic priest (and member of the Resistance) Felix Kir combined white wine with crème de cassis (black currant liqueur widely available in the U.S.) in an attempt to recreate the color of red wine. A Kir Royale uses sparkling white wine instead of regular white wine. In the unlikely event that you tire of that, swap out the crème de cassis for a different French liqueur, such as Crème de Violette or Chambord. Petite Jacqueline in Portland is my go-to spot not only for a Kir Royale, but also for a wide selection of other French apéritifs.

What’s not to love about a cocktail made with an ingredient that is sometimes called Black Death? I’m talking about Brennivin, a caraway-flavored aquavit (available in Maine) which is Iceland’s signature spirit. Icelanders like to use it in a Brennivin Old Fashioned (Brennivin, rye, bitters and simple syrup).


Patrick Borg Hedley enjoying a Porto Tonico at his home in Lisbon (Portugal, not Maine). Photo by Greta Borg Hedley

My favorite drink from Ireland is the Baby Guinness, a layered shot (coffee liqueur such as Kahlua and Irish cream liqueur like Bailey’s) designed to mimic a miniature pint of Guinness. In Portugal, it’s the Porto Tonico, a light refreshing two-to-one ratio of white port to tonic water. I discovered this drink when reviewing Quill Books and Beverage in Westbrook and became an instant convert.

And lastly, from Sweden, is the Vargtass (Swedish for “wolf’s paw”), a straightforward mixture of Absolut Vodka and lingonberry juice, available at Simply Scandinavian in Portland, which you can substitute with cranberry juice. For maximum effect, drink while listening to ABBA music.

Cheers and bon voyage!

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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